10 Tips for planning your job for print
Planning your job for print
One of the biggest assumptions that many clients take for granted is that once they complete all the work necessary to submit their files for printing, is that the output will look exactly as they intend them to look.
Unfortunately this scenario happens less than half the time. The other half is spent fixing numerous issues that cause the final output to fall short of expectations.
Here's a list of some of the most common issues that cause problems and delays in production:
- Missing fonts or images
- Low resolution image files
- Grammatical errors
- The print file design is not compatible with the printers capabilities
- Specialty stock required by the job is not in stock, therefore must be ordered by the printer
- The output colors expected by the customer look different than the proof
- Custom job details were not made clear to the printer and vice versa
- Changes to the job are submitted to the printer at the last minute
- Print Files are submitted using the wrong file format
- Not requesting hard proofs
- The turnaround time for large or complex jobs do not meet customer expectations
- Files must be adjusted by the printer in order for the output to meet customer expectations
- Be careful when adding text to images in programs like Photoshop, if not done properly the results can turn out blurry.
- Document layout programs like InDesign are better at preserving the clarity of text when combined with images.
- Make sure to use image files that have sufficient resolution, beware of image files copied from the web.
- When possible get images from legitimate sources such as Stock Photo sites, Service Bureaus or directly from the Photographer.
- Communication lag between customers and printers can cause delays in production
Fortunately, many of these issues can be solved by involving the printer ahead of time during the design phase of the print job.
The sooner you can involve your printer during the design phase, the smoother and less stressful your print experience will be.
1. Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail
Before starting a print job, it’s important to take an inventory of every component of your print job from artwork, to fonts, to page layouts, to finishing options and to paper stock or materials.
For complex jobs that have multiple components with multiple paper stocks and additional finishing requirements proper planning of each detail is essential in order to get the output you desire on the delivery date that you require.
Even less complex jobs can provide their own set of problems if not properly planned out. These details are very important especially when requesting an accurate price estimate from the printer.
The goal is to give your printer as much information about your print job as possible so that they can provide you with an accurate price quote as well as a turnaround time that they can guarantee.
As a convenience, we have provided a link to a worksheet that you can use to help you plan your job. (see link)
- Put a plan together around your print job
- Make sure to take every detail in consideration when planning your job to meet your deadline
- The more details you can provide your printer the better the overall results you will achieve
- Involve your printer as soon as possible so they can prepare for your job
2. For complex jobs with multiple pages, what is your document layout?
As we mentioned in our previous point, “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail”. For complex multi-page jobs, it’s very important to establish a document layout plan. This will allow you to make sure that you take in consideration where and how the pieces and parts of your job will come together.
Most complex multi-page jobs are made up of many structured components that include an organized layout of pages as well as complex page layouts that may include multiple images and multiple fonts.
Each page has a specific design layout that must be consistent with the entire job. In addition to the design and layout, there are paper stocks and finishing options that must also be considered. All these pieces need to come together to produce a final product where all the components compliment each other.
In order to do this we suggest you put a fair amount of effort into planning your print job with the entire scope of the job in mind and not just creating the design for it.
One useful task is to use a story board to layout and manage your pages. This will give you an idea of the overall structure of your job for optimum readability and presentation. Another useful tool is to make an actual mockup with written notes in place of actual content.
To many these steps may sound like unnecessary work but we have seen many times how these simple tasks can save you from additional time and stress.
- Establish a good document layout plan
- Complex document layouts are composed of page layouts that should complement each other.
- Use a story board as a tool to aid in planning your complex print jobs.
- The more planning you put in before and during the design phase will pay big dividends down the road.
3. For not so complex jobs, what is your page layout?
For single page jobs it’s important to make sure that the layout of your design fits within the scope of the final output. Whether you are designing a simple postcard or a large banner you need to make sure that the layout not only maximizes your message but also is designed with your intended audience in mind.
Too many times we see our clients submit jobs that have the best intentions but fall short of being impactful. Some of these issues include cramming too much information in a layout, or using too many different fonts and images which can make a job look too busy or confusing.
Another issue that can arise is that background colors or images can clash or drown out foreground text and vice versa where certain areas of text are so bold that they overpower the main message conveyed. Many times this is not apparent until the final production output. Thus another reason why hardcopy proofs are so important.
