The key to successfully completing printed projects is communication. Each job has its own set of requirements between the designer, paper merchant, and printer. It’s always a good idea to begin early on in the design process with your paper rep. As a paper rep, we can help you select the best paper stock to fit your job’s requirements including environmental attributes, availability (really important if it’s a smaller run), and budget while maintaining the integrity of your design. We’ll provide you with samples and promotions, dummies, and printing tips (for free) – we just ask that when you send the job out for print quotes that you specify the paper merchant you want them to quote and purchase the paper from.
Choosing a Printer
Print reps love to show their samples – look at them. I mean really look at them – are there any critical areas in the sample and how did they do it? Ask them for samples if you are thinking about using a certain print technique. Ask about specifics: line screen, bindery equipment, proofing systems, digital capabilities. Tour the press room, see how organized they are, check for things like temperature and humidity control – ask about quality control methods.
Releasing the Project
Since you have created an original project, you need to define your expectations – clearly. Talk about important parts of the project and show examples of results you expect. Ask for a production schedule including a timeline for receiving proofs, when they need to be returned, press date and delivery dates.
Make sure the printer knows your paper specs: grade, color, weight, and finish – every part of that job is based on your paper selection, from prepress through bindery.
Ask about the types of proofs you’ll receive, digital proofs are great if you are on a tight deadline and need to save money. What about inks? If your working with a special ink or color match is crucial, ask for ink drawdowns – make sure its on the paper stock you’ll be using – showing any respective coatings on the drawdowns as well. Coatings can affect the ink shade.
Confirms your dates, ask for a finished sample for your approval before the job ships. Make sure to specify packing instructions with addresses and carrier info.
Whenever possible, its always a good idea to get all communication in writing – ask for a follow up email if you’ve had a conversation about a change, and don’t forget to ask for an estimate before making changes.
You’ve done your due diligence - have final proofs, original artwork, and ink swatches/drawdowns – use those to check against on press. Make sure you have a loupe, and take your time. Sign and date three sheets – one for you, the printer, and the client. Ask the printer to slip sheet a complete set for you to take. Some areas to note:
Solids – all inks should be laying down smoothly. Densities should be even cross the sheet and match between forms. Check by eye and densitometer. Look for mottling.
Images – are they dark or plugged in? Look at the dot gain targets and dot shape; check the type for crisp edges.
Position – rule out a sheet with trims and scores. Have the sheet folded and trimmed to size. Make sure it’s backed properly and the crossovers line up.
Registration – are color overlapping, causing a dark line, not touching, causing the paper to show? Look at the targets, the edges of images, any knock out and screened type.
Color Match – compare the proof and ink swatches to the press sheet. For color and crossovers, have the printer cut the sheet for flat, side by side comparison. Rely on the experience of the press operator and production manager for color shift options. Move one color at a time and make sure to note any moves on the press sheet. Examine important areas of color – especially flesh tones. Remember color on press may never exactly match the color proof – the goal should be to make the images look as good as possible. Ask about dry back.
Check for flaws like broken type, hickies, blade streaks, spots, and ghosting.
Review for overall impact and legibility. They key to success on press is communication. Make sure your printer knows your expectations and you understand their capabilities.