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Part: IV Appendix > A Designer's Checklist

A Designer's Checklist

Although it's impossible to list everything that might go wrong in a job, several issues come up more often. As a checklist for yourself when you're creating files or preparing them to send to a printer, here are some common issues to be aware of:

  • Make sure that everything is CMYK— Make sure that you haven't accidentally created artwork in RGB mode. Many times you might use stock photography that you've downloaded from a website—and those images are almost always in RGB. Remember that almost all images from a digital camera are RGB and must be converted to CMYK in Photoshop before they can be sent to the printer.

  • Remember your fonts— When you send your files to your printer, make sure that you've included copies of all the fonts you've used in the file. Additionally, try to avoid using off-brand fonts that you've found somewhere on the Internet, or fonts from those “10,000 fonts for $9.99” collections because they usually end up causing problems.

  • Use spot and process colors correctly— If you're printing a job as a four-color process (CMYK), don't provide your printer with a file made up of spot colors. Likewise, if you're printing a spot-color job, don't provide your printer with a file that uses process colors. Some jobs combine both spot and process colors as well. If you aren't sure, talk to your printer.

  • Make sure that images are high resolution— Sometimes designers use low-resolution images in their design but forget to replace them with high-resolution versions of the images before they send their files to the printer. Sometimes designers copy files from a website, and those images are almost always 72dpi low-resolution images. Make sure that photos taken with a digital camera are also of sufficient resolution.

  • Check Illustrator resolution settings— If you've applied any effects in Illustrator (they appear in the Effects menu), those effects might need to be rasterized at print time. Drop shadows, feathers, Gaussian blurs, and some mapped 3D artwork are examples of effects that get rasterized at print time. To ensure best results, make sure that the Document Raster Effects Setting is set to 300dpi.

  • Check Transparency Flattener settings— In many cases, if you've used native Illustrator CS and InDesign CS files—and PDF 1.4 files or higher—your printer will determine the correct flattener settings. But at times you might be working with EPS files, or your printer might ask you to export older format files. In those cases, you'll be supplying files to your printer that are already flattened. Flattened files can't be changed, so if they aren't correct, the printer can't fix them.

  • Check your stroke weights— Just because Illustrator and InDesign allow you to specify extremely thin lines, that doesn't mean a printing press will be able to reproduce them. In general, never specify a stroke weight that's less than 0.25 point. Pay attention to logos or other art that is scaled: A logo that has a 1-point stroke that is scaled down to 20% in your InDesign layout will end up with a 0.2-point stroke.

  • Check your tints— Specify tints that won't cause problems on press. Tints lower than 5% or higher than 95% are usually problematic. The truth is, each printing press is different, and printers know what their presses can handle; it's best to ask your printer for suggestions.

  • Add bleed or gripper space— If your design includes art or a background that is supposed to print all the way to the edge of a page, you have to specify a bleed, which is basically extending the art outside the boundaries of the page. This ensures that no whitespace will show when the page is trimmed to the correct size. Where art doesn't come all the way to the edge of the page, you have to leave a certain amount of space, called gripper space, along the edges of your page (you can use margin settings to help you stay out of these areas).

    By the Way

    In case you were wondering, pages with a bleed don't usually need gripper space because they are printed on larger pages that are trimmed down to the page size you specify.

  • Perform general file cleanup— Throughout the design process, you might choose from many colors, fonts, symbols, and so forth. When your job is complete, it's best to “clean up” your file by deleting unused swatches, brushes, or symbols. Use the Find Font feature in InDesign or Illustrator to make sure that you don't have empty objects with additional fonts in your file.

  • Provide a dummy— I'm not referring to the kind of dummy that a ventriloquist uses. A dummy is a printed mockup that shows a printer how a job should look when it's printed and folded. It doesn't have to be in color or even full size, but it should give the printer a good visual of what you expect. Creating a dummy also helps you, the designer, because you can make sure that the panels fold correctly and are the right size.



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