Print production is a thousand accidents waiting to happen. Smoothing out production problems often falls to designers – Digit’s got the answers to ease your printing pain.


For many graphic designers, the mention of print production causes glazed eyes and thoughts of deep sleep. It’s a fact that most graphic designers have gaps in their knowledge about the practice of print production, and aren’t the least bit interested in it either.

However, clients will expect designers to know the printing process back to front, from input to output. Self-taught designers may have never been inside a print shop, and subsequently believe that the methods of getting your designs on to paper/label/advertising hoarding are an arcane art best left to someone further down the production chain.

That’s not always possible. If the designer knows how to design with production in mind, the whole workflow will be a lot smoother. As ever, Digit is on hand to fill in the gaps for you.

We’ve delved into the murky world of production to give you everything you need to know to avoid the perils of printing, and to ease your panic next time the printer calls and no-one else is in the studio to answer.

First steps

It’s always a good idea to check lead times with your printer before undertaking a job. Never assume that it will take the same length of time to print as previous work as this can lead to waiting longer for your product than originally agreed.

If you are using QuarkXPress, InDesign or similar, you’ll probably already be aware of how to set up documents, grids, and layouts for projects.

However, when there is a print job at the end of the line, there are a few things you need to bear in mind. A good piece of advice is to storyboard your ideas on paper, using a layout pad for quick copying and correction of sketches.

Always lock down your layout first before adding live content. You should create documents to your final trim size and be aware of the finishing options and paper stock that will be used, as this may affect how to place your margins.

Quark provides custom Job Jacket files for this and other purposes, with built-in rules for design and production. The default Job Jackets files in XPress can be configured to provide preflighting rules for every job you create and automatically access a comprehensive set of output styles.

It may seem odd to describe preflighting and output in the first steps, but it’s far preferable to get the layout organized according to rules from the outset, rather than changing things at the last minute.

Imposition

If you’re designing for anything more than a label or single-sheet presentation, you’ll need to be aware of imposition. This refers to how the printer will layout the pages in such a way that will make sense when the paper is folded and cut.

Printers usually choose to produce 16-page sections (called signatures in the publishing world) with eight pages on each side. Print jobs are also likely to come in four- or eight-page signatures, or in book publishing, 32- or 64-page sections.

The way the pages are laid out is markedly different from how the likes of DTP packages present sequential spreads. The order will look all over the place and back to front to you, but when the printed sheet is folded and cut, the pages will be in the correct order.

A flatplan is the most common aid to deciphering the imposition scheme, also providing a way for designers, copy-editors and other production staff to navigate their way around the publication.

Fonts

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Working with fonts has become second nature to most of us. Forget page-layout programs, any decent image editor or word-processing application will have a list of fonts as long as your arm. 
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But while having stacks of fonts at your disposal may give you lots of options creatively, it can cause problems when it comes to professionally printing your jobs. 
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“One of the biggest things that designers overlook is whether they are creating material that is legal,” says Julie Strawson, European marketing director for typography specialists Monotype Imaging. 
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“Fonts are subject to intellectual property laws and those used to create content need to be licensed correctly.” 
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A common problem in the production process is that unlicensed fonts tend to travel around in creative work, as people pass work around the studio. When it comes to production, fonts can be passed even further afield. 
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If the printer needs any of the fonts you use for amendment purposes, Strawson points out that the repro house must have a licence to use the fonts too. “In this case it is illegal for the designer to send the fonts with the job,” she explains.
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“If illegal fonts are used to create work, the designer’s ownership, and in turn that of their client, to the work is in question.” 
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<h2>Word processes</h2>
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Records should be kept of the licence terms for each font, which can be difficult as they are usually acquired on an ad hoc basis. According to Strawson, licensing for third parties in the supply chain such as printers and repro houses can be built into the agency licence on request. 
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You should be aware that fonts are licensed according to the use being made of them – so one that is being used for a commercial product requires specific licensing not always included with standard licensing terms. 
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The font minefield doesn’t stop with licensing. Say you don’t have all versions of a font installed on your system. If you format the text as italic or bold, your desktop-publishing application will try to fake the result.
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If the printer has the correct italic or bold version of the font, or even a slightly different cut of a popular font, this will normally display significant differences to what you were expecting and can cause issues with text flow in the document. 
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When you’re using PostScript (Type 1) fonts in your work, you must remember to send both screen and printer fonts to the printer, and be wary of sending a TrueType version in place of the Type 1 font – this might also cause problems with text flow. 
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It’s equally easy to forget to send a complete font collection when all you’ve used is one character – as is often the case with dingbats. You can use a dedicated font manager to keep track of fonts used. 
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These offer functions such as auto activation, font repair, and easy gathering of font sets. This saves installing every font on your system. 
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Software such as Monotype’s Fontwise, Extensis Suitcase Fusion, or Linotype’s free Font ExplorerX can search your computer or network for fonts to create a master list. 
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This master font list could then be cross-checked with the printer or repro house database to plan jobs. DTP applications have tools to prepare files for output, too, but it’s worth double-checking to be safe. 
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<h2>Working in colour</h2>
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