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How to Avoid Pain When You Send a Job to Your Printer

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How to Avoid Pain When You Send a Job to Your Printer

This morning I had a call from Alex, a Small Business owner. He sounded pretty stressed. Alex is flying out tonight to exhibit at a trade show, promoting a newly launched product range, and he has no business cards. They’re essential to the success of this marketing exercise, and he didn’t have a print ready file (his business card file was a low res Powerpoint). It’s a heart stopping scenario you may be familiar with.

In my last article, I mentioned the risk of delay and/or unexpected costs if the file you supply your printer isn’t print ready. But what does that mean?

A print ready file is created and saved in such a way that its ready to print on a commercial printing press, without any correction. These machines, whether they’re digital or offset, work differently to your desktop printer, so don’t assume you’re done and dusted just because you can print it at home.

Why is it important for my file to be print ready?

Setting up and saving your file correctly will ensure:

  • No delays: or risk of missed deadlines
  • No cost blowouts: you won’t pay extra for file correction or recreation
  • What you want is what you get: the product will print just as you expected

6 Steps to Print Ready Files

  1. Size and Shape –  Ensure that the dimensions of your file are the same as the finished size of the piece
  2. Colour – RGB is for screens, not print. Most print is now CMYK (Full Colour). Or spot (Pantone) colour. Find out what colour space you need from your printer
  3. Resolution – Print ready files should be 300dpi or better. Low-resolution files will appear blurred or jagged
  4. Bleed and Trim (Crop) Marks – Bleed is required if you want any part of the print to go right to the edge of the page. The file is set up with the print area extending past the cut edge (usually by 3mm) and then cut to trim marks. This prevents unwanted white borders on the edge of the page.
  5. File Type – High-resolution PDF files are preferred by most professional printers, as the PDF format is designed for safe document sharing with minimal risk of changes. There are other file types which may be acceptable, depending on the print process used; check with your supplier. Microsoft Word, Publisher and Powerpoint, and many other non-professional publishing programs, are not suitable for many print projects.
  6. Proofing – Before you send your file to print, check for typos, spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. Then get someone else who’s fresh to the job to proof read too.

If all this is making you nervous, getting professional help could be a good idea. Whether you use an online freelancer through services such as 99 Designs, Fivrr or Upwork, or work with a local graphic designer, the requirements for file preparation are the same.

Buyer Beware

Sadly however,  you can’t assume that paying for design guarantees that your file setup will be correct. Many designers are self-taught, just starting out, or more familiar with web than print design. It’s important to give them specific instructions avoid disappointment.

The best way to bypass problems is to ask your print supplier exactly what they need before your designer starts work. This will nip any issues in the bud.

Relying on the printer can fix everything can be risky. Some file problems can be corrected at the last minute. Others can’t, or will require the artwork to be recreated, which will cost time and money.

Now back to panicking John. Of course his story has a happy ending.  He was able to email us files of most of the elements of his business card (logo, contact details text and a reasonable quality product image). We were able to create a print ready business card file for him. It was a close call, but the cards were ready on time – and we have another  very happy customer!

To get our guide on how to prepare a Print Ready File, go to my Free Resources here.

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