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Leverage the power of pre-flight tools


“A stitch in time saves nine.”

These six words capture the essence of pre-flight. Like any process, the more upstream a problem is detected, the easier and cost effective it is to fix them. This implies that designers should pre-flight the Artworks before sending them to their agency or printer.

So, how do you go about doing this?

Let me share some examples of how our clients (CPG Brand Owners) are leveraging the power of pre-flight.

1. Colors:

Knowing the number of colors used in an artwork is important. The printer usually gets a job to print in process colors (CMYK) but finds that the artwork supplied has multiple spot colors in it. When spot colors are converted into process colors, the outcome is usually not the same. Each spot color you use will generate an additional spot color printing plate for a printing press, increasing your printing costs.

Spot colors are best used in the following circumstances:

  1. Consistent Branding / Logos
  2. Colors outside the range of CMYK
  3. Color consistency across pages
  4. Smooth coverage of large areas

Depending on factors like the printing method adopted and the substrate used, the brand can set the number of colors that can be used. When the designer submits an artwork for approval, the system will make this check and reject the artwork automatically if its not acceptable.

2. Ink Coverage or Limit – Tic Tac

Each ink color hits the paper and combines with another to create a mixture of the two colors. With four process inks, you can have up to 400% of the process colors on paper. That’s a lot of ink for a printing press to handle. The ink starts to clump up on the paper. The printer rolls become smudged. And pages start to stick together because the ink doesn’t dry properly.

Hence, it is important to make sure that the ink doesn’t exceed a certain amount called the ink limit. The ink limit changes depending on the type of paper you’re printing on, as well as the kind of press you’re using. Your print shop will keep you posted on the ink limit for your job (that’s why you need to involve them during the design stage).

TIC is the Total Ink Coverage, TAC is the Total Area Coverage

Whether the limits are 240% or 300%, it is easy to check and automatically reject the artwork if it exceeds the limits and return it to the designer.

3. WYSINWYG – “what you see is not what you get”!

Varnishes, metallic and fluorescent inks, print on foils and embossing are examples of a classic output mismatch – there’s no way you will get an accurate preview of these on a computer screen. While all these special print effects result in different finishes, the process of identifying these areas in the artworks is the same. Usually, organizations place the special finish as a separate layer in the artwork and create a special spot colour for this area so that the printer can easily identify the same.

With the help of pre-flight tools, the system can show the different layers individually so that everyone is sure on what’s required and where.

4. Key-Line Diagram or Cutter Guides:

The artwork dimensions are decided by the cutter guides. All variants with the same pack size could use the same cutter guide. Its good practise for designers to place the cutter guide as a separate layer in the artwork, so that they can check whether the artwork’s dimensions are correct. During print, this layer is switched off so that the dimensions don’t show up in print. Its required for verification, but not in the final print.

When the designer uploads an artwork, the system can list the individual layers and show the cutter guide layer used in the artwork.

5. Knockout and Overprint:

You may have overlapping colored objects in your PDF document, for example text or an image on a colored background. If so, you can specify what should happen with these colors when they are printed:
Knockout, meaning that the colors of the object in the foreground cut out the area underneath. In other words, the background color is erased and the resulting color will be the foreground color.

Overprint, meaning that the colors of the object are printed on top of the back­ground colors. The resulting color is a combination of the foreground and the background color.

The designer needs to know what the default settings are in the design tool (InDesign or Illustrator) and make the appropriate changes for the artwork being prepared. To avoid the special finish elements from knocking out other print plates, elements must be set to Overprint. This is crucial for spot varnishes that are meant to highlight underlying areas of the design, otherwise the varnish would be applied directly onto the paper.

It’s a good practise to create a separate layer in the artwork to identify these areas so that its clearly communicated to the printer. Artworks once prepared with this practise and uploaded into an Artwork System will list these special layers so that everyone can understand the design elements before approving the artwork.

In the next article, we will continue on pre-flight checks related to Fonts, Text and Line Width and how it cuts down errors and time.

Have some thoughts? Share right away!

Image Credits: Acrobat, Craigkunce.

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