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Commercial Print Shop - what should I ask?

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  • Commercial Print Shop - what should I ask?

    Up until today I've never had reason to consider the who, what, where and why's of generating an image in Photoshop that was destined to be commercially printed. (The ol' HP Deskjet suited my needs fine.)

    Volunteer = New Opportunities
    That all changed about an hour ago: I volunteered to help our church design/get printed ~1,000 2-sided, color postcards that will be printed locally and subsequently mailed.

    I hope to be prepared
    I'll be talking with the printer this coming week and was hoping, before I do, to have a fairly comprehensive set of questions ready that, when answered and complied with, would result in meeting his technical standards for "input" and result in "output" that looks like what's designed.

    For openers isn't it highly likely the format will be CMYK?

    HELP: Need your suggestions:
    So... What kinds of questions / clairifications / etc. would you ask / seek?

    Comments / suggestions on design, color, etc. welcome too.

    Thanks in advance...


  • #2
    I don't have a lot of experience dealing with commercial printers, but the ones I have talked to usually have a spec. sheet or card that will spell out how they like files prepared. Don't be surprised if they prefer a Quark or PageMaker file.

    I would let them handle the conversion to CMYK...they know their printer and paper better than anyone and CMYK can be a tricky thing, even for pros.

    ASK FOR A PROOF! They should allow you to see multiple proofs, both early in the process and a final proof right before printing. Going and seeing the proofs is also a good way to learn a bit about the process, and you will be all that more knowledgeable the next time you need prints!

    Ask them about the preferred dpi of photos. 300 dpi can often be way more than they need. Pay attention to your color vibrant colors may look great on screen but might be so far out of the CMYK gamut that the result will look very far from what you originally envisioned.

    last bit of advice...listen to what they suggest. If it's a good printer, they will guide you through what you need to do. They know what they are doing, so do not be afraid to ask any question.

    hope that helps a bit.


    • #3
      Taking an image to the printer, in my experience, is the easiest thing in the world to do.

      Different printers have different requirements depending on the equipment they use. Good, reputable printers are used to receiving digital media, often from people who are completely digitally challenged. I am completely clueless as to that type of printing equipment, but I can tell you that there is really only one basic question to ask the printer:

      What kind of file should I bring you?

      Every printer I've ever worked with told me first off, nearly before I even asked, what it was that they needed from me. Some wanted RGB TIF files, but I was surprised to find that many just wanted a minimum 300 ppi, RGB, JPEG...


      • #4
        ASK FOR A PROOF! They should allow you to see multiple proofs, both early in the process and a final proof right before printing.
        Good point, Greg. A good printer shouldn't even print your job (especially if it's a large run) till you sign off on a final proof.


        • #5
          Inheriting a printer can be problematic. If they've been using a good one, great. But (since you didn't pick them out) they're possibly using a low-bidder, so be careful.

          Proofs come in several flavors, all of which can be very useful. At the bottom end are destop proofs, printed on an inkjet (or worse, a laser printer). They're good for comping, error checking, etc., but useless for color. There are several dedicated color proofing systems out there, Rainbow seems to be the generic term (like kleenex or xerox), even though Rainbow is a specific system. These proofs usually add about $100 to the price, but are well worth it.

          Something I used to hate doing, but now admit is about essential is a "press check", where you make an appointment to actually be there when the first printed versions start coming off the line. It's much cheaper to catch problems there than after the run is finished.

          Letting them take chare of the RIP (conversion to CMYK, screening, etc.) is a good idea, but try to provide them with a color-corrected hardcopy to go by.
          Learn by teaching
          Take responsibility for learning


          • #6
            What Doug said is right. Quark Express is the standard page layout program with Pagemaker second and all else a distant third. Be sure to give them all your support files including screen and printer fonts and a list of all your files etc.


            • #7
              I've had some postcards and some tri-fold brochures printed in the past, and I thought they were excellent quality. But no one ever mentioned Quark Express, support files, or fonts of any kind. All I supplied was a camera ready design I'd made, in either TIF or JPEG format @ about 300 dpi.

              The printed materials looked really good to me, so I never questioned what they were doing or what they were asking me to provide. And this has not been all from the same printer, so I thought what they were doing must be fairly standard.

              Have I been missing something important?


              • #8
                BIG thanks to all of you. There are some incredible ideas and suggestions here.

                I greatly appreciate your help.



                • #9
                  Now that I've met a rep from the print shop (very nice person; very helpful to a rookie), I say DITTO to the previous post. Your advice was right on and I was well prepared for our visit.

                  Fortunately this shop is able to accomodate large PS files in .tif format via FTP; no Quark or PageMaker required on my end (they'll convert). Whew.

                  Thanks again...



                  • #10
                    I always ask my printer how I can save money on a specific print piece. they may have some suggestions that you haven't even thought of. Like -- would a duotone or tritone -- meaning 2 spot color or 3 spot color printing save you a significant amount?

                    Also, be aware of postal regulations. If your postcard is larger than 4.5 x 6 inches or smaller that 3.5 x 5 it will require first class postage instead of the postcard rate. There's also, money saving options like "bulk rate" if there's enough items to warrant it. The postal service is really helpful as far as all that goes....

                    Good luck...


                    • #11

                      This is excellent advice, especially for a novice like me.

                      It sure hasn't taken you long to get up to speed on the "RetouchPro everybody helps anybody when they can" culture.

                      Welcome aboard and thanks very much.


                      P.S. When you get a few minutes, you might want to introduce yourself over in the Salon (non-tech) Forum, in this thread.


                      • #12
                        Jak --
                        I've had some postcards and some tri-fold brochures printed in the past, and I thought they were excellent quality. But no one ever mentioned Quark Express, support files, or fonts of any kind.
                        You submitted a PShop file for the camera ready design, but probably had them do any of the text needed for the brochure - right? When we submit a brochure with both the text and the images done the way we want them, the printers will usually need a PageMaker (what I use) or Quark file with separate files for each of the type font(s) that you have chosen to use for your text as well as your image files.

                        I still have a lot to learn about printing, and am grateful for the good information in this thread.


                        • #13
                          CJ -

                          Yes, I supplied images and a mockup of the layout and text I wanted and they did the rest.


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