Join 3,420 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Design for Print Questions
April 8, 2014 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Graphic (print) designers/printers/small press people/publishing folk/or anyone experienced with graphic printing, Can you answer a slew of questions about the Creative Suite program, color management, pre-flight, and the like? I'm moving into print for design work, specifically for commercial publishers, and I've been doing hard-core study of Creative Suite and pre-production for the last several months, but niggling questions remain. Can you help? It would be such a relief to get answers from real people rather than books, videos, Websites, and my own darned inferences.... Quite a few snowflakes inside.

I'm looking to have a thorough working understanding of design for off-set printing at a technical level ASAP. This is specifically for commercial printers, and it's mainly for book covers—though I may take a stab at working with interior page design, too. (I do understand the state of the industry, so no need to be concerned about that.)

I've been doing extensive study of the field over the last few months, as noted, and I plan to do a good deal more. But in the interim, there are questions I've not yet been able to answer, and I was hoping you could help. One of many is whether you see any immediate printing problems with the samples on my portfolio page. (The link is in my profile.) But there are several others. In no particular order:

Creative Suite Version

(1) Am I going to be okay working with Creative Suite 5 in the publishing industry? If CS5 too old, what version should I be using? Is anyone using Creative Cloud?


Color Management

(2) I don't need an embedded CYMK profile in CS if I don't have a laser printer that's color managed/matched with my CS programs, right? (i.e. I can ignore it?)

(3) Should I set my CS color preferences to CYMK or Lab?


CYMK, Pantone, Pantone Plus

(4) Is the CYMK coated chart in Pantone Plus the preferred default for choosing CYMK colors? Are the colors shown reasonably accurate? Any warnings/caveats? (I don't have access to the Bridge line right now.)

(5) Are there any general rules of thumb for printing spot colors? (I know yellow can read as muddy and blues can read as indigo in CYMK....)


Color Usage

(7) What are some guidelines for using rich black?


Image Resolution

(8) What are some guidelines for target photo resolution?

(9) What's the rule of thumb for converting pixels into dpi?

(10) What file size would always be too high or low—for an image resolution, or even for files without images?


Printing Gradients and Screens

(11) Is there anything I need to know about printing standard CS gradients? (I've read about dithering.)

(12) Is there anything I need to know about printing screens (partially opaque blocks of color)?

(13) Finally, any caveats for printing layers of screens and gradients?


Pre-Flight

(14) Where can I find a good pre-flight checklist?


Sample Prints

(15) Where in NYC can I find a (cheap!) printer to print out laser samples of my work, to make sure it prints well? (I'd only want a few samples of each.) Or if you're not in NY, what kind of shop do I look for?
posted by Violet Blue to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
(1) Am I going to be okay working with Creative Suite 5 in the publishing industry? If CS5 too old, what version should I be using? Is anyone using Creative Cloud?

That depends on on whether doing more of A)producing files to output elsewhere or B) taking in files from outside vendors to be processed.
It's it A, you'll be ok. I know of one place that's still using Quark 5 on Mac Classic, but they take in very few files. Even then, if you know what you're doing, then CS 5 is ok. At my day job we're still stuck on CS5, but we're producing finished PDFs for a single target (a particular press at a particular printer), so we have specific PDF profiles to shoot for, which we give to outside vendors and use ourselves.

(2) I don't need an embedded CYMK profile in CS if I don't have a laser printer that's color managed/matched with my CS programs, right? (i.e. I can ignore it?)

Depends on what your commercial printer says. ALWAYS ask them. The embedded profile is for the FINAL output device, whatever it is. In this case, your laser printer doesn't matter, except for proofing. The final press does, which almost certainly has a color device profile.

(3) Should I set my CS color preferences to CYMK or Lab?


I can't imagine they should be set for LAB, but it depends on what your commercial printer says. ALWAYS ask them.


(4) Is the CYMK coated chart in Pantone Plus the preferred default for choosing CYMK colors? Are the colors shown reasonably accurate? Any warnings/caveats? (I don't have access to the Bridge line right now.)

