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What is Prepress?

Prepress is just that, the pre before the press or in other words all the procedures and steps that have to happen before a file or group of files gets formatted into something that a printer can accept.

Prior to the explosion of digital printing, which has really happened in just the past 20 years or so, prepress was far more complicated than it is today. Back in the day, there were a bunch of steps involving creating metal plates for the design or copy to be transferred to the paper or whatever was being printed on. There is some of that still around but for the most part everything is digital. With that, here is a basic list of what prepress entails.

The Common Steps in Prepress

1. Proofreading. For obvious reasons you want to proofread whatever copy you are printing for spelling and grammatical errors.

2. Check the font spacing. Most fonts come out of the box with the correct spacing however occasionally you’ll run across a font that looks funky due to the spacing between the letters. Improper font spacing can ruin even the nicest design so do a quick check of the tracking, leading, and kerning of your fonts.

3. Check the resolution. Printed items should be set at no less than 300 dpi (dots per inch) in order to get a nice clean, crisp print. That doesn’t mean you can take a 72 dpi image off the web and upscale it to 300 dpi because it won’t work. You need to start out with a nice high resolution file otherwise it’s amateur hour and you won’t be happy with the finished product.

4. Check the color. Printers use CMYK color format (cyan, magenta, black, yellow), but unfortunately pretty much everything else (design software) uses RGB. It’s an additive vs subtractive system we’ll talk about in another post but the bottom line is check the color. If you use Photoshop or Illustrator you can toggle between the modes and get a pretty good idea of how your color will shift so you don’t run into any big surprises when your documents come off the press.

5. Check the crop and bleed of your design. The bleed is the extra space required by the printer when the design is trimmed out. Check to make sure your crop marks line up correctly with your bleed so that your finished design includes all the text and images you want.

6. Imposition. This is our jam. Imposing the files is taking them and combining them in a manner that places them on the page in an efficient manner for both production and to reduce waste. Filesplice does just that, we give you the option to create your own templates, adjust your spacing, bleed, page size and output. We also offer the ability to set the overage amounts, build direction on the page, impose a coupon, and add a cover sheet for easy to identify breaks between the designs.

7. Select the paper or substrate. What are you printing on? Paper, vinyl, plastic, fabric, cardboard? The final step in prepress is selecting what you’re printing on and this can be another big on because different substrates create different visual apples and different feels.

For the most part that’s it, a crash course in prepress or ‘Prepress 101’ if you will, courtesy of FileSplice. Happy printing!