Preparing your document for print has become much easier over the past few years. Some printers now only require a high quality PDF file for printing. Others may still ask for the native file along with the fonts and images used in the document.
This article is going to take a closer look at the 2nd option. We’ll discuss the items to double-check and the files to include when sending your document for print. And, we’ll look at a few cleanup steps we want to do within the native file before declaring it truly “print-ready.” The more we follow these steps prior to printing, the more likely we can keep the relationship with our printer on the up-and-up.
There are three main areas to review prior to sending a document to the printer: images/graphics, fonts, and colors. Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
Any image or graphic used in the document needs to be included (if it’s not embedded) when sending the document to the printer. For example, if I imported an image called mountains.psd into a newsletter document, I want to include the mountains.psd file when sending my newsletter to the printer. If I also imported a file called logo.ai into the header of the newsletter, I will include the logo.ai file as well.
Below is an example of a list of images used within a document:
External images must always be included when sending a job to the printer. Using the example above, I want to include the images that are listed as “linked” in the Status column, which means it’s a separate file. The exception to the “include images rule” would be any embedded files. Embedded files are part of your main document and are not dependent on anything outside of your main file.
It is also good to check the color space used within each graphic. As you notice above, there is a warning about two images using the RGB color space (vs CMYK). Although consumer-oriented printers may accept the RGB color space, most high-end print jobs still require all images and/or graphics to be in CMYK color space. Any image editing program lets one easily change the color space of a file.
Including the font files for all the fonts used in your document is critical. This includes a font file for each font style used. For example, within my newsletter document I may be using Adobe Garamond Pro Regular, Adobe Garamond Pro Italic, and Adobe Garamond Pro Bold Italic. I would include three different font files when sending this document to the printer.
Below is an example of a font list for a document:
The other thing to be aware of when looking at fonts is what I call extraneous fonts. If I notice a font in the list that I wasn’t expecting, I would highlight it then click on Find Font. (Most layout programs provide this option.) Often times a font shows up when it was unknowingly used for a hidden character. (ie. a space after a paragraph) Delete any instance of an extraneous font being used as a hidden character. Or, if an extraneous font is being used as text, change the text to use the desired font.
Colors are the third area to review when preparing a document for printing. This is especially true when using spot colors, but is also useful for double-checking your document to be sure there are no surprise colors being used.
Again, most layout programs provide the option to list the colors being used. Below is a sample:
If it is a 4-color process document, you will see the C, M, Y, K colors listed first, with any additional spot colors following. If extraneous colors are listed, be sure to find where that color is being used within the document and either delete them or change the color to a processed color or a spot color that you do want. Most layout programs let you select the desired objects and change them to the correct color within one or two steps.
Let me close by mentioning a couple of features I use consistently within InDesign when preparing a document for printing.
Preflight and Package Options
The preflight option (under File menu) lists the images, fonts, and colors being used, as well as any potential issues it finds within the document. (The screen shots above are from the Preflight option.)
The Package option (also under the File menu) gathers all the images/graphics and fonts used within a document, along with the original document and any special instructions you provide, and places everything into one folder. It creates two subfolders within this folder: 1)a Links folder that contains the images/graphics used, and 2)a fonts folder that contains all the necessary font files. The Package option is a quick way to gather all the files you need within one folder, then copy this folder to a CD or FTP this folder to your printer.
By following these steps and paying close attention to these three areas: images/graphics, fonts, and colors; you can be assured that your document is print-ready.