Depends on what your commercial printer says. ALWAYS ask them. It depends on what the final press is, sheetfed or web or digital? Will the paper stock be coated or uncoated? Always ask the client what's desired and then relay that info to the printer.

(5) Are there any general rules of thumb for printing spot colors? (I know yellow can read as muddy and blues can read as indigo in CYMK....)


Check with your commercial printer, they should know what particular issues come up on their particular presses.


(7) What are some guidelines for using rich black?


Check with your commercial printer, see if they have a particular percentage they like. Usually I shoot for a rich black that goes with the general color design of the page or brochure and one that minimizes trapping problems. Be wary of ink limits with particular paper stocks. For instance, ours is 240% so I wouldn't make a rick black that's C50,y50m70K100, 'cause it's over 240. That ink limit changes with various paper stocks and refers to how much ink they nicely hold.


(8) What are some guidelines for target photo resolution?
(9) What's the rule of thumb for converting pixels into dpi?


Know what percentage your image will shrunk down or enlarge in Indesign. For instance, a 300dpi image that's enlarge 200% in Indesign, will have a resolution of 150 dpi. Which still might be fine, depending on the resolution. Always print out your page at close to 100% to see how they look.

What file size would always be too high or low—for an image resolution, or even for files without images?


It depends on the image, paper and printer and size that the image will be reproduced at. For instance, since we're newsprint, we're only dealing with a 100 line screen, so 200dpi is all we really need. But 300dpi can produce better results. I've done as low as 125 for images of art that came out fine (because they don't have crisp edges). I've used 72dpi images that are 50 inches wide, but will be reproduced at 25% at the dpi size.

Definitely set up Preflight profile in Indesign to check this stuff.



(14) Where can I find a good pre-flight checklist?


Indesign CS 5's basic Preflight panel is pretty good.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:46 AM on April 8 [5 favorites]


Your questions about image resolution displays the unfortunately really common lack of understanding about what a pixel is. Once you understand the concept, you'll be able to see in some ways how meaningless your questions are. Dr Alvy Ray Smith wrote a great explanation, although a bit technical, about what a pixel is and is not.
A Pixel is not a Little Square

Short version; a pixel is information that is used and manipulated by the display device.
The common rule of thumb is that you need twice the number of pixels as the number of dots on the printed page. Relying on rules of thumb like this without understanding leads to things like people taking a small file, enlarging it 10x in photoshop, and then complaining that the print is fuzzy even though "it has twice the pixels of the dpi"
posted by Sophont at 9:57 AM on April 8


Color Management
(2) I don't need an embedded CYMK profile in CS if I don't have a laser printer that's color managed/matched with my CS programs, right? (i.e. I can ignore it?)


Wrong.
For starters, if you know who your offset printer is, you need to ask if they have a custom color profile for their press. If they don't, ask what generic CMYK profile you should use for best color results. If you don't know who your printer is going into a project, your best default is probably the Photoshop 5 CMYK profile. At least, that's what I use as a default and I generally get good results.

In the Color Settings panel of whichever CS5 app you're using, set the CMYK pref to whichever color profile you will be using.

(3) Should I set my CS color preferences to CYMK or Lab?
CMYK.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:02 AM on April 8


Brendan said all of the stuff I don't have the energy to type. ;)

Took me years to understand all of these things, and they have changed a bit with technology... a lot of results TOTALLY depend upon your printer. Find a great printer who knows what he's doing and build your relationship with them. Ask them questions!!! They want the job to look good and for you to be happy, and they know their equipment and how their employees work.

There are a lot of things about offset printing and color matching that people don't have to worry about as much nowadays that we used to spend hours slaving over. Color trapping, etc., are more automated now and your printer will be able to help you. Also, I feel like with the advent of the web, people's eyes for color matching isn't as much of a "you will get fired if this color is off" issue because people have become so accustomed to screens having fluctuating tones that they are more lax. (I used to art direct packaging that was printing on multiple worldwide presses and having to make them all *exact* matches of the Disney palette colors... and in retrospect it was pretty much impossible!!!)

