3 Expert Printing Tips to Ensure your Job Comes Out Right

3 Expert Printing Tips to Ensure your Job Comes Out Right

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This is a guest article contributed by Andy Edmonson.

An easier job for a printer means a quicker turnaround for you. But it’s not just speed; errors in artwork or file type are massive problems when it comes to your final printed item, and if you’ve made the error then technically it’s not the printer’s responsibility to correct it.

Knowing your stuff beforehand ensures you don’t have to fork out for unplanned and avoidable costs later on and suffer delays when you’ve got deadlines to meet. Below are three problems which go beyond the obvious “don’t spell your company name wrong” and are common or difficult enough to be worthy of a mention.

In essence, it boils down to understanding the tools you are using to create your artwork, so you don’t make errors based on ignorance.

1. Simplify / rasterize overly complex vector paths

This isn’t necessarily a common problem, but when it does happen the entire print process grinds to a halt before it’s even started. If a client sends over a vector image which looks like this:

Complex Vector Lines

…we’ve got a real problem. This myriad of yellow, blue and purple lines isn’t a contemporary piece of geometric graphic design work, it’s all the many vector paths in this image. Advances in graphic design software means we can now create hugely complex images in fantastic detail, which is great when a designer fully understands the tools they are using, but can result in something which is needlessly complicated.

This vector image uses a few different shades of grey and that seems to be where things have gone wrong. Zooming in you can see just how overly complicated it is:

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Zoomed Complex Vector Lines

This makes the image absolutely impossible to rip and means we have to send it back to the customer and ask for something simpler wasting time and money. In this instance, the background should be rasterised.

2. Understand When & How Overprint Works

The overprint function is frequently used incorrectly, especially when logos created in older versions of software are added into artwork. An object can have overprint turned on and when viewed with standard PDF settings would look absolutely fine.

To quickly illustrate overprint, it in essence means layering colours on top of each other. So, for example, if 100% cyan was set to overprint 100% magenta, the result would be a deep purple.

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In the example shown below, the ‘Baby’ and ‘.com’ have been set to overprint. When viewed in a PDF with acrobat reader and default acrobat reader preferences, the customer would see the logo with all items showing but the printed output would have the items missing.

What was seen in the printed output:

Baby Expert Print Out

What was seen on screen:

Baby Expert on Screen

So what’s going on? In this instance the white is set to overprint; this sits the white on top of the magenta ink. If we were printing an opaque white print everything would be fine, a solid magenta would go down first, then a white ink would print on top of the magenta ink and the logo would look correct.

In process printing there is no white ink and the white of the paper is used. Overprint results in the white 0% of all inks (CMYK) sitting on top of the colour underneath, which in this case is solid magenta. Because the white is 0% the resulting colour is solid magenta. The end result is a printed item which doesn’t look how the designer intended, and this causes massive problems for both the customer and the digital printer.

50,000 Shades of Grey

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We end up in a grey area as to who is responsible if the artwork is printed with errors resulting from incorrectly assigned overprint settings. Technically, the first version is how the artwork has been sent over and it’s not the digital printer’s responsibility to proof the artwork, but then again, a customer might not even realise they have made this mistake. And of course, no digital printer wants to produce items which are full of errors.

Add in the fact that detecting overprint is difficult and involves manually going into software and checking settings and you’ve a potential headache on your hands. There’s no way you can set something to check for overprint, so it either involves the digital printer proofing every item if they start to come across overprint issues, or simply printing the artwork as it has been sent across.

This is a crucial mistake to look out for as it can ruin your printed items.

Here’s how you find the overprint preview function in Adobe Acrobat:

Go to Preferences > Page Display > Use Overprint Preview and select the appropriate option.

Overprint Settings

3. Avoid Bad Math, CMYK Misuse & Tiny Text Size

On two recent occasions we’ve had customers complain about print items which have been received without the text they intended. In these scenarios small fonts have been used which are just too tiny to ever show when being printed so the result has been this:

Small Type Example

This is an example of a quick, small job which should have gone off without a hitch. The customer wanted A6 invites printed. The text was 9pt in a very fine script font, printed in 30%c, 20%m, 19%y, 60%k.

CMYK Settings

The text thickness at that size is just 0.024mm which you can see when the image is enlarged by 6400%.

Text Thickness

At 2500 dpi this makes the lines barely a pixel thick and the dot (remember that print is made up of dots) barely sits on that line. If you have 180 lines per inch, a dot needs an area of 0.14111mm; 0.024mm is 17% of the thickness required.

A printer can try and play around with the text a bit and make it a little thicker, but when it’s a small job which isn’t bringing in huge amounts of revenue, they’re not going to spend huge amounts of time fixing errors for which they are not responsible.

This is something that should be taught when learning design, and it’s a shame that basic skills like this are being lost. The problem normally comes from a designer failing to view their artwork at 100% in Acrobat.

If you are preparing artwork remember to view it at its actual size!

So remember, understand the files you area sending across, speak to your digital printers if you have any worries about how to send them over and keep in mind that helping them out is helping yourself! A beautiful piece of graphic design can easily be totally unprintable, and ultimately it is the customer’s responsibility to make sure their artwork is what they want to be printed.

Andy Edmonson is MD of expert digital printing company Purely Digital. As well as offering HP Indigo Digital print and large format printing, Purely Digital also specialise in a number of unique services and finishing techniques. To hear more printing tips check out their blog: http://www.purelydigital.co.uk/blog/

15 thoughts on “3 Expert Printing Tips to Ensure your Job Comes Out Right”

  1. Great article, Andy. It’s nice to see someone taking the time to really explain these problems with detailed screenshots. I see the excessive amounts of vector paths cropping up frequently from art that comes across my desk and it really slows things down and causes headaches, especially when you are under tight deadlines.

  2. Who ever prints in white? I mean – let’s say about 95% printing houses don’t have even the machinery for printing white – mostly white is simply the papers color.

  3. Some really solid advice here. Thanks so much! I can really relate to your final bit of advice “if you are preparing artwork remember to view it at its actual size!” So many times has a client been heartbroken because they ignore a designer’s advice, only to see their final work in the correct size. I know it’s something I’m very careful of from now on.

  4. Hello Andy, Great pointers. I have come across files that client have had done, where the design has solid black on the background. But the designer makes the Black, “Registration Black”. Now I do check all PDF files from that client on “Overprint” in Adobe Acrobat.

    Another problem, is the CMYK on a 4/4 piece. We printed a postcard for a client, where the CMYK colors where slightly different. The “Blue” major color was effected the most. The percentages where 5% and 15% and 3% more than the opposite side. Which changed the color. Just my 2 cent.

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  6. What I do is convert complex drawings into EPS files and then import them in InDesign. This helps keep the InDesign document ‘lighter’ in terms of functionality.
    Whenever a change is required, double-click and then it is easily done in Illustrator.
    The EPS, maybe, is the ‘thing of the past’ but is very effective.
    Thank you.

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