In the digital workflow for print and multimedia, graphic artists can help stop bad printing quality. Graphic artists must think beyond aesthetics and accept some prepress responsibility. Preflighting is the solution. FlightCheck, pre press software from Markzware, makes handling this responsibility easy.
If you’ve created design work for print in the past decade, you’ve undoubtedly borne witness to a revolution unfolding. This refers to the advent of digital content creation and computer-to-plate (CTP) print manufacturing. Film was replaced by the exchange of digital files between graphic designers and printers.
Digital files are now the means to deliver content for document output. Output possibilities include traditional offset printing, digital printing, web sites, DVDs, CD-ROMs and more. As design for new media forms emerge while changes unfold in print, some burdens fall on the artists. It’s not enough these days to make “pretty pictures” for your employers or customers, using your favorite desktop publishing (DTP) applications. To best serve the process, you’ve got to be both artist and prepress operator. Increase knowledge of best practices in content creation for any medium, while eliminating bad printing quality. Preflighting with FlightCheck helps to eliminate bad printing quality.
The cost of sloppy production
Although print has existed for many more years, web design is a simpler process than print design. It is easy to change or to fix online content. It can take mere minutes or even seconds to change a master file and re-upload it to a site.
In the world of PDF print, in which you want to avoid bad print quality, the stakes are much higher. A simple error in a digital document can bring the print production process to an abrupt halt. Printers expect document designers to supply them with properly prepared files. These files are expected to have all required elements in place and optimized for print. A bad file with errors could be created for a magazine ad, a postcard, a direct-mail piece, an insert, or so forth. If that bad file makes it all the way to the printer, it can cost your company or your customer, time and money to remedy. Preflighting through FlightCheck could save this time and money.
Ill-prepared files is “absolutely the biggest deal” in the print production workflow today, suggests Tom Clifford, prepress production manager, Banta Corporation, Menasha, WI. “You need to understand that a 30-second change in the design stage, on a master template, could become a 10-hour change after the pages have been supplied to the printer, or worse, a $100,000 change once the job has been printed,” Clifford stresses.
Suzy Aycoth manages design, print quality control and platesetting for Perfect Image Printing, Charlotte, NC. She sees, first-hand, the disparity in file formats coming through the door of her print shop. She is on the front lines when it come to resolving problems in her customers’ PDF print documents. FlightCheck can scan PDF print files and flag potential printing problems during preflighting.
Aycoth says that the file format she prefers to receive from customers are native QuarkXPress files, but only 50 percent of customers supply those documents, and even then, she estimates that an average 90 percent of all files arrive in some state of disrepair. Depending on the intensity of the disrepair, Aycoth will recommend one of two options: have the customer make the fix on their end and resubmit, or make the repair at the printer and charge the customer for additional processing time. FlightCheck can handle preflighting for QuarkXPress and many other formats.
New Challenges and responsibilities
So, how do you ensure that the content you’ve created will reproduce in print as you expect it to? By ensuring simple best practices and printing quality control, as when preflighting with FlightCheck.
First, it is important to know what the output intentions are. For print, you’ll need to pay particular attention to details such as color space, resolution settings, dimensions, trim and bleed, etc. To understand how the file needs to be set up, contact the printer and ask for the print specifications. The most digital-savvy printers expect you to meet requirements for PDF print standards. If you’re submitting a magazine ad, a publications printer may require you to prepare print documents according to the PDF/X-1a standard. Other printers may prefer a different format, but it is important to know what that is.
Following the print specifications to the letter is the critical second step. Here’s where technology comes into play. For a low cost, graphic artists can implement software for printing quality control, such as FlightCheck preflighting software.
Developers of preflighting software offer robust solutions for high-volume workflows called “Design Policies,” based on the print specifications. These can be used for commercial printing, as well as for the designer to designate document parameters. For example, the artist may designate resolution and color space. If a low-res image or an RGB image is mistakenly placed, then the preflight software alerts the designer. The fix can be made then and there. The artist can rest assured that the data being delivered to the printer is in its best possible condition. FlightCheck verifies whether the data is fit to print.
“As client budgets continue to tighten, productivity in concept, design and production are more critical than ever,” explains Michael Bachleda, president of Bachleda Advertising, Schaefferstown, PA. “Preflighting all our … print projects in house, before providing anything to the printer saves us time later. Those savings more than pay for the cost of the preflight software itself.” FlightCheck saves enough time and money to pay for itself, often in the first print run.
Ensuring your marketability
As with learning any new skill, educating yourself about best practices in digital file preparation takes time and dedication, but it is worth the effort.
“The increase in productivity, especially in prepress, has been phenomenal. It requires, though, a little more responsibility on the art director’s end,” Hipple forewarns. “Once you’re done designing a product, it’s not done when it leaves your desktop. It’s only done when it comes off the press. This is a production process, and you need to educate yourself on the total craft.”
“Even experienced designers have trouble keeping up with the latest productivity enhancements built into the latest Mac or PC operating software. The more a graphic designer can troubleshoot, solve, and even avoid, preventable production problems, the more valuable the designer is to the agency and the agency’s client base,” Bachleda suggests. “For small and mid-size shops, there is little time to train entry-level graphic designers, so the more productivity tools a designer has in his or her pocket, the more value he or she can build into a job supporting higher-level designers, which hopefully translates into faster-growing salaries and access to tastier projects.”
Confident in Your Content? Stop Bad Printing Quality