When it comes to rich black, from doing movie posters I learned to use a much deeper black, but it entirely depends upon application. Here's a guide to using black in print that's decent, but again, ask your printer what he prefers.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:04 AM on April 8 [1 favorite]


CYMK, Pantone, Pantone Plus
(4) Is the CYMK coated chart in Pantone Plus the preferred default for choosing CYMK colors? Are the colors shown reasonably accurate? Any warnings/caveats? (I don't have access to the Bridge line right now.)


One would only use the Pantone CMYK chart if you are trying to match a specific Pantone color using CMYK. Like, if you want to match a specific logo color but are not going to print a spot color.

Pantone's CMYK conversions are generally close to the pure Pantone color, but a lot of them are visibly off. In Pantone Plus, they have switched to using LAB conversions which are much closer

(5) Are there any general rules of thumb for printing spot colors? (I know yellow can read as muddy and blues can read as indigo in CYMK....)

You are confusing terms. A spot color, is a custom ink of one definite color. It is NOT a cmyk mix. Pantone colors represent specific inks. If, say, you specify a Pantone 432, the printer is going to create a fifth printing plate specifically to run that Pantone ink. This would be in addition to the cmyk plates.

Now, you can absolutely create your project using Pantone colors up-front, and then convert everything to cmyk. The colors will change a bit. If you left everything specified as Pantone numbers in the final art, you would end up with a printer screaming at you about the 150 spot colors you have specified.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:11 AM on April 8


Creative Suite Version
(1) Am I going to be okay working with Creative Suite 5 in the publishing industry? If CS5 too old, what version should I be using? Is anyone using Creative Cloud?


CS5 is right where you want to be. If you want to use Creative Cloud, by all means do so. I don't, and I don't know any pros who do. Most of us have halted with the desktop version of CS6.

What version of Creative Suite you use doesn't matter much to the printer, because you aren't (or, at least, shouldn't) provide them with the raw Photoshop, InDesign, or Illustrator files. You are going to want to generate a press-ready PDF to give to the printer.

You want to ask beforehand what PDF version your printer needs. PDF 1.6 is a good sweet spot. That said, I do occasional ad work for a local free newspaper, and their printer's RIP can't read anything newer than PDF 1.3, which is, like, a bajillion years old, and doesn't support transparency effects.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:20 AM on April 8


I use CC at work because we started getting art files and layouts that were in CC that wouldn't open without it, but our printer uses CS5. (We used to have a bootleg CS6 around, but for once my FUD about possible liability got us to do the right thing.) A surprising number of people who don't need CC and don't understand how to save things as backwards compatible do have it, and do send us art.

Other folks have jumped on this, but really, the number one thing is to talk to your printer. We work with a few different ones (since we're statewide and sometimes have rush jobs), and they have different specs that they use, but all of them are more than happy to give that to you.

(Also, and this may just be my limited experience, but the union shops we've dealt with do a much, much better job, even if they're a little pricier. I've never had to trash 4,000 flyers because of a blown logo registration from a union shop.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:46 AM on April 8 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I can not stress how important it is to touch bases with the printer. There's this one freelance job I have, yearly thing, been at the same printer for 3 years. Yet every time it comes up, I still call him up and have a short conversation about what sort of files they need from me, 'cause you never know when something has changed and more importantly, how it's changed.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:23 PM on April 8


Just want to add that when people say talk to your printer, they don't mean talking with the sales rep. You need to talk to the pre-press guy. He spends his day fixing botched files from designers (ie anyone with a computer and Photoshop) who don't know what they're doing so he'll be more than happy to advise. He's a busy guy though so have the specs ready for him (size, # of colors, bleeds, folds, quantity, paper stock, etc).

Getting a copy of Pocket Pal from International Paper might help.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:16 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


I was prepared to type out a big response but Brandon Blatcher pretty much summed up my thoughts, especially about asking. Any designer who comes at me with a question and listens pretty much goes to the front of the queue, because I feel can count on them to not make my job harder than it has to be.
posted by lekvar at 4:02 PM on April 8


« Older About six months ago we starte...   |  We need sand for our daughter'... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments