At its essence, printing is a manufacturing process. It requires a plan, raw materials, and processing to deliver a finished product to the intended recipient. That plan starts with the purpose of the print job. Defining the purpose will inform decisions about the final size, the design, and the type of paper or other substrates. The purpose of the finished product also determines the print technologies to consider.
With the basic framework for the print job in hand, it continues along a path that includes designing and creating print files, delivering them to the printer, preparing the files for print and print execution, finishing, customer acceptance, and then moving the finished work into use.
A plan is more than a simple checklist of things to do to get ready to send a print job. It begins with a conversation with the client covering the print work they want to buy, how they will use it, when they need it, and their thoughts on the creative design. Some clients will bring their design files to us, but they must be reviewed to ensure they can be executed as the customer intends. Others will want help getting their vision defined, designed, and prepared.
For those that need some help, we spend some time understanding their vision. Is the customer buying wedding announcements, or do they need business wayfinding signs? Are they looking for signage or brochures? What is their color scheme? Are they bringing images and graphics to the table or asking for your design help to select them?
For those that bring a completed design, the conversation needs to be a frank assessment of how the design will work on the selected substrates and formats. A common mistake in design files is the lack of a bleed when images extend to the edge of the page or sign. Extending the graphics beyond the edge of the page, typically 3mm or 1/8”, prevents unwanted white areas that detract from the design.
That is the starting point. The next step is to verify the creative files as suitable for their intended purpose.
Once a plan is agreed upon with a client, there is more work to do. The files used for printing are usually PDF or PostScript files. Those files need to be reviewed and preflighted. That means ensuring that the files have the appropriate fonts embedded, that graphics are the correct resolution, and that the formatting is appropriate for the intended finishing. The file should be a high-resolution file – screen scraping images from the internet won’t result in the print quality most customers expect.
Reviewing the files against the intended finishing may result in design changes. Make sure clients are prepared if they ask for specific cuts, folds, or binding. No one wants their business logo or a picture stuck in a fold or text stuck in the binding because the pages weren’t prepared properly.
Once the file is printed and finished, the next step is to accomplish delivery.
There are so many variations in print products that it helps to understand the technologies and terminology.