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Here's what you need to know

Proofing Your Artwork 


Proofing is one of the most important procedures in the design process and must never be overlooked. It is good practise to share the proofing between two people and have both sign off on the job prior to printing. Checking artwork prior to sending it to the printer will help avoid expensive and costly reprints. 


Proofing Supplied Artwork 


MKM Signs attempt to check any supplied artwork as soon as it is provided by a customer. If you have any problems with flight-checking, packaging or designing your artwork, we can certainly help you.

Attention to Detail 


Refers to more than the technical factors essential for a good print job. It means noticing that little bit extra. Print out the artwork and check for spelling or design errors that appear to be unintentional. Remember, nobody makes mistakes on purpose. Just reading an address and noticing that a postcode is incorrect is all part of the service. 

Spell checking 


Every job must be spell checked - whether the copy is checked in Microsoft Word prior to typesetting, or preferably by using the spell check feature in the design program. Watch out for American spellings, such as Z in place of S, and context errors. (Make sure your program dictionary is set to International English and not American English) 


Allweighs Check You're Spelling! 




As a general rule, all Worldwide offset print jobs require 2mm bleed. Check for bleed by checking the document size and ensuring that all text sits within the trim area. If a document has no bleed, the file at the correct size needs to be re-supplied. 




All images are required to have a resolution of 300dpi (dots per inch). This includes logos, photos or any graphic file. The image might look fine on screen or when printed on a digital printer, but when printed at 300 L.P.I. (line screen) Worldwide High Resolution on the offset press, the image quality will be poor. When flight checking a PDF, any image that is less than 300dpi will return an error message. 


Images are often supplied at 72dpi: a standard resolution used when emailing images or working with internet files. This is why it is important to check files prior to setting up for print. In some instances you will be able to resample the lower res image to 300dpi keeping control of the quality, but in most cases clients want crisp, high quality reproduction, meaning the artwork will need to be re supplied with images 300dpi. Photographs are commonly supplied as RGB, and will return an error when flight checking, as RGB will not print on an offset press. When converting RGB photos to CMYK, there will always be some degree of image darkening, making colour correction necessary. 


When working with files from photographers you will need to be extra diligent with regard to colour. A photographer or designer may be happy with the appearance of a photo on screen or when printed on photo paper, but an offset press can play havoc with the tones that are highly important to displaying a photographer's work. Be wary of photos taken on digital cameras. Digital photos nearly always print darker than they appear. 

Important: Always discuss the options of proofing where photo or image reproduction is paramount. 


Machine Proof 


Machine proofs are costly, but not as costly as reprinting an entire job. It may be the designer's responsibility to supply any art correctly, BUT they also rely on the advice and expertise of your Design & Print Centre, and the company you work for to meet their expectations. In any job where precision is absolutely crucial, it is advisable to order a machine proof before proceeding with the complete print run. 


Trim Marks 


Files with bleed require trim marks. Always double check that trim marks are in the correct position and enough bleed is allowed (2mm). If the job is to be folded or perforated, indicate this to the factory by inserting the relevant markings on the document template. These are generally done in RGB blue. Supply this file additional to the print file called positional.pdf. 


With any folded or perforated job, print your file digitally at 100% size, trim and fold to create a mock up and ensure the guides are correct. 


Widows & Orphans 


It is bad design practice to typeset a document with words hyphenated at the line end (widow), or with just one word carrying over to the next line at paragraph end (orphan). 

Disable the function that allows for hyphenation in your layout program, and pay attention to your typesetting to ensure there are no 'orphans'. 



Enfocus Pitstop is the world leading package in Pre-Flighting and Editing PDFs. It is a complicated program and editing PDFs should only be tackled by experienced staff members.

The plus side is that Flightchecking is a simple task and can be automated. 

If you need to a demo version of Pitstop it is available at: 

Many tasks that Pitstop was originally bought for can now be done with the latest version of Acrobat Professional. Take a look at the two packages and justify the extra expense of Pitstop. 


While Pitstop is the best in flightchecking, it is important that you realise Pitstop doesn't check for subjective elements. A pair of eyes looking closely at a job is still the best way of proofing.


Things to watch for: 


  • Pitstop will not pick up overprint settings - e.g. white text with overprint.

  • Pitstop will not pick up background noise in an image.



MARKZWARE - Flightcheck 


This program has been the lifesaver for many an artist since 1995. The latest incantation has the ability to flightcheck PDF, EPS, PS as well as native Quark, InDesign, Illustrator and Freehand files. 


