Prepress Offers a Chance for Savings

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As direct marketers search for ways to gain greater customer response, the graphics on direct mailers are a key toward catching the recipient's eye. This puts a great burden on content creators. Not only do they have to create stunning graphics, they have to be responsible for helping the company achieve bottom-line financial goals.


One of the easiest ways marketers can save is to pay close attention to prepress expenses. The costs of film, direct-to-plate or creating postscript files for print are enormous. And when there is a problem and film has to be re-output or a plate remade, the costs add up.


Most direct mail pieces feature four-color printing. The printing is typically four-color process (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). And the screen and printer fonts must be included on the disc when sending your project to a print vendor.


To ensure that you follow the basic rules of print production, software utility programs should be used to check your designs. A systematic check of your files before they go to a print vendor or are printed at your own facility is the best way to ensure error-free output. This software is critical in the design and production process. After the file is checked, a report is generated, telling you or your vendor whether there are problems and allowing for corrections.


The majority of problems that pop up in the prepress area revolve around fonts and color. Most print and output vendors require both the screen and printer fonts. This ensures that the text will image properly and flow correctly when printed. The types of fonts used and the color of the type are also looked at. If a font is missing or is scaled improperly, the program will tell you. The font issue is critical in ensuring that the marketer's message is seen in the best possible light.


Another area that causes the greatest concern for content creators is color. Color traps are the areas colors overlap or butt up against each other. Often, black is set in the page layout program to overlap, hiding any potential color gaps. Sometimes, these gaps also appear in the frames around images. Look for those potential problems and examine all other aspects of the digital file in relation to the print process. Some designs contain lines and objects drawn in the program for effect. These also must be CMYK color to image properly, whether it is plate or film.


One reason direct mail works is the use of unusual paper. The paper is sometimes colored, but what makes these mailers stand out is texture. The tactile feel of the mailer makes it stand out from so many things in the mailbox. But these create design issues for content creators. Images and color have to be correct to print with maximum impact. Oversaturated colors, especially in photos, result in muddy reproduction, which obscures the true message of the graphic.


The biggest complaint from print vendors is that there are missing pieces, images that are not linked to a file or missing fonts. After ensuring that the file has the greatest integrity, meaning that it will print with potentially no graphics errors, assemble all of the elements used to create the document into one folder.


Not only are all the images collected, but the screen and printer fonts as well. This ensures the printer that all of the digital pieces will link together to recreate the digital file at the print facility. It also ensures that when the piece is going to get printed, time is not wasted searching for missing elements. If a file has to be reimaged, the cost of a standard four-color page is about $60. Time is money and the lifeblood of print vendors. This is as true of the output vendor as it is to the person printing at his own facility. Preflighting and collecting is just a basic.


Preflighting the layout program is critical on a number of levels. It saves time and money that would be squandered going back and correcting a file. Proper preflighting ensures that the project will output correctly and saves paper. Clean files are necessary for those who might be using a print vendor that uses a CTP (computer-to-plate) print system, or those with digital print capabilities.


When conducting e-mail marketing, attaching a PDF file can be a great way to get the message across. Checking the integrity of that file will help ensure that recipients can output the information faithfully on their printers.


If placed on a Web site, PDFs are easily downloaded. The Adobe Acrobat reader is free and is included with many software programs.


There is a definite digital workflow to creating good PDFs. That includes creating a clean file with your preferred layout program, then preflighting that file. Designers create a PDF file, ensuring that its resolution is correct for print or distribution needs. Then, they review the PDF to ensure it was created with the proper settings.


It may seem like a lot of work, but preflighting a document just takes moments. Those few seconds can save graphics professionals hours of misery fixing problems that will show up after film or plates are created. The financial savings in time and materials can be tremendous to direct marketers eager to get the message in the hands of potential new customers.


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