- Even simpler jobs require a good page layout plan
- Planning a good impactful layout is essential for single page jobs. Focus on the big picture.
- A good design is a product of a good page layout. Make sure to use your image and text components to maximize impact.
- Use colors that complement each other. There are many sites on the web that will show you colors that go well with each other.
- The same rule goes for fonts. Try to keep your fonts within the same family. If you can't then make sure they share similar styles.
4. Planning to utilize images and text in your job
A very common mistake that many of our clients make is using an image to display text. This is especially true when submitting larger print jobs like banners or signs. In many cases if not done carefully the text submitted as part of an image will tend to look blurry.
This issue can get worse by printing the text as an image on jobs that have larger dimensions. However, this issue can easily be resolved by submitting text as a separate layer from the image file. Doing so will ensure that your text will appear sharp and with clear edges all the way down to the smallest font size.
For images the problems that seem to arise the most is image files that are not hi-res enough. As an example many images that we see on the web that look hi-res are actually only seventy two dots per inch. Not even close to what is required for quality output.
We always recommend that if you are going to utilize any images in your job, that they come directly from the source or design file and not a copy downloaded from or intended for use on a website.
Another issue that is very common with images is how they are setup for color. It’s important that you consult with the printer when using very specific colors to ensure that the color output meets your expectations. This will ensure that the colors of your job will not only be printed consistently within your job but also within other related jobs in your portfolio.
- Make sure your photo's are setup to print with the proper color settings. Consult your printer if you're unsure how.
5. Unseen issues that can cause delays.
In our previous point, we explain how important it is to coordinate with your printer to make sure your job is done on time and to your satisfaction.
Unfortunately, there are many unforseen issues that can cause delays outside of the obvious such as fonts or images. These include production issues like color rendering problems, incorrect size or missing bleeds and finishing problems.
Because many of these problems don’t arise until the actual production phase, they are often unaccounted for, therefore causing costly delays. Too many times clients submit jobs expecting them to be done in a short period of time not knowing all the steps required in order to meet their expectations.
That's why it's very important that you try to involve your printer as early in the process as you can. A good print partner can identify possible production issues immediately and can make the necessary preparations to avoid delays or additional costs.
By giving your printer a heads up on the details of your job even before you submit it can go a long way to ensuring that your job is processed smoothly.
- There are many unforseen issues that can lead to costly delays in your print job.
- A good printer can identify any pitfalls ahead of production, make sure you inform them as soon as possible if your job needs finishing.,
- The more you communicate and coordinate with your printer prior to submitting your print job the smoother the process of completing it will be.
6. What type of paper stock will you require?
In many cases when choosing the paper stock or the material to print your job with, that task is left to the expertise of the printer. Unless you have a specific paper stock in mind it is usually the printer that can help you select the best paper stock or material to meet your needs not only from an appearance standpoint but also from a budget standpoint as well.
However in order for the printer to make the right choice for you, they need to know how you plan to utilize your job. There are many details that must be known in order to select the most appropriate paper stock or material.
One of the biggest concerns when making a selection is how durable do you need your job be? The more durable the more expensive the material. The less durable the less expensive the material. Another factor involves appearance.
Do you want things matte or glossy? smooth or with texture? bright white or with a tint? card stock or text stock? Thick card stock or thin card stock? It’s always a smart idea to make sure that you ask for a sample of any prospective stock or material before you approve your job.
Better yet make sure that the hardcopy proof you request is also run on the same material as the production job.
- When choosing the proper paper stocks for your job it's best to consult your printer.
- Make sure you let your printer know how your print job will be used so that they can help choose the most appropriate stock to meet your needs.
- Choosing the right paper stock with the help of your printer can make a significant difference on how your job turns out.
7. What type of finishing options or special requirements does your job need?
If your job requires any finishing options at all, we highly recommend that you work with your printer to plan ahead and make sure that your printer understands what finishing options you’ll need. Since finishing is usually the most labor intensive part of producing your job, giving your printer a heads up can ensure that your job gets done on time.
Even so called simple jobs with simple finishing requirements can cause problems if the finishing is outside the scope of what your printer can handle and therefore must be outsourced. Unexpected issues like this can cause delays and additional costs.
Thus it’s always important to know what the capabilities of your printer is to get the best bang for your buck. In some cases having to outsource part of your job is unavoidable. When this happens it’s up to the printer to try to find the best overall solution to produce your job and also meet your budget and delivery requirements.
