Saving Your Print Project – Seven PrePress Pitfalls, One Simple Fix

7 common mistakes in file submission for print

THE HAND-OFF:  the moment of truth in a smooth, successful marketing project comes when you transfer your digital files to your print service provider. Below are seven of the most common roadblocks that are sure to frustrate you and defeat your deadline.

FAIL #1: Giving the printer EVERYTHING. A good rule of thumb is to not give your printer any file that you do not want printed! It is tempting to try to save time in back and forth file transmissions and endless emails to just hand over every related file for a project. Often customers will drop off a disk or jump drive with all their marketing materials on it. At the design stage, this can be a good resource to have, but if your design is finalized for a specific project, you just astronomically increased your chances of getting the wrong thing printed!

FAIL #2: Missing fonts, missing links. Not gathering all the necessary digital files to print your job is really the heart of all file submission problems: missing fonts, image links, profiles – they all stop your project dead in it’s tracks. Probably the most common is missing image links. A printer will not be able to output high resolution images from an “unlinked” page layout. If they request the specific images, be aware that placing a picture onto a page in a Word document (this applies for InDesign, Quark, or any other page layout program as well) is NOT sending the actual image file. You will need to find the original file itself to send. Missing fonts will also derail your project – fonts work on the computer where your files were created because they are installed on that machine. Ship the file to another computer and the fonts will substitute to ones with which you will NOT be happy. Most layout programs now, thankfully, have a feature that allows you to package all necessary files into one bundle for printing. Also, creating print-ready pdf files will allow you to avoid all the link and font issues as the pdf can be a self-contained file suitable for print.

FAIL #3: Mixing process, RGB and spot color definitions in the same file. Color management can be a complicated process, but in general you should be aware of the “colorspace” your layout is created in and it’s intended output. Using spot or PMS colors in a design will require them to be converted at some point if you plan to print in CMYK. You can design in an RGB workspace, but be aware that colors will shift when the conversion takes place to offset or digital printing. A common mistake is also using spot or PMS colors in a file that contains transparency – ie, uses drop shadows, gradients, photo effects that incorporate transparent layers. Most programs will warn you to look out for “unexpected results.” They aren’t lying!

FAIL #4: When a different file type is requested than the one used, just change the file extension name by retyping it. Yes, this happens often! It seems like such a simple fix, but predictably, it changes nothing. A pixel-based tif or jpg file cannot automatically become a smooth, resizeable vector file just by typing a suffix onto the filename.

FAIL #5: When a vector file is needed, just drop your pixel-based image onto a page in Illustrator and save as .eps. This is similar to just changing the file extension in the name. When a vector file is required – usually for spot color separation or to be resized for smooth output at a large scale – a file type that is pixel-based will not become a vector file by simply placing it into a program that is vector-based.

FAIL #6: Supply your logo or an image by right (or option) clicking on a website and saving to your desktop …or tell a printer just to go the website for the art they need. As a rule, the resolution of any art on a website will be too low for good print quality. Just count on it.

FAIL #7: Neglect to specify a PMS color match for a specific color output that must be exact. Remember, blue is never just blue.

So, all of those are common mistakes to avoid during file submission. The good news is there is one simple fix – talk to your printer! Call them on the phone and ask for guidance in preparing and transferring your files. They will be eager to walk you through any questions or problems you encounter. The advice is free, and will most likely save you additional pre-press charges that you can incur if they have to fix or adjust your files for digital or offset output. If you are dealing with an online printer and cannot get an actual person on the phone you have discovered one of the reasons they are able to offer lower prices: low standards for customer service.

Communication is the answer – it will save you time and money. If your service provider can’t provide the needed answers or doesn’t have time to chat with you, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Mixing Ink – the Pantone Recipe for Print

Pantone Swatch Book

Twitter uses a specific blue – not the same as Facebook blue, or Ford blue, or “Big Blue” IBM. Coke always wants the same red, whether its on a T-shirt, paper, plastic, a television screen or a glass bottle. To reproduce color consistently, especially across different media, platforms, techonologies and visual arenas, everyone needs to be communicating in the same language of color, so to speak. The PANTONE® Matching System is that language – an industry standard and means of selecting, communicating, reproducing, matching and controlling colors. For offset, lithographic printing, Pantone created a Color Formula Guide with well over 1000 classified colors that fill the CMYK gamut. From a set of basic inks, each of these colors can be mixed.

For spot color printing, the Pantone Guide contains ink mixing instrusctions for each color, a “recipe” with amounts given both in parts and percentages. If a printer needs a large quantity of ink, or is doing regular printing for clients who use a specific color for their brand, these inks will be purchased premixed. But for smaller quantities, each color in the Pantone Guide can be created with a mixture of 2 or more of 14 standard base colors. They are: Yellow, Yellow 012, Orange 021, Warm Red, Red 032, Rubine Red, Rhodamine Red, Purple, Violet, Blue 072, Reflex Blue, Process Blue, Green, and Black.

