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Graphic Arts Printing for Success

Tips for turning your project into a triumph
In any professional endeavor, building a strong relationship helps build success. This is no different in the graphic arts industry when working with your printer. You both have a job to do, goals, timelines and processes. But how do you both meet in the middle? Let's look at 4 surefire tips to help get you there.

The Devil is in the Details

You "talk" to your printer. Your printer "talks" to you. That's it right? Wrong. What you ask and agree on is essential at this stage. Your printer is not a mind-reader, so come prepared to go over the details in full now, not when your print project is almost finished coming off the press, and you realize the paper is wrong or it will miss your clients' timeline.
Here are some things to nail down:
  • Timeline: when do you or client need it?
  • Budget
  • Explain how it will be used (your printer may have helpful suggestions to improve it)
  • Quantity
  • Format / folding / coating (gloss, matte, varnish, etc.)
  • Paper selection (get samples!)
  • Proofing options (PDF, press proof, etc.)

Do your Homework

As you get closer to handing over your files and getting your job started in earnest, be sure to do some homework throughout the process. While you will (or should) have done most of the research before you get an order going, it is important to stay on track with the printer and your project. This may look like reviewing your quotes from the printer with them if there are any confusing charges or requirements. Ask if there are any costs to upload new files, proofing and corrections. Additionally, be sure to establish:
  • How do you prefer to receive shipements: FedEx, UPS, USPS, other
  • File formats: which graphic arts applications does the printer accept, and are there any requirements to sending them? (Windows and Macs, "native" file formats, what bleed is required, etc.)
  • Images: most printers want 300 dpi images at the final size to ensure your printed piece looks sharp and crisp. If you are unsure, send them what you have for a review.
  • RGB and CMYK: Which colorspace you submit your files in will have a large impact on the final color and "look" of the piece. Spend as much time as needed discussing this point with your printer.

The Proof is in the....

When ordering from a printer, especially an online commercial printing company, the proofing process is one of the most important steps. While a PDF proof (also known as an electronic or "soft" proof) usually suffices, if the project or client is very color critical, you may need to request a hard proof or press proof from the printer. Keep in mind you may pay extra for this, but the peace of mind knowing the color will be correct is well worth it. Here is a good checklist to review when proofing your print order:
  • Does the content match your original? (Look for paragraph breaks, sentences ending oddly, etc.)
  • Color (Most applicable with a hard or press proof)
  • Placement of images, graphics or graphical elements, such as borders
  • Bleeds and trim edge elements (is an image getting cut off slightly or is the text too close to the edge?)
  • Front and back alignment/orientation
  • Review the quote and order specifications (quantity, paper and format)
It is also a good idea to have someone else review your proof for errors. Many times a fresh set of eyes catches something you may have looked at a dozen times. And remember to ask your printer about anything that doesn't make sense-clarify everything!

3, 2, 1....Print It!

The time has come—printing it. You have eagle-eyed the proofs, checked the quote, the quantity. Now it is time to pull the trigger and get this project printed and out the door. While this is a big relief, you should still do one thing when you get your order: check it out to make sure it meets your expectations, and call the printer about it, whether it has something wrong with it, and especially if it turned out great.
Good, trustworthy printing companies will help you when something goes awry and look for a solution, and they love to hear about what went well for your order. Your needs are different than other customers, so if you develop a line of communication early, astute printers will start to know your color preferences, shipping needs or proofing particulars. Communication works before, during and after the printing.

By following these 4 tips, you are well on your way to ensuring that your graphic arts printing project is a success.
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