Fortunately most printers have trusted outsourcing partners that they can rely on to help meet these goals. We always ask our clients that it’s imperative that they communicate any finishing or special requirements that they may need for their job to us as soon as possible.
- If your job requires any finishing whatsover, to avoid delays on your job, let your printer know ahead of time so they can plan for it.
- It's always good to know what your printers capabilities are and what can be done in house versus outsourcing. Usually jobs that can be done entirly in-house have a quicker turnaround time and are less expensive.
- In some instances your printer will have a trusted finishing partner that is almost as good as doing it in-house.
- Asking the right questions may not only save you money but also help you avoid unnecessary problems.
8. What type of proofs should you request?
When it comes to proofs there are hardcopy proofs and softcopy proofs. There are proofs of the finished job and there are proofs of only certain parts related to the job like color swatches. There are actual production size proofs and there are reduced sized proofs. You may only need a final proof or in some cases a series of proofs along the way.
The most vital function of a hardcopy proof is to see an actual output of the job printed on the same equipment that will run the final production output using the final production stock.
Being as close to the final product as possible, this proof allows the client to see what to expect in the final production run. If there are any issues then the client will see it immediately and can work with the printer to get them resolved. Be careful however, because requesting hardcopy proofs can get very expensive.
If your job is being run for the first time, we recommend that you definitely request a hardcopy proof. If your job or a similar job has been run before and you know what to expect then all you may need is a second type of proof called a digital or soft proof. This type of proof is usually delivered in a digital file like Adobe PDF.
The function of a digital proof is to show the client a representation of what the final output will look like. Since this is a soft proof the goal here is to make sure that the files submitted to the printer are exactly what the client expects them to be.
Soft proofs are produced from the same files that will produce the final production job. As we said before, usually digital proofs are required when the job has been previously run before and the only change is in the content. Thus the client can already know what to expect in terms of the final production stock or material as well as the previous finishing requirements.
However we always recommend that the client request a hardcopy proof as part of their job estimate. It’s always better to be safe then sorry.
9. What file format do you intend to work with?
When working with file formats you have two different methods when submitting files to your printer. The first method and the most common is to submit the job packaged into a single print file. One of the most commonly used format is Adobe’s Portable Document File format or PDF for short.
This type of format is also called print ready because they require no additional processing to produce the desired output. One advantage of PDF files is that they can contain multiple pages while also handling images and text as separate layers. By doing so images can maintain their resolution while text still remains sharp and crisp.
However as great as it may sound PDF files have their downside. They can easily get bloated and too complex to the point where you can get unexpected results when printing. Another class of print ready files include what is referred to as image files such as Gif and Jpeg files. One other format similar to PDF files is EPS ( Encapsulated Postscript ) files which is a close relative of the PDF file.
The second commonly used method to submit your job to the printer is by sending the design or source files that need to be processed in order to create the printed output. The advantage of doing it this way is that the printer can make any adjustment to the job without having the client resubmit new files every time.
All the client has to do is instruct the printer with whatever what changes need to be done. In return the printer sends the client a digital proof with the desired changes. Doing it this way saves time for the client by eliminating costly delays.
Fortunately, many programs like Adobe InDesign make it easy to submit source files by packaging them all together as one compressed file that can be opened and extracted by the same program on the other end.
The down side of submitting source files is that both parties need to have the same software configurations so that there is no discrepancy between client and printer when processing files for output.
Some printers would rather work with PDF files instead of source files because more can go wrong processing source files rather than print ready files. This also can create additional liabilities that many printers just do not want to take on. Lastly, changes to the print job requested by the client and made by the printer may incur additional costs.
10. What is the desired due date and how much production time will be required?
As we have mentioned before it is very important to try to plan ahead every detail of your print job. We also recommend getting your printer involved with your job as soon as possible including during the design phase.
By doing so you and your printer can put together a schedule designed to guarantee that your desired due date is met. This will also allow the printer to schedule ahead the necessary production time and equipment required to run the job.
This is especially crucial when your job requires outsourcing or finishing. Proper planning and communication ensures that by the time the print files are approved for final production your printer will have the necessary equipment and resources available to finish the job on time.
In addition careful planning allows both you and your printer to handle any minor issues that may come up along the way.
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