It’s done…right? Part One.

A two-part blog about what happens after the client signs off on a project.

Most people outside of the design world think that once a client has approved a print design, it’s done. (Yay! Let’s mark that off of the to-do list!) Oh no, my friend, there is much more to be done behind the scenes. There are two major steps that must be completed to ensure that a quality design comes back as a quality product. The first is prepress production.

At Anabliss, we have an extremely thorough prepress process checklist. I’ll walk you through a few things that you may not have even considered.


It might sound silly, but we always double check that the size of the artwork is correct and that nothing was lost in translation. Does the dimension of the file match what we quoted with the printer? If it’s a card, does it fit in the appropriate envelope? If it’s an insert sheet, does it fit within the intended folder? Hopefully at this point it’s correct, but hey, we are human and every once in a rare while we’ll catch something. It’s better to catch it now rather than after it’s already printed, and the brochure doesn’t fit in the intended brochure holder, right?

We always start with asking, “How is this piece being printed?”, which really means: “Is it on coated or uncoated paper?” “Is it being printed on an offset press or digitally?” “Is it printing 4-color process (CMYK = cyan, magenta, yellow and black) or spot colors or both?” Each of these answers effects how we set up the colors in a document.

    Coated vs. Uncoated Paper
    The type of paper plays a large role in the color builds that we select because these sheets absorb the ink differently which affects how they look when printed. For example, a cymk build of a yellow-gold color printed offset will print very bright on a coated sheet and significantly darker on an uncoated sheet. We have these trusty Pantone Color Guides that we use to select our colors. Each book shows various color builds on coated or uncoated paper, so we can make an educated decision. We then take those Pantone guides to the press check to make sure the pressman is hitting the colors we intended (more on that in part 2 of this series).

    Offset vs. Digital
    Offset printing lays down layers of ink, most digital printers use toner. Ink reacts with paper differently than toner does. Ink is absorbed; toner is not. When it comes to setting up files for digital printing, the biggest thing I’ve learned—through a lot of trial and error—is that you should always use coated color builds for digital regardless of the type of paper because the toner is not absorbed. And even then, there is much less control of color on a digital printer then on an offset press.

    CMYK vs. Spot colors

    This question is not relevant if you are printing the job digitally. But if the job is printing offset, I always ask myself if there should be any spot colors. (Spot colors refer to a specific ink color from the Pantone Matching System (PMS spot color) that is not part of CMYK.) For example, if a design has a lot of light gray elements and hairlines, it’s best to select a light gray spot color rather than using a small percentage of black and risking a noticeable halftone pattern (dots) or roping (a jagged line) on the final printed piece. I also consider if the client has an essential brand color that can’t be compromised. Selecting a PMS spot color is the only way to guarantee that color on press.

There is a lot to consider with images. First we look at quality, color, contrast, and saturation. At Anabliss, we particularly take extra time with skin tones. Most times, a publication will have several photos of people taken with different cameras in different lighting. Our goal in the end is to have them look like they weren’t. We look at all of the image of people as a group, ensuring that all of their skin tones are in the same range; no one is too red, too yellow, too light or too dark.

Once we have that all dialed in, we’ll make sure that the image is saved in the correct color mode for printing (CMYK) and that it’s at the correct resolution (300 dpi at 100%).

The client may have signed off on all of the copy, but we check it one more time. We complete a spell check…twice (always as the last step to make sure we didn’t accidently enter a random “z” when we were really trying to use our shortcut key commands to zoom out). We check for word breaks to make sure there aren’t too many hyphenated words in a paragraph or on one page. We make sure there are no orphans or widows and that the rag looks good. We also ask ourselves—again—is everything in this piece legible (any text too small or not have enough contrast with the background)?

After all of that, we always make sure that another designer with “fresh eyes” (as we like to call it) looks at the piece again to make sure we didn’t miss something.

Phew! (wiping my brow) So, that is what we consider prepress. Now you can see why we require a few days from project approval before we can get it to the printer. A lot has to happen before it’s ready. Next week we will give you the 411 on press checks and why they are necessary. So stay tuned.

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