People are many times perplexed with offset printing on how to send files to the printer as well as how to judge if they are appropriate to print the quality they seek in the end from the files they are turning in. This is not unimportant, as bad files can wreck your whole day!  Plus they can wreck your wallet, the quality of the printed piece and totally kill your schedule, should you have a tight one, if the files go into the printer incorrectly.

As of this writing I will be offering some new tips and also invite the reader to pose specific questions, which as I collect them, will be the basis for some of the new blogs I write. For now, I will be my own inquisitor and pose the questions and then answer them right afterwards.

1- How can I tell if my resolution is appropriate for printing?

The answer to this is one of approximation if you do not have Photoshop or a similar program which can tell you the resolution for each image as well as if it is CMYK for print or RGB for screen, or even Pantone color for an increase in your costs should it not be converted to a CMYK variant. What I suggest, which is a relative approximation, but government close, would be to view your images or layout at 400% if on a commercial offset ink press or 300% if on a digital toner press. If you see soft images and/or pixilation (bit mapping) of the images or copy, then you know you either need to go back to the drawing board or live with fuzzy printing should that be your only avenue as it is all you have to work with.

2- How do I set up a file for “printer spreads”?

Most commercial printers today, unless you have hundreds of pages, want a single document file for the booklet/magazine/catalog and if a separate cover on different paper, a second file for that and ideally as a printer spread for crossover art and trapping (melding of the dots in the two sections for a seamless blend).  Sometimes for layout purposes, especially on a small digital toner press (iGen, Docucolor, Docutech) in order to print two up vs. one up for the same “click charge”, you will need to supply a “printer spread”, as the imposition of pages is more difficult on these simpler systems if making a booklet that stitches. The way to understand what a “printer’s spread” is and to create a failsafe file, by taking a pad or sheets of loose paper and create a booklet by using the amount of sheets that represent your page count (let’s say you have 32 pages for now) and put them together and fold them in half and throw a staple on the edge to keep them together. Number the first page #1, then the inside of it #2, the one on the right #3 and so on right up to #32 on the back page. You should have been using 8 sheets from the pad, as once folded a piece of paper equals 4 pages. After you have numbered the booklet, remove the staple and you will then have a series of “printer’s spreads”. You will see that the cover will have page 32 on the left and page 1 on the right. The inside of that “spread” will have page 2 on the left and page 31 on the right and so on. That mock up will dictate how you set up your files as they should be exactly the same.

3- How do I plan for a “gate folded” page or a “double gate” folded brochure?

When folding any paper that meets the inside section of a brochure, such as a six page brochure of 3 panels or a “double gate folded” brochure, that first has the two outer panels of four fold in to meet and then fold again, you must create a space, usually one eight of an inch, so that the fold is smooth and does not protrude or balloon and cause creasing and a bad fold. Therefore a 6 page, finished 8.5 x 11” brochure of three panels, will have the right side panel one eight of an inch short at the edge on its width, so it folds in short and does not create a negative effect. Why is this also important, because it allows you to control your art/layout rather than the printer, who will automatically chop off the edge like a bad circumcision? Ouch!


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