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
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
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.]