Printing & Design Tips: December 2003, Issue #29

Pre-Flighting Your Print Files

Most of you have heard the term "preflight." Usually it refers to an operation your printer performs upon receipt of your print job files to ensure their accuracy. If he finds errors at this stage, he can contact you early, before time is lost and money wasted.

My addition to this simple concept is the following: Why don't you preflight your files before sending them to the printer? I'm not suggesting that your printer shouldn't do this, too; however, if you preflight your jobs prior to submission, you can significantly reduce the chance of errors. This can eliminate the need to retrieve your disk from the printer in the middle of the process, quickly make corrections, and return the disk, hoping the job will still be on time.

If you choose to do this, what are your options? There are a few software packages available that preflight files, but one in particular that reviews files in both the native application (like Quark, PageMaker, or InDesign) and PDF format is Markzware FlightCheck Professional, which retails for slightly more than $400.00. FlightCheck can also check Illustrator and Photoshop files.

If you take this route, what kinds of errors will a preflight program flag? It will warn you of incorrect color spaces, poor resolution, missing fonts, graphic incompatibilities, and faulty PDFs. After checking these, and other, parameters, a preflight program will produce a list of problems that must be resolved before you can hand off accurate, problem-free files to your printer.

Many of you design your projects on a Macintosh. Others design your projects on a PC. In either case, it would be wise to check with Markzware to ensure that your specific hardware configuration and the current version of your applications, operating system, etc., are compatible with FlightCheck.

Designers looking for good value should also be aware of a recent agreement between the owner of Markzware and the owner of Printing Industry Exchange. If you log onto the PIE website home page, you can access Markzware's preflight software through "Jobs2Print." Once you do this, you can scan and preflight your files to make sure they are error-free prior to submission. According to the PIE website, this service scans for "RGB colors used, spot colors used, JPEG compressed images, missing images, image resolution less than 266, non-default trapping, missing printer fonts, missing screen fonts, TrueType fonts used, stylized fonts used, hairlines included, and clipping paths included."

After checking your job, Jobs2Print allows you to collect and compress your files and then FTP them to your printer. This is an incredibly useful service, offered to you for free.

Spot UV Coating

Most of the time you will use varnish, aqueous coating, UV coating, or liquid laminate as a "flood" coating to protect and/or give a gloss (or dull) finish to your book covers. However, some printers can actually take the super high-gloss of UV coating and place it in a limited area, in much the same way as you might use a spot coating of varnish to enhance a photo and make it pop off the sheet. Using UV coating in a spot rather than flood application can go way beyond the clarity and gloss of a varnish, emphasizing a single element of the photo's composition and providing a dramatic effect.

Need a Gloss Ink?

Do you need a gloss ink but don't want to pay for an additional press unit for varnish? You have an option. You can have your printer mix varnish with your PMS ink, thereby adding a gloss sheen without adding the cost of a separate ink.

[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]