PMS spot color ink

In the image above, our printer is mixing PMS 151 Orange for a client’s job. The formula for that exact color is 12 parts of PANTONE Yellow (or 75%) and 4 parts of PATNONE Warm Red (or 25%). For this small amount of ink needed, he weighs each ink amount on a scale and then mixes thoroughly together for the correct color match, which is then tested alongside the PANTONE preprinted swatch for that color to doublecheck the outcome.

Pantone recently unveiled their cloud system of color management, PANTONELive: “a cloud-based color bank.” It is a color management system for companies and brand owners who do marketing over a large variety of media and across a diverse geographical area to ensure everyone is speaking that same color language.


ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Printing 101: What is Spot or Two-Color Printing?

Mixing pure inks to create a PMS color

Too often as printers, we assume everyone else understands the basics of print technology. Full color, spot color, process, digital, offset, thermography, letterpress, wide format… there are many paths to create a beautiful and effective printed product – decisions have to be made about which path is the best to take. The type of printing you need for your project should take into account many factors: budget, branding concerns, time constraints, intended use, and essentially the overall scope of your marketing plan. It becomes important that you have a printer you can communicate with freely and clearly. Your printer should be able to explain your options clearly. One basic topic in looking at the options for color printing is to understand what is meant by spot colors vs. full color.

Spot color refers to color generated in offset printing by a single ink. That ink could be a “pure” color or mixed according to a formula. Process, or 4-color printing, uses four spot colors to generate a full-color gamut: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (CMYK). Some more advanced processes use six spot colors, adding Orange and Green to provide an even larger gamut. This is called hexachromatic process printing, or CMYKOG. At times, however, you may want to print using just one or two colors – for example let’s say blue and black. This is a classic example of two color printing.

Pantone is clearly the authority on color – a provider of color systems and leading technology for accurate communication of color. The Pantone Matching System has long been the standard for defining “spot colors.” If you have a blue lion in your logo, you want that lion to always appear in the same shade of blue – not sky blue on your letterhead, royal blue on an employee’s shirt and some shade of purple on the website. The PMS system is a way to standardize that color for the printing process, and your printer can show you swatches to select the PMS number that you can then define as an integral part of your brand. Also keep in mind that with these two colors, you can enhance the design of your piece by using “screens” or tints of those colors. 50% of black gives gray; a percentage of the PMS blue will provide varying shades as well. With a good design, a two-color printed piece can have much depth and style. (Pantone is a rich resource for all topics on color. Check out which color they chose Color of the Year for 2012.)

Any PMS color, printed from a single ink, can also be translated into the closest CMYK match. Your blue lion can be printed by the 4-color process method when you choose to create a full color piece. There will be a slight variation in the shade or hue of the blue, however – no PMS to CMYK conversion is exact. In most cases, the difference is tolerable or even unoticeable, but with a few colors the shift is more dramatic. The CMYK gamut can not replicate all colors visible to the human eye. Again, your printer can show you side-by-side swatches of what the PMS color will look like once converted to CMYK. Some brands are so specific about their color that they budget for 5-color offset print jobs where full color printing is needed, but they are willing to pay for another pass to get the PMS color of that lion exactly right every time.

Have the discussion with your printer to learn the process they are using to produce your print materials. They can explain about color gamuts, PMS color matches, and even color psychology and selection. You will also want to translate these colors for other uses such as your website or online marketing. There you will need web-safe color matches that seek to maintain an accurate match for your blue lion on the web as well. You will be in good hands with a printer who can help you with both the artistic, creative process and the technical concerns of production.

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Pantone’s 2012 Color of the Year is Tangerine Tango

Each December, Pantone chooses a “color of the year.” As the Pantone Matching System is used across all creative industries as a color standard, the annual selection has come to be influential for many designers and is chosen with careful consideration to the marketplace and overall consumer culture of the day. The color this year? Tangerine Tango (no, not reddish-orange!)

Pantone says the vibrant color “provide(s) the energy boost we need to recharge and move forward.” They call it “sophisticated but at the same time dramatic and seductive.”

Pantone Color of the Year Tangerine Tango

Pantone Color of Year Tangering Tango

The selection of a bright, high visibility hue is consistent with current trends in fashion and design that rely on loud, warm color choices over muted or more conservative ones. We’ve written in this blog before about “color psychology” which defines perceptions of orange as energetic but balanced, inviting, and best employed to give the feeling of movement and energy without being overpowering. Does PMS 7625C do it for you? Visit the Pantone website to download the color palettes for Adobe applications and begin to make reddish-orange… uh, Tangerine Tango… the star of your next marketing campaign.

Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.