Proofing Your Document
Yikes, My printed piece doesn’t look like what I give my printer!
Finally…After agonizing over decisions and countless trials and errors on your computer, you’ve finally come up with the perfect design for your company brochure. You’ve got your beautiful 4-color logo, several sassy yet elegant fonts, the text wraps in just the right way…click, save, put it on a disk, and rush to the printshop before it closes.
A few days later you get a call…your print job is ready to be picked up. Hurray! Time to spare before your deadline. Stop off for a celebratory cappucino on the way. Cruise down the road with the top down, favorite music on the stereo, no
traffic, no construction…life is good.
Until you get to the printshop and look at your brochures. Colors are wrong in your corporate logo…ugly fonts you’ve never seen before…where is the last line of text?! Hyperventilate, cappucino starts to rise…face gets pale, then beet red…bad words form in back of your throat…hands reach to throttle printshop employee…
Stop! It’s just a bad dream.
At least from now on because here you will learn how to make sure your piece doesn’t get “lost in the translation” between your computer and your printshop.
·Decide on the size and format of your piece — Is it a tri-fold self-mailer? An oversized flyer? A corporate
identity package with business cards, letterhead, envelopes, notecards, postcards and a brochure?
· Budget – How much money can you spend on this project? What sort of return on your investment can you expect? Is it an advertising or marketing piece? How many responses can you reasonably expect to receive? Is postage a consideration?
Is it a weird size or shape that might cost more, both in printing and in postage?
· Do-it-yourself vs. in-house printshop designer vs. freelance designer –
Sometimes difficult to know which is best. Most of us live near a big box hardware store that caters to the “do-it-yourselfer” so culturally it’s a very common idea for us. After all, where would America be if we weren’t a nation of do-it-yourselfers? We’d certainly still be east of the Mississippi and probably think the world was flat. So we come by it honestly, at least.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each designer option
There are attractive aspects to each choice. And, yes, we at Sundance Printing weigh in heavily on the side of working with our in-house designer. But not because it makes us more money. More than anything, it’s because it reduces headaches –
yours and ours – and almost always gives you better value. At Sundance we have printed fabulous pieces designed by the do-it-yourselfer. We’ve also had complete nightmare jobs given to us by very expensive freelance designers. We had to
charge the customer to fix the designer’s mistakes, which increased the already higher price of the job.
You just have to decide which is best for you. Using a freelance designer is like investing in the stock market. Some people thrive on the risky investments and some prefer the less risky. Some freelancers are riskier to use than others.
You will probably spend more for your print job if you use the in-house designer rather than doing it yourself, but you will also get a better-looking, more professional piece. And maybe most importantly, you will be able to concentrate on your business – whatever makes you money.
Frankly, the world is a more complicated place — can you even change the oil in your car anymore? Do you want to spend your time searching for the best deal on a sink or is it time to trust your plumber? Is it really worth your time and effort to design your brochure or is it time to build a relationship with a printshop?
Talking to Your Printshop
· Talk to your printshop about your project – Get an estimate for the entire job and make sure they break it down. Design work and typesetting can only be an estimate because it’s an hourly rate. But a printshop creates many documents similar to yours so they can give fairly accurate estimates. How much for printing? One-color? Two-color? Four-color? Special colors? Cutting? Folding? Collating? What if it’s oversized? What if you have a color block you want to “bleed”
off the edge of the page? What about paper choices? What programs do you work in? What programs does the printshop work in? How do they want you to submit your job? On a zip disk? Digitally? Can they use your floppy disk?
Do you use a Mac or a PC? Most printshops work on Macintosh computers. Some programs can be converted from one to the other easily and others can’t convert even if you say pretty please and turn around three times and throw salt over your shoulder. Check first to see if you’ll have a compatibility problem.
If everyone knows ahead of time about the project, certain pitfalls can be avoided. For instance, if you decide to have a bleed, but don’t tell the printshop, then your project will cost more. A bleed requires them to print on oversized paper and then cut it down, which obviously has higher paper and labor costs. What if your printshop can’t access your floppy disk or if they can’t accept digital files?
Communication is the Key to Cost-Effective Printing
·What is your time frame? – Can you get it done by then? Can your designer? How long will it take the printshop from the time you give the go-ahead on your proof? You need to work backward from your due date. Always build in time for problems. Hard drive crash? Printer out of toner? World’s worst hangnail/tennis elbow/flu?
·Choose the right software – After talking to your printshop, do you have software that allows you to create a gorgeous piece? Most printshops use professional (ie, expensive) page layout and illustration programs like InDesign, QuarkXpress, Photoshop, Illustrator or Freehand. Most shops have all of them…and more. Do you know how to make the software do what you want?
·Choose your paper – White or colored? Glossy or matte? Does opacity matter?
·Design your piece – What size will it be when it’s done? Margins? Columns? How big are the “gutters” between the folds? Will it need folding? Cutting? Perfing? Collating?
·What about color? – one-color? Multi-color? CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black — used in full-color printing) or PMS spot color? (“Pantone Matching System” –mixed ink similar to the system used in house paints). Specify your colors properly in your computer program. If you’re doing a relatively simple job with just a bit of color here and there, you must choose “spot color.” If you have full-color photos in your document, you must choose CMYK colors. Your document will not be able to be printed properly if you switch these two processes.
·Save your document – Be sure to save and keep a copy of your document for yourself because you never know when or how problems will manifest themselves.