It's a good idea to use this program before you create your final PDFs. Its main features are the ability to collect all the relevant data about a job and create an easy to read problem sheet. 




As mentioned on previous pages there are many programs that have a pre-flight facility.


Before you send your artwork to print you might check points below: 

FONTS: Go through any error logs and check for missing fonts or fonts not embedded properly. Again it may be a case that a font error is coming up but you can't find the problem. It's quite common for Illustrator PDFs to have empty text points that reads as a  missing font. 


IMAGES: Before you create a PDF you should  check image files are the correct colour mode 

and resolution. The most common problem is RGB 72dpi images that have been dragged from a website. Duo Tones and Spot Colour Images - Extra care should be taken when checking these files. A common problem is the colours in Duo Tones not matching the layout program. Output separated proofs yourself and see if the file works. If you have a multi channel image using Process and PMS ask
pre-press to check the file before sending to print. 


CLIPPING PATHS: When images with clipping paths or layer masks have been used check that the edges are smooth and not blocky. Check that the paths do not converge and create and inversed selection. Clipping paths should be saved with a flatness level of 1. 


COLOURS: All Colours should be CMYK or PMS. 

If you have used a RGB colour make sure it is only used as a guide and set to overprint as a spot colour. If you have requested spot metallic inks, the standard artwork and trapping settings will probably have to be changed 


DOCUMENT SIZE, TEMPLATES & LAYOUT: The best and easiest way to check this is to make sure that files are placed on Worldwide templates whenever possible. Print out a copy (from the final PDF) at the correct size and measure with a ruler. Make sure you allow the usual 2mm bleed where necessary. Check that your files back up correctly, especially if you have one side portrait and the other landscape. 

TRAPPING & OVERPRINTING: Use the Overprint and Output Preview options in Acrobat to quickly check the files. Switching quickly from composite to overprint will show elements that are set up wrong. Again print out a colour split proof from the final PDF it's the easiest and best way to spot errors.


  • Probably the most powerful weapon in your flightchecking 
    armoury is the OUTPUT PREVIEW command in the ADVANCED
    menu in Acrobat. 

  • It's simple to use and gives you a quick accurate overview 
    of how the printed document will look. 

  • IMPORTANT: This view does not show you what artwork is set 
    up as RGB. Any RGB elements will show a converted to CMYK preview. 





With the age of the internet comes the age of remote proofing and with it the problems of artwork theft and tampering. 


With a editing program like Acrobat Professional or Pitstop, Photoshop, Illustrator it is now relatively easy to edit a hi-res PDF and to extract images/type and information. 


If you spend a week designing a new corporate Identity for someone the last thing you want is somebody taking the PDFs you've created elsewhere and telling you he wasn't happy. It does happen so beware. 


When sending proofs to someone for approval you should make sure that: 


A: The file is only a low or medium PDF. It's a good idea to make this new low res PDF from the hi-res print PDF. E.g. open in Acrobat Professional 7 and use the 'Reduce File Size' commend under the FILE Menu. Alternatively you can use the re sample images option in programs like 'Pitstop' or 'PDF Box of Tricks' If you create a completely separate PDF there is always the chance that an element may have changed. 


B: You apply some security setting to the file. Acrobat has some quite powerful security options. Take the time to review them and decide on what settings work best for you and your customers. 


C: You keep a dated hard copy in your job bag in case copyright issues are raised at a later date. It's also a good idea to keep a back up of any emails in case of any dispute. 


D: Never release any artwork until you've been paid in full. 


E: Make sure you get a hard copy (fax) sign off whenever possible. 



Preparing Art for Digital Print 


Digital printing requires you to prepare files a little differently. 


Be aware that files supplied with PMS or RGB colour space will print on a digital device but the colour will be automatically converted to CMYK. This conversion can dramatically alter the colour appearance so it is better to convert and colour correct prior to printing. 




It is advisable to allow 5mm bleed on digital artwork to allow for the slight movement that can occur in printing and trimming. You can use your judgement on adequate bleed but it is recommended to apply 5mm.

When working with digital, ensure any text or images are placed at a minimum of 4mm inside the trim line; 9 mm from the edge when incorporating bleed. This gives a better trimmed and more professional result.

Creating a PDF 


Follow the same guidelines stated in previous section for creating a print ready PDF. Be aware that files supplied with PMS or RGB colour space will print on a digital device but the colour will be automatically converted to CMYK. This conversion can dramatically alter the colour so be sure to convert and colour-correct prior to printing.

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