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Using FPO's in Your Color Workflow with Printers

Here are some decisions that can simplify the workflow and ensure the accuracy of the books, directories, and catalogs you might need to design, particularly those in which you will need to include ads from multiple sources.

Collect high-res PDF's of all the ads you plan to include at least a week before you plan to submit the final art for the book. Send them to the printer for an overall preflight review (early, when there is time to request new creative if problems arise).

In addition, save the ads individually as TIFF's and place them in the InDesign file (as FPO's only). It will cost a little extra for the printer to not only check but also place the live ads in the file; however, a little money spent at this point can save a lot of money overall. Think of it as insurance.

If a portion of the book is 2-color (the listings pages of a directory, for instance) and a portion is 4-color (perhaps the front matter and vendor advertisements), separate the book into three files: front matter, directory pages, and cover. When the book is ready for the printer, submit the directory as a PDF (since it is a simple, 2-color file), and the cover and front matter as native InDesign files.

This way the printer can replace the FPO ads with live art after checking them for adequate resolution, bleeds, and anything else (i.e., a PDF is a locked-down, inaccessible file, whereas a native InDesign file can be easily altered by your printer). If your ads come from multiple sources, having your printer place all the live art will give you the reassurance that all of the additional art files inserted in your InDesign file will print properly.

That said, a native InDesign file can be inadvertently altered by the printer, so check the printer's proof more carefully than usual. Look for copy that has moved or been omitted.

Determining the Spine Width for a Book

Finally, after you have designed the covers of the book, how do you determine the proper thickness for the spine? And, should you piece together the front cover art, spine art, and back cover art, or should you ask your printer to do this?

You can tell your printer how many pages your book will be and what paper stock you will be using, and he will tell you what the spine thickness will be. He will base his answer on the ppi (pages per inch) of the paper stock. If your book will be printed on 60# Finch Bright White Ultra Smooth text stock, for instance (which is 500 ppi), a 120-page book would be 120/500 or .24-inch. (Personally, I think it's wise to have your printer confirm your math.)

Asking Your Printer to Stitch Together the Cover and Spine or Doing It Yourself

If your printer will already be replacing FPO ads on covers #2, #3, and #4, you might want to ask him to also place the cover #1 art and spine art (based on your FPO's). This may be a prudent decision since your printer will be more knowledgeable and therefore better able to catch errors. That said, you still need to be very precise in placing the FPO's for all elements. Don't expect your printer to be a designer.

If you do this yourself, you will need to create a separate two-page InDesign cover file. The front page will be (reading from left to right) the width of the back cover, plus the width of the spine (as determined via ppi information), plus the width of the front cover, with all art for these elements placed correctly. This will comprise one side of the cover press sheet (the outer covers and spine).

For the inside covers and spine you will need to place the inside front cover art, then leave a blank space for the inside of the spine, then place the inside back cover art (reading from left to right).

Remember to leave 1/8" bleeds where appropriate and use art files of sufficient resolution for all elements of covers #1, #2, #3, #4, and the spine. To be safe, print out a "tiled" copy of the front and back of the sheet, make sure the bleeds are visible, tape all tiled pages together, and rule out in pencil or pen exactly where the folds and bleeds will be. Basically, make a mock up of all covers stitched together as they will actually be on the printed press sheet. Then look for—and fix—any positioning or bleed errors.

Many designers are knowledgeable enough to do all of this themselves. However, if you have have questions or are concerned that you might not catch an error, I think a few hundred dollars spent at this point (when the entire job might cost more than $10,000.00) is a wise move.


[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.]

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