Here you'll find answers to common questions our clients ask. Start by selecting one of the links below. If you don’t see what you need – call or contact us online.
The most common brochure is the tri-fold which has three panels on each side, and folds letter style. The inside panel that gets folded in first should be a 1/16" to 1/8" smaller than the other two. This allows the smaller panel to fold in and lie flat. If it were not shorter the brochure would buckle. A roll fold brochure has 4 or more panels on each side with each panel folding into the next. The cover panel and the panel right next to the cover can usually be left the same size. These will be the biggest panels. Each panel after that should get incrementally smaller by 1/16".
A lot of graphics programs make it easy to change the look of a font by using the style attributes such as italic and bold. These styles may revert to plain when the file is sent through a high-end RIP (raster image processor) used by printers and service providers. This happens if the stylized font does not have a printer font in that family to support the style. Check inside the font suitcase for the style types available. When making a word bold, select the bold font instead of clicking on the bold attribute. The other style problems are shadows and outlines. Text with these attributes will not trap, ultimately causing problems on press. The best way to apply shadows is by layering the same text box with a slight offset to produce a shadow or by creating the shadows in a drawing program. Outlined type should also be created in a drawing program or select a font that is already outlined.
Spot colors are often inconsistently named from one program to another. A color such as Pantone 300 is spelled differently in Illustrator, Quark and Photoshop so you end up with three different names for one color. When separations are printed, each of these names produces a different plate. To avoid this, edit the color names in each application so the spellings are the same in supporting graphics and in the page layout program. Always print separations of your project so you can double check the color break and number of plates. Preflight software such as FlightCheck will flag these problems for you.
The internet and color mode scanners use RGB (red, blue and green.) images. It is necessary to convert scans to CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) before the files are separated. CMYK is the color gamut used in commercial printing. RGB is a broader color spectrum so the colors you see in the original scan will look different once converted. Usually scans get darker when converted from RGB to CMYK. Conversion should be done by the designer so this color shift can be witnessed and adjustments can be made. Leaving images in RGB mode when sent to the printer means the file will take longer to prep and you may not be satisfied with the outcome.
Bleed is when objects that touch the edge of the page are extended 1/8" beyond the edge. For example, if a page has a background color of black, the black area should hang over the trim marks instead of stopping at the edge. Without bleed, slight shifts in the cutting equipment result in paper showing at the edges where ink is supposed to be. Adding bleed is usually not difficult. The problem occurs when the object that needs to bleed off the edge of the page is a graphic such as a Photoshop file. If the file doesn't contain enough image to extend another 1/8", it is difficult to create it. Images that require bleed need to be designed with this in mind. Adding 1/8" to a complicated Photoshop file can be difficult and expensive once it reaches the printer's prepress department.
Making a folding dummy serves two purposes. One- it allows you to check your design and panel sizes in a folded down piece. This is an opportunity to focus on mailing specs and placement of design elements. Two- it is a safeguard. There will be no confusion for the printer as to the type of fold you want. Even though the fold may be obvious to you based on the design, it might not be apparent to the printer. Printers see a variety of folding pieces from many different designers. Do not leave any information undocumented when communicating with the printer.
Building Photoshop files with text and other placed images is getting easier due to upgrade improvements. But, you lose the ability to easily trap your files when they are built entirely in Photoshop or some other pixel-based program. Signature's Prinergy automated trap system will trap almost anything including two separate Photoshop files that are touching. But, like other trap systems, it cannot trap a file that is one continuous tone. Trapping in Photoshop must be done manually while the file is being created. Adding trap after is difficult. For example, if you place blue type on top of a yellow background in Photoshop, you need to slightly extend the yellow into the blue type. This is what would happen if the trap software could go in and trap that area. Without this overlap, the slight shifting that naturally occurs on press between colors will cause a white halo to appear around one side of the type. This is the paper showing through. Trap must be applied to all objects that don't have any colors in common. Dark blue type on a light blue background would be OK because these objects would have cyan in common. When in doubt, apply trap. Trapping is a complicated process which is why printers invest in sophisticated equipment to take care of it. If you are unsure of how to manually trap a Photoshop file, talk to one of our customer service representatives. We will get back to you with an answer in a very timely manner. Also, build as much of your design as possible in a page layout program or drawing program. These files can be trapped with the automated trapping equipment.
Prepress output devices print at very high resolutions. Signature's CTP platesetter can go as high as 4,000 dpi; the standard is 2400 dpi for 200 line screen. The general rule is the pixels per inch in a scan should be 1.5 to 2 times the line screen. It is better to error on the high side, so 400 ppi would be appropriate for 200 line screen. Low resolution scans will print grainy or pixelated when output to high-end devices. Resizing scans up will also reduce the resolution. A scan placed at 200% has half the resolution of the original. Monitors and laser printers are generally not a good way to judge image quality. Monitors are only 72 or 96 dpi and most laser printers range from 300 to 600 dpi., well below the 2400 dpi in an imagesetter. Pay attention to the image size information and if possible, use a preflight program to warn of low resolution files. Note: Scanning at resolutions higher then 2 times the linescreen doesn't improve the quality of your scan, it just makes the file size bigger and adds unnecessary processing time when the file is RIPing. Do this only if you are unsure of the size needed or if you will be reusing the scan in other projects.
If you're doing any projects that will need mailing, we've included a link to the US Post Office Web site. This is a useful tool if you are unsure about mail regulations. Some common errors include indicia and bar codes in the wrong spot, post cards that are too small or mailers that have the folds on the wrong end. http://www.usps.com/directmail/
Know what the rules are before designing your mailer and don't hesitate to talk directly to the Post Office. They are very willing to help you plan your project and may find ways for you to save money.
Low-end color proofers do not show accurate color. The best way to judge color is to calibrate your equipment, use Pantone swatches and 4 color swatches and expect the high-end color proof from the printer to look different from your color lasers. Ask your printer to produce random color proofs of your scans if you want to see accurate color before the scans are assembled. When showing color lasers to customers, designers should explain the variance in colors between the different equipment. This will prevent surprises when the contract proof or printed piece is delivered.