Do's and Don'ts
- Begin with the Best Art. Despite advances
in graphic software and printing, the adage “Garbage in, garbage out” still
applies. The better the original, the more latitude the printer has in achieving
desired results. Use photographs that exhibit full tonal range.
Don’t convert a color photo to a black-and-white reproduction, if a
black-and-white original is available. Start with the best, each step results
in a generational loss in quality.
- Use the Right Software. Prepare your art in the program
best suited for the task. Illustrator® is a drawing (vector) program, ideal
for logos, packaging, posters and single-page layouts. Photoshop® is a pixel-based
(raster) program for size adjustment, color-correcting and manipulating scanned
images such as photographs and flat art. Neither is intended for multi-page
documents. Use a page layout program such as QuarkXPress® or InDesign® for
- Make Image Changes Before Importing. Scale, rotate, flop
and manipulate images in the original graphic application (Photoshop® or
Illustrator®) before importing into your page-layout program (QuarkXPress® or
InDesign®). If done in a page layout program, these steps consume computer
memory and may cause output difficulties.
- Maintain Image Quality. Photoshop® provides tremendous
pixel control, keep in mind that raster software does not enlarge images
without a loss in quality. When producing a digital image, start big,
you can scale down later with impunity. If you need to enlarge an image,
rescan or reshoot at a higher resolution.
- CMYK or RGB. Remember that offset printing requires all
files be in CMYK to separate properly. Printers often prefer to make the
conversions themselves to stock images supplied in RGB mode. If the printer
requests otherwise, ask for a conversion profile to follow. Keep in mind
that standard default settings on your software may convert some colors to
straight black, rather than build the color out of CMYK.
- Trust the Software, Not the Screen. If you are doing color
corrections or manipulations on your own, rely on the numerical color gauges
in Photoshop® rather than what you see on the screen. Be sure to color calibrate
your monitor and printer to reduce discrepancies.
- Keep Track of Your Colors. Graphic programs give you an
infinite choice of colors, you may want to test out different hues to
see which works best. Be sure to keep track of colors and eliminate any
unused ones before releasing files. Otherwise, you may end up with a
separate match-color plate for every color tested, or you may accidentally
specify four-color process for a job that should be printed only in match
- Build to Size. Build your files at actual size unless
your final size is too large for your software to accommodate. A printed
piece with a final size of 8.5 x 11 should be built to 8.5 x 11 page size.
Spreads should be created as two 8.5 x 11 pages, not as a single 17 x 11
form. Before releasing, add 1/8th inch bleeds where appropriate and be sure
to indicate this. Allow your printer to make adjustments for crossovers,
gutter grind-off, creep, etc.
- Name Your Files Clearly. Unusual characters in a name
have been known to cause a printer’s computer to crash. Keep file names under
20 characters and use letters and numbers only. Make sure your files are
labeled with the correct extension: .ai or .eps for Illustrator®; .tif or
.eps for Photoshop®; .indd for InDesign ®; .qxd for QuarkXPress®, and .pdf
for PDF. Important: Indicate
which software version you used in preparing the file as some printers
may not have the latest versions.