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- Planning: Plan your job and stick to that planning. Creative people tend to forget that outputting film, making plates, printing a job and finishing it takes time. Just because your planning slips does not mean that the prepress and printing people can get their part done twice as fast. Presses run on a tight schedule, printed sheets need time to dry and if something goes wrong in prepress, it can take a lot of time to sort things out.
- Errors: You will proof read the document you have created but you may look over errors or typos. Check all the documents you create carefully yourself – AND – enlist an unbiased second opinion from someone who has never seen your masterpiece.
- Trapping: Trapping is a technique that is used to mimize the effects of misregistration on the press. It relies on making light objects overlap darker objects slightly to avoid ugly bad lines showing up on the printed result. The example below illustrates the principle. Either you take care of trapping and communicate this with the service bureau or printer or you let them handle it. Trapping is both a skill and an art. Do not underestimate the time it takes to properly trap a file.
- Software: Use applications that your service bureau or printer are familiar with. Just because ‘MegaPage’ came bundled with your new scanner or magazine does not mean that it is the ideal application for a 64 page high quality brochure. If you stick to FreeHand, QuarkXPress, Illustrator, PageMaker, InDesign, Corel Draw and PhotoShop, then most output service should be able to handle your job. Microsoft Publisher2000 is also supported by many in the industry as well. Talk to your printer or service bureau if you intend to use other applications.
- Software: Use the right program for the right task. XPress and PageMaker were designed for page layout. Illustrator, Corel Draw and FreeHand are better suited for drawings or single page documents like posters.
- Translation: (Other Languages) If your document may get translated, you should take this into account while creating it. Avoid colorized text or white text set to a colorized background. Put all text that will be translated in a separate spot color called TextBlack. This makes it easier afterwards to create additional films or plates containing the translated text. Also take into account that some languages like French or Dutch are not as compact as English. Make sure there is sufficient blank space to accommodate the extra lines of text.
- Naming conventions: Your document may be processed by different applications running on various operating systems to get imposed and output on film or plate. Each operating system or application has its own rules that file names should adhere to. By sticking to the lowest common denominator, you avoid problems with files that get renamed or cannot be read. Use filenames that are no longer than 25 characters and stick to the standard 26 characters of the alphabet and numerals from 0 to 9. Use an underscore instead of a space if you want to separate words in a filename. Never ever start or end filenames with a space or put slashes (/), backslashes (\) or ‘:’ in filenames. Avoid putting more than 1 ‘.’ in a filename.