But you also need to know the best way to transport your document to your printshop and save it the correct way so they can work with it.
It used to be, you would simply transfer a copy of your document to a floppy disk and give that to the printshop. However, many new computers don’t have built-in disk drives anymore so it’s entirely possible that your printshop can’t do anything
with your floppy disk except use it for a frisbee when things get slow. Most printshops use Zip disk drives which are removable disk drives similar to floppy drives but capable of holding much more information. If you can burn a CD or
rewritable CD, this will also work well. More and more printshops suggest submitting your files electronically.
As with most industries, the printing industry has printshops all along the technology spectrum. Some printshops (and their customers) are perfectly content using as little technology as they are able. Some printshops rush out and get brand new, state-of-the-art equipment as soon as it’s available. Most fall in the middle somewhere. Again, communicate with your printshop to check compatibility. If you are phobic about computers and resent people who use the term “snail mail,” then you are not going to be happy with a printshop who wants you to submit all of your documents digitally over their website. By the same token, if you are online 23 out of every 24 hours — downloading even while you sleep — you are not going to be happy with a printshop who still sets type by hand. (Actually, I don’t know if anyone still does that, but wouldn’t a meeting like that be funny?)
In addition, you must know how to properly save your fonts and graphics so they are included in your document.
Macintosh and PC computers use different fonts and they are not compatible. You must never combine them in one document because the printer software will confuse them. Always include a complete set of all the fonts you’ve used in your document or you run the risk of having something change to that awful Courier default font.
If you use scans in your document, you need to create and save them at the correct resolution so the printshop is able to make them look exactly like you did in your document. Talk to your printshop before you start scanning to determine the best resolution. Images that are downloaded from the internet usually don’t have a high enough resolution to be used in your printing.
If you use any kind of graphics in your document they need to be saved in the correct file format. There are many different kinds of file formats, each a bit different — Jpeg, gif, tif, eps and pdf. Pdf (portable document format) is a great new technological device that creates cross-platform compatible files. If you do a lot of your own designing, learn how to create pdf files because then printshops can essentially use it like a snapshot, with no chance of altering the image.
Combine all of your fonts and imported graphics (links) and add them to your document on your disk or however you will be transporting them to the printshop.
· Make a Hard Copy – Many problems can be avoided with this one simple step. If the printshop had a paper copy of your document, they could compare it to the one that comes out of their computer before you come in to proof it…and certainly well before the printing process begins. That’s where the printshop would see that your fonts changed, or the picture looks “jaggy” or you lost a line of type somewhere.
· Proof Your Document Carefully – Find out how long the designer needs to create your piece. Be sure it’s within your timeframe, but don’t rush your designer. Creativity can take time. Make sure the printshop has accurate phone numbers to reach you so they can call as soon as they have something for you to look at. Then come to the printshop to proof the document. Come as soon as you are able. Understand that not one lick of work will be done on your project until you proof it. If it’s perfect, you will be asked to sign off on it, meaning that you carefully inspected each and every letter, word, paragraph, graphic — everything — and it’s ready to be printed.
If there are minor changes to be made, the designer can sometimes do them while you wait and then have you sign off on it.
If there are major changes, you and the designer will discuss them and make notes. The designer will then shoo you out the door and put your document back in line to be worked on. Then the process starts over. You’ll be called to come in again, your job sits until you do, you proof it and go from there.
If the major changes are due to you changing your mind about the design you asked for — I think I’ll go with a tri-fold brochure instead of a sales letter . . . let’s see what full-color looks like — you will be charged the hourly rate in addition to what you were charged for the original design. Your costs will definitely go up. If, however, changes are due to tweaking the design, there shouldn’t be substantial changes in the original estimate
Again, communication and planning avoids these problems.
Proofing your Document
Proofing your document is the very last chance you get to fix any mistakes or problems. Do not take this step lightly. You can’t even imagine how many times people signed off on their proofs, only to find their phone number wrong on the final piece. In a situation like that, printshops are absolutely not obligated to re-do your job for free or even to give you a discount. That’s why a printshop has you proof your job in the first place! Most reputable printshops will try to come to
some mutually satisfactory solution, however, especially if you’ve been a loyal customer. But, if you’ve been unreasonable or difficult to work with, you might find yourself out of luck with only yourself to blame. If that happens, do some
soul-searching and try to salvage your “printing karma” with doughnuts and an apology for the staff. (Good things happen when you say it with doughnuts!) If you can’t bring yourself to do that, start over with a new printshop and learn from
your mistakes. Good karma will follow.
So that’s our advice to make sure your piece doesn’t get “lost in the translation” between you and your printshop.
If this sounds too complicated or too time-consuming – or both – to do it yourself, then set up a visit with the designer at your printshop. Explain your project, your budget and your timeframe. Type up the text of your brochure or flyer or whatever, then sit back and let them do all the heavy work. After all, their expertise is design. They have hardware and software up the wazoo and, more importantly, they know how to use it. All their equipment is compatible and
networked together. A talented printshop designer/typesetter can make your piece gorgeous while you concentrate on your business…whatever makes you money.
So you do have choices. Spend the time to learn exactly what your printshop needs to produce your beautiful do-it-yourself project, or spend a couple of bucks to have your printshop create your beautiful project. Either way, you’ll keep your
stress level as well as your cappucino down!