Prepress Guidelines

Design Tools

Adobe InDesign for Commercial Print Layouts
Adobe Illustrator for Packaging Layouts, and for illustrations

Back to glossary Photos

Photographs and other “raster” images should be 300ppi (pixels per inch) for best reproduction in print.

Back to glossary CMYK not RGB

Your computer uses a color space called RGB to produce the colors you see on your screen. A printing press uses a color space called CMYK to produce similar colors using just four colors of ink: cyan, magenta, yellow and black, also know as 4 color process. When you send your files to a commercial printer, they must be in the CYMK color space.

Back to glossary Spot Colors

Most of the colors produced in color printing are created by blending just 4 colors of ink: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. But sometimes you need a very specific color. Despite all of the advanced techniques and technology at a professional printer, matching the exact color from printer to printer and even from one order to the next can be a challenge. Consistent color-matching is what separates good printers from great ones.

A spot color is not created by mixing other types of ink, but rather it is made to order for the project at hand. This also means the printer must make an additional plate for the spot color, which usually makes using a spot color more expensive.

If you have to use a spot color, you’re likely using a color from the Pantone Matching System. It is a commonly used system of spot colors that helps press operators achieve the exact same shade, every time.

Specialty inks like metallics, neons and unique colors will also have to be run as spot colors.

Spot colors can be expensive for short run orders, but become more economical if you’re doing larger quantities using offset printing.

Viewing spot colors that are blended with other colors, or are somewhat transparent, can be a problem in your page layout program. Make use of Overprint Preview when you’re working with spot colors.

Back to glossary Vector Art

Vector artwork, such as Adobe Illustrator files, and the copy in InDesign documents should have color be defined as CMYK or PANTONE colors. Submitting these as RGB colors is not recommended.

Back to glossary Fonts

Always included all the fonts used to create your artwork.

Back to glossary Bleeds & Safety

Jobs should be designed with 1/8” bleeds and 1/8” safety.

Back to glossary What Are Bleeds?

A bleed is printed content that extends beyond the trimmed edge of your final printed piece.

Back to glossary Why are Bleeds Important?

Bleeds are important because they allow your artwork to be cut without artifacts. If there is no bleed you may have a small white space around the cut edge. The bleed should be 0.25” larger than the trim size (0.125” on all sides). Learn more about bleed. You should design your project within the trim size and add bleed settings in InDesign.

Back to glossary How to Plan Margins or Safe Zones

A margin is the space between the print and the edge of the page, sometimes called the Safe Zone. The margin should be a minimum of 0.125”. You just want to make sure your critical artwork or text has a bit of room so it isn’t in danger of being chopped off in the cutting process.

Back to glossary How do You Design for Folds?

If you are printing brochures, catalogs, folded cards, or boxes you’ll need to plan for folds. Use guides and the ruler to measure exactly where the fold will happen. Plan your artwork and design accordingly.

Back to glossary How to Design Your Project for Binding

Binding is what holds books, magazines, catalogs or pamphlets together. There are many different types of binding, such as coil, wire-o, perfect binding and saddle stitching. When you’re creating a bound piece like a catalog, it is very important to understand pagination. Pagination is how the pages will be ordered in your document so they’ll be printed correctly.

Pagination can be very confusing because the way a document is printed is not exactly the way you look at it in your page layout program. InDesign allows you to switch to a printer spread view or a reader spread view. When you change your document to printer spread view the pages go crazy, and things appear out of order. This is the format that the printing press needs your document to be in so it prints the pages out and folds and binds them properly, a process know as imposition.

You might think that by changing your document to printer spread view that you’re doing the printer a favor. But you aren’t! Keep your document in a reader spread view at all times, modern prepress systems convert your documents correctly so there’s no need for a confusing printer spread.

  • Remember to include blank pages so you have the right number of pages for your piece.
  • Work with your printer when you’re printing books and catalogs to get the pagination correct.
  • Each binding format has a minimum and maximum number of pages and a specific multiple of pages.
  • Always ask for a proof, especially with this type of printing project.
Back to glossary Exporting Your Work for the Printer

Packaging InDesign Files for a Professional Printer If you’d prefer to supply the actual InDesign document to your printer – make sure you package the InDesign file. Zip the entire file and provide that to your printer. Your printer will need all of your images and fonts, so you’ll need to include the entire package not just the Indd file. When packaging, check the boxes shown below.

Back to glossary Exporting a PDF from InDesign

When exporting a PDF from InDesign:

  • Include all pages
  • Export the document in pages not spreads
  • Choose Press Optimized
  • For marks and bleeds – don’t include any marks, but make sure you check “use document bleed settings” if you included the bleed in your settings. If not, you can specify the .125″ bleed here.
Back to glossary Exporting a PDF for Graphic Solutions Group

Exporting your press ready file for Graphic Solutions Group is very easy in all modern page layout and design programs. Usually you’d export everything into a PDF but sometimes you may export the entire project including images, fonts and other elements. Here are some tips to keep in mind, many that have already been mentioned:

  • Make sure your images are the right DPI (300 or higher) for printing.
  • Use vector for text, drawings and logos when possible.
  • Don’t export a PDF with security settings and password protection unless your printer is prepared for and can work with that security.
  • When in doubt, always choose the highest quality file possible.
  • If your project file is too big for email, consider using GSG’s FTP upload on our website.
Back to glossary Proofread everything

Small oversights, such as typos and grammatical errors, can be the difference between closing a sale and a customer choosing the competition.

Back to glossary

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