Aiming for ‘no errors’

by Dean Cook, April 19, 2016
Category: Blog,   Tags: artwork print problems, artwork problems, error-free artwork, indesign preflight panel, pre-flight, pre-flight adverts, pre-flight artwork, pre-flight panel, pre-flighting magazines, pre-press, preflight, preflight adverts, preflight artwork, preflight magazines, preflight panel, preflighting, prepress,

One of the problems encountered by magazine publishers isn’t one they can see but it could have a detrimental effect on the printed page. Dean Cook points out the little red light in InDesign’s preflight panel.

Unseen artwork issues are generally caused by ‘designers’ (using the term loosely). Their knowledge is limited on the technical side of assets/file formats used within the layout of the magazine. This can cause extensive problems, unwanted delays and unplanned costs further in the process especially during the final and most critical point of processing files at prepress. Adhering to correct standards for every single image, element and advert from the outset will avert unwelcoming issues later.

Do you think you’re a print designer?

We periodically monitor the craft of others from feedback given by the many pre-press departments we work with. They measure the difference between those who can supply error-free files against those submitting flawed or problematic PDF files simply thinking it is good enough for printing because it looks good on screen. Even after ten years the ratio hasn’t changed with just 20% capable of delivering files correctly for print…that’s a very concerning 80% who can’t. To put it another way; that is four in five people who lack the technical ability to produce pages for commercial printing.

What are independent publishers employing for their magazine design?

Whilst at a conference a few years ago, we chatted to a dozen or so independent community magazine publishers; some use a professional designer whilst others try and design the magazine themselves using InDesign – or worse still using entry-level programs such as Microsoft Publisher or even Serif’s Page Plus. Costing around £100 and £65 respectively, these programs were originally developed for the home-based user creating simple newsletters and printing them on their desktop printers.

It has been known for printers to avoid working with files generated from these programs because of the high-level of problems they are faced with in an attempt to print what the customer intended/expects. A common complaint from printers is the incorrect use of registration black instead of just ‘black’ being applied to text. Registration black is 100% tint of all four CMYK colours which is only applied to registration and trim marks. This is a big problem for the print minder trying to align all four colours on thin small type which increases the chances of blurred text when the magazine is printed – you won’t see this problem on any screen before-hand. Another re-occurring issue is that the final magazine document simply lacks bleed with artwork running up to just the trim edge.

252-ErrorsThose publishers attempting to use InDesign possessed very basic knowledge but worryingly were unaware of any technical errors they were placing in their magazine design. InDesign is a pro-tool only comes into its own with an experienced hand driving it.

Naturally wanting to do their best within limited resources meant they were responsible for final output. What shocked us was a blasé attitude towards preparing files for print even though InDesign’s little preflight red light had indicated to one publisher that they had over 600 ‘errors’ to resolve. Yes, I did say 600. Just one issue could cost the publisher lost revenue because the final printed document may not necessarily resemble what was seen on screen.

Preflight PanelAmazingly, disclosing a failure to understand how to resolve these issues they continued to upload their magazine to print regardless. Not surprisingly, without pre-flighting their work first, the pre-press system would reiterate but instead they ignored and simply approved the job. How could anyone be so unconcerned at the point where so much could go wrong?

When we asked if they encountered problems, the answer was simply ‘no’ but when we mentioned just one of the endless possibilities they immediately took recognition and referred to a recent colour issue they had with one of their advertisers. I say no more.

Get the green light before you send your files for magazine printing

Ideally heavyweight pro-tools of Adobe’s InDesign and Quark XPress should be employed in a commercial environment driven by a competent commercial print designer or production artist. We combine these two skill sets and, alongside our many years experience with independent publishers, this is what we are all about: producing professionally-looking pages to a compliant standard, with ease, on time and in budget allowing you to focus and drive your business knowing you have support when you need it.

No errorsWe would never send any file to print until we see the green light and the statement says ‘No errors’ in the preflight panel. There are very good reasons why InDesign is highlighting errors. It will draw your attention to them, inform of the problem and how to fix. They should not be ignored. To resolve would generally require the experience of a print design professional.

We can’t expect advertisers to know all about the intricacies of print compliance but there should be someone of a competent standard somewhere in the journey to ensure all assets are correct for printing – a rather necessary evil to say the least.

It’s not just the community magazine industry that is tarnished with the above – it is an issue prevalent with other independents including some larger publishing houses too.

Generally it is not a printer’s remit to correct files that are supplied. In short if poor artwork is supplied then expect poor quality output when the image has been printed. You can’t make good from bad.

It is clear to see that education is certainly essential however, why would anyone question their own ability when they can’t recognise what they are doing is wrong — even when they have acknowledged there are technical errors in their magazine and then simply proceed to ignore them.

As Red Adair said, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until your hire an amateur.”

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