Pre-flight is a term in the printing industry as a process of preparing your artwork to be printed. In this article, we will create a pre-flight checklist process to help save time, money, and a lot of frustration of having your art rejected by the print shop prepress.
Table of Contents
What we will go over in this article:
artwork final size
bleeds, margins, and safety line
what to do with fonts
flatten file & pdf’s
Artwork Final Size
If you are sending a file without knowing what the final size of your design will lead to an automatic rejection of your artwork, it typically happens when someone is creating art in a program usually not designed for designing. i.e., Microsoft Word.
Don’t send 8.5 x 11 artwork when you want a 3.5 x 2 business card printed. Doing this slows the process down and for your artwork rejected by the print shop.
Your printer wants you to send your artwork as one up. For example, if you are sending a business card to be printed, you will send a file size of 3.5 x 2 plus .125 for the bleed. You don’t want to send a pdf with multiple business cards on an 8.5 x 11 sheet. Your local print shop already has a process in place for managing multiple up per page.
There are some exceptions to this rule, i.e., banners. Banner designs can be pretty big and difficult to move around or send. The secret to sending large design files is to reduce the file size 1/3 of the original size.
If you want an 8′ x 4′ banner, you would need to design your artwork at 32″ x 16″ at 300 dpi. Doing this will give the print shop designer the ability to rescale your artwork to 8 x 4 and print 100 dpi.
Most large format printers will print at 100 dpi
Bleed, Margins, and safety area
These are the three basic factors with the layout of your design. Most print shops will require you to follow these three fundamental factors before sending your artwork to be printed.
Bleed: ( set at .125 ) the outermost part of the card that will be removed.
Trim: ( final size of the artwork ) the target line for cutting cards.
Safety: ( .125 margin ) anything outside this line is subject to cutting mistakes. Don’t let essential elements like text or logos fall outside this line.
If the program you are building your design offers crop marks and bleed as an option, it might be good to export the design with both of these options. Otherwise, if you are physically creating crop marks, it might be a good idea to leave the crop marks out altogether.
Check out this article on designing with bleed for an in-depth look.
The resolution, also known as DPI ( Dot Per Inch ), refers to the clarity of an image or design. The higher the DPI ratio of your image or design, the more detail it can show and vise versa. Print shops require a minimum of 300 DPI and recommend 600 DPI for your print job’s best quality output.
Any images that are under 300 DPI will look fuzzy, blurry, or pixelated when printed. Ensure that all images that are placed or linked to your design have a minimum resolution of 300 DPI.
Colors for your design can get a little tricky, and if not careful, can lead to a lot of frustration.
Printing your design in full color, you are going to want to make sure your color mode is set to CMYK and for any colors created within the design, and linked images should be set to CMYK.
C = CYAN
M = MAGENTA
Y = YELLOW
K = BLACK
To go more in-depth of the CMYK process will need to wait for another article. Right now, we want to make sure that you are sending your artwork to the printer in the right color mode.
I want to point out that there are two types of blacks when it comes to using CMYK for printing and designing—Full-Color Process black, which will usually end up as a more muddy black when printed. It happens because the combination of CMY creates black. Make Sure that you are using 100% black when creating your fonts or blocks of color that you want solid black.
You are going to want to make sure that your fonts are outlined or sent with the artwork. Assuming the printer will have the fonts you are using will only slow down getting your file printed.
Creating a folder for your artwork and subfolders is good practice. Creating a subfolder call assets and then creating a folder within the assets folder called ‘fonts’ is a great way to keep things nice and organized. Place all ll the fonts that you use for your design in your fonts folder.
Spelling and Grammar
Nothing more costly than catching a grammar or spelling error after your work is printed. If you don’t have a set of fresh eyes to go over your content, make sure you do your due diligence and go through it a few times to ensure it is correct.
If you plan to send the original files to your printer, it is always good practice to send a flattened pdf and the files. Your flattened pdf will help make sure that what you send is what you get in return. Also, if there are no changes needed, the best thing that they can print from is the flattened pdf that you sent them.
I hope this article helped you get your print job off to a good start.