Preparing Graphic Files for Offset Printing

By Peter Kirkham, writer
Jun 21, 2010
Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images

How you can supply artwork to your printer & save a bundle

 Insider secrets from a Printing Expert that could save you a substantial amount of money, time & stress.   

Company printing costs can be seriously reduced by supplying artwork to your printer, however there are many potholes for the uninitiated to fall into if they lack the knowledge & expertise to create graphic files correctly. 

Graphic files need to created the correct way from the start, saved within specific parameters, contain graphics of suitable resolution and presented to the printer in a suitable file type. 

A printer who receives a graphic file for offset printing and that has not been created or saved in the right fashion, is more than likely to hand it back along with a subtle comment something along the lines of  “I cannot work with this file, it’s crap” 

Alternatively a less experienced printer may accept the file as ready to print then print your job only to be told by the customer that there’s type missing, the formatting has changed, pictures have disappeared, etc, etc. 

Or the printer may offer to fix the file for a substantial amount of money in which case it may have been more cost effective to have it done professionally in the first place. 

Rule of thumb is anything file created in any Microsoft software is not suitable for offset printing.

                     Learn more about Offset Printing.

Files from Paint, Word, Powerpoint & Publisher simply cannot be used for a number of reasons.  In my experience most people do not understand this basic issue