Behind the scenes at the printer there are many operations that must take place in order for your job to be printed correctly. But there are also quite a few pitfalls that can be avoided by putting together a simple checklist for pre-flighting your own files before sending them to your printer. This simple checklist will save you time and money. Even the veterans of print design forget these simple tasks. You will not find any advanced tips here, just the basics.1
Check your images
Make sure your images are in CMYK color mode. There are advanced features that could be taken into consideration here, but for now just make this happen. Open the images in Photoshop and change the color mode to CMYK. (CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, black) This simply places your images in the correct color space for printing. It is required, or at least should be. If your images are in any other color mode, the printer should contact you and let you know that your images need to be converted. This is may cost you time and money.2
Check your resolution
Your images should be at least 300dpi. You could definitely split some hairs over this issue. And I will agree that there are arguments for not necessarily needing to have images at 300 dots per inch. But why would the printer say to have images at 300dpi if they didn’t need them at that resolution for your best chance at high quality printing? I have actually created a Photoshop action that will place my images in CMYK color mode, set the resolution to 300dpi all while saving out an uncompressed .tif for print. If you would like to download the action click here. (Caution: Action will save you time and close your files for you!) Actually if you need something a little different with your action I would love to help.3
Check your dimensions
Check for an eighth inch(.125″) bleed on all sides of your document. Again there are arguments about not needing this much bleed, but I assure you that I am not trying to start a debate. This is my rule of thumb for bleed and I am sticking to it. While I am on the subject, make sure that all important text and images are at least this same distance(.125″) from the trim edge. I figured I would squeeze that one in with the bleed since they are quite similar.
Nothing fancy, but important to remember none the less. Maybe I will get into folding and spot colors in the future, but for now keep these three tips always in mind. Use the action for your images in Photoshop and all you will have to remember is the bleed. Really the biggest piece of advice that I could give is to talk with your printer. This precludes all previous advice. If you can, talk with someone in the Prepress Department. They are usually busy fixing files that came into the printer wrong so most printers don’t allow direct contact to Prepress personnel, but you can try. Anyway, I trust this helps. And happy, quality printing!