Tips for a successful print job

digital-printing-2When I began this blog, my primary intent was to be a voice from within the printing industry (the “print trenches” as I have in my header) to readers who are clients, prospective clients, designers, or anyone that has an interest in printing. Therefore, I tend to focus most of my posts to an audience that might need information, whether it’s about file prep, or paper, or even printing vocabulary. And today, I wish to take my readers on tips that I believe will make your print project – and you – successful.


QuoteLetterFirst and foremost, the devil is in the details. Long ago I learned that when a client gives a printer specs for a pending job, they are in the conceptual stage – and quite possibly, they don’t have files or an idea of the final specs of the piece. And that’s OK. It’s OK to get your printer to work up a quote or quotes based on concepts so you can get a general idea of what the budget may need to be. But, to insure that your project stays on budget, whenever you change the specifications of the job, make sure that is communicated to the printer. They can work up a new quote based on your revised specs, and that can be the new “budget” amount. Or, it can help you and your team determine that your initial concept – which might be less expensive – is better for the budget.

Also, make sure that you communicate clearly your specifications to the printer. Make sure the page count is correct (and remember, a sheet of paper has 2 pages on it, one page on each side), what the flat and finished size is, and ink colors. Be as precise as possible, and if the printers asks questions, recognize that they are the experts, and there is information missing that will prevent them from giving you an accurate quote. And finally, that quote letter is really an estimate, based on your specs, and if the files come in and they are different from the estimate, you will receive a new and updated price.


This is also an area that can make or break the budget. Thankfully, Adobe has really made??????????????????
the preparation of files for printing very easy. You can export InDesign files out to a print-ready PDF, maybe even have a special profile that is set up for the printer that it is going to, with specific attributes that they prefer. But here are the biggies that you must do every time:

  • Make sure that when you collect the file for output that you have the setting selected to insure that all your links are collected in a folder, and all the fonts are collected in a separate folder. Most printers want all links in CMYK, but there are times (with digital printing) that RGB is preferred. It doesn’t hurt to call your printer and ask that question.
  • Make sure all your fonts are embedded in the PDF.
  • Export the PDF out to include 1/8″ bleeds (.125″ or 9 points), and printer’s crop marks. You don’t need all the other crop mark definitions. Just so the printer knows where to trim it.
  • Finally, even if you DO export out a PDF with bleeds, crop marks, embedded fonts and graphics, also submit the source file with all support files in a zipped or stuffed folder. This allows the prepress team to correct anything if they need to, or re-export the file if you missed the bleeds, or fonts were not embedded.


SolutionsFinally, printing is a science and a craft, and is done by humans on machines, which sometimes break down. Or you might find your 1 PM press check at 5 PM because the client on press before you made several color shifts, taking their 20 minutes for each press check and turning into 45 minutes. Or your printer may be unable to make the delivery date, but is offering to do partials. Things happen. And on the rare occasions when something on your print project goes bad, just take a deep breath and listen to the solution your printer offers up (and printers SHOULD and MUST have a solution or solutions ready to share with you!) Presses go down. Paper doesn’t show up. Issue with the plates. A post-press finishing vendor is slammed. All these things can impact your project. Learning to roll with it, and finding solutions with your printer, will enhance your relationship with them, and make you a favored client.

So, remember these few tips, apply them, and you’ll have a better track record when it comes to successful print projects.

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About John Prothero

John Prothero is a print professional with over 30 years experience in the print industry. Starting out as a driver delivering jobs, he worked in bindery, proofing, plating, traditional prepress (camera and stripping), scheduling, job planning, job management, account management and digital job production. His skills also run in the area of blog authorship, social media management, and lead generation and qualification of prospective clients. John is also a contributor to Rhode Island Creative Magazine, a digital publication that highlights the creative spirit of the state of Rhode Island. You can read their online issues at
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