Preflight Success: Tips for Designers and a Free Preflight Checklist
Just as a pilot performs a number of system checks on the airplane before take off, it’s important to make sure that a print project doesn’t contain any serious errors that will prevent it from printing successfully. Preflighting for print production is about examining all of the components that make up an eventual printed piece and comparing them against a checklist of potential known issues. If they “pass” the check, the job can move forward in the print production workflow. If they “fail,” something has to be done to correct the problem before proceeding. It is by default a methodical task that is typically performed by prepress personnel (no one wants to reprint a job because an error wasn’t found in time), but designers should also preflight their work before they send it off to their printers.
Software tools and a checklist are both critical to the preflighting process. Some of the things that a typical preflight checklist helps you examine:
- Layout issues: Does the physical size of the layout match the specifications? Are all page elements there? Was the job created with a professional desktop publishing application? Are bleed elements there? Do graphic elements abut (will there be white gaps between objects)? Are any of the rules set to a thickness of “hairline,” or are they made up of a screen build?
- Fonts: Are they supplied/embedded properly? What type of fonts are they? Are they from a valid foundry (i.e., will they RIP)? Were they menu-styled? Has any type been set to a very small point size, and is small type made up of a screen build?
- Images: Is there sufficient resolution for the printing or output method? Do the images contain unsightly artifacts? Is the ink density of shadow areas too high for the type of paper that the job is being printed on? Are the images compressed and, if so, by what type of compression?
- Color: How many colors are supposed to print? What color space are the images/layout objects? Is RGB color used? Are spot colors indicated correctly and consistently? Which color swatch library was used?
- Effects: Was transparency or other special effects used? Is transparency live or will it have to be flattened? Does the file contain layers? Are they all supposed to print? Are there annotations or other non-printing objects in the file?
In addition to application preflight tools, there are also web-based preflight and delivery tools and PDF creation and printer drivers that have preflighting built right in. These software-based preflight tools can detect many errors, but some problems require manual, human inspection and intervention. Knowing what to look for is half the battle—that’s where the checklist comes into play. Download a Printing Industries of America sample preflight checklist that can be used by designers or in prepress, feel free to modify or change it to fit your needs specifically.