7 Most Overlooked Mistakes Before Sending Your Files to Print

The perfect printed piece doesn’t start with the printer, it starts with you… the designer. There is nothing like the feeling you get after receiving your printed pieces back from a printer, and seeing the perfectly finished piece. The colors are exactly what you wanted them to be, the registration is in perfect alignment and the fold could not have lined up better if you had done it yourself. Then you remember… oh, that’s because I set it up. However, many times files are sent to the printer with links missing, incorrect use of colors or even with no bleed. In order for your printed piece to turn out the way you intended, we’ve prepared a checklist of sorts to help ensure your end result is exactly as you intended all along.

  1. Color Mode. If your job will be printing full color or four color process, be sure your file is setup in CMYK mode. Some photos you come across or colors you create are in RGB mode, which is generally used for web-based projects. RGB mode is not a good representation of color for print. *Be sure all links and swatches within your document are setup in CMYK to ensure your printed piece looks the way you intended.
  2. Spot Colors. Specify any spot colors, chosen from a matching system, in your document. Files need to be set up with appropriate colors to reproduce correctly.
  3. Rich Black. Large areas of solid black coverage should be set to “rich black” as opposed to regular black. Rich black is where solid black is printed over cyan, we generally include 30% cyan to create our rich black swatch. Monitors tend to show black on the screen all the same, but when printed, a rich black is a more intense black. *Be sure that all black type is 100% black, especially small type. When type is created in a rich black or built black, there is potential for registration issues, which make small type near impossible to read.
  4. Fonts. Be sure that all fonts are included or embedded in your packaged document. It is important to include the fonts you used when creating your piece – the printer may have the font you used, but not all fonts are exactly the same. For instance, you have your version of Helvetica Neue, and your printer has the same font. You forget to send your version and the printer subs in the version they have – their version is slightly different. When you see proofs, your type is a half an inch more to the left than your initial design, and the kerning is all messed up. Including your fonts with your files will ensure that your piece comes out the way you intended, every time!
  5. Bleeds. If your artwork extends beyond the document size with the intention of the piece printing all the way to the edge after trimming, your document needs to include bleed. Any element of your document that you would like to reach the edge of the sheet once trimmed, should extend at least 1/8th of an inch beyond the trim. The most common error with art files and templates is incorrect bleed, so be sure to double check this issue before sending your file to print. Also, be sure that any images or text that you do not wish to extend beyond the edge of your document are 1/8th inch away from your trim line, to be safe. Be sure to talk with your print shop about the parameters they require as they can vary a little.
  6. Image Resolution. Images for print need to be 300dpi to produce a good, quality print. Lower resolution images may look fine on your screen, but when it comes to printing, the quality will be less than desirable. *Be sure that all images are properly linked to your document to avoid slow downs in your printing timeline.
  7. Recheck, Recheck, Recheck! I cannot stress this to you enough! Though you’ve been designing this piece for what seems like forever, and know it like the back of your hand – doesn’t mean you haven’t made a simple typo or grammatical error, that you the designer are totally oblivious to. Have at least 2 people other than yourself proof read the document. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been working on something and think that it is PERFECT when I’m finished, then someone else reads it and points out a few typos, of words that I KNOW how to spell… I just got ahead of myself, and because I knew what I wanted it to say, I read it that way, despite the “s” instead of an “a”.

Now, you’re ready to send your files! Checking these things will ensure that your printing experience goes as smoothly as possible and your piece turns out the way you intended.