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The following paragraphs suggest a few ways to improve the final package of computer files and hard-copy proofs you hand off to your printer. With these few additions, your printer will be better able to efficiently and accurately produce your jobs.

Following these prepress suggestions I have also included a printing tip to give added dimension to your final publication.

Color Separated Laser Proofs

In addition to the actual-size composite proof that you provide to your printer with your application files or pdfs, a color separated laser proof will make your printer's job much easier. Printed at 80 percent of the final size, this proof includes one page for each color for each page of your publication. For example, if page 1 of a sixteen-page booklet is made up of black and one spot color, you will have two page 1’s, each with only one of the two colors printing.

In addition to showing you exactly what the final film—or plates—will look like (before you pay for them), these proof pages will identify overprints and "knock outs" (and show whether these will occur correctly). They will also show traps and percentages of the colors in use (you’ll have to judge their correctness by eye, of course, since no numerical percentages will be noted).

Why print them at 80 percent? This will allow room for crop marks and plate labels (color notation) in the margins.

You will probably be surprised when you print out color separations that at least one or more items you thought were properly noted to print in a certain color are actually printing on another plate (another color separation page). The money you can potentially save by catching and correcting these errors before producing film is significant.

And along with the composite proofs you now submit with your files, your printer will have a second tool to which to reconcile the film or plates, confirming that all elements will print on the proper page in the proper color.

Collect for Output Report

Quark XPress has a useful feature that collects all elements of a file for a complete hand-off to your printer. It is called Collect for Output. When you run this function of Quark, Quark compiles a “read me” file called the Collect for Output report. Hand this off to your printer along with your application files or pdfs, composite proof, and color-broken proof. (PageMaker has a similar feature called the "Save for Service" plug-in, and In Design's version is called "Package.")

These collection program reports list all sorts of information that will help your printer, including the software version of the application in which you created your file; the extensions required; the styles used in your style sheets; knock-out, trapping, and overprint information; the fonts you used in the file; the fonts you used in any graphics you placed in the file; the color plates for each page; and information on the size, position, scaling, dpi, and type of imported graphics.

Clear Off Your Quark Pasteboard

When producing clean files in any application, delete any items on the pasteboard. You don’t need them, or you would have put them on the page itself. Anything in this non-printing area just beyond the dimensions of the page will still be processed by your printer’s computer before being thrown away. This will needlessly slow down the RIPping process. So either save the extra matter to another file or delete it.

Rich Black Ink

Most of the time a solid area printed in process black ink alone will look dull when it dries. One way around this problem is to ask your printer to use a “rich black,” which is a mixture of process black plus something else. Most printers have their own (somewhat different) ways to create such a rich black, but one formula to consider is 100k30c. This is printers’ shorthand for 100 percent black (K stands for “key,” which is black) plus 30 percent cyan. Discuss your options with your printer. He may even have other, more creative ways to add dimension to a solid area of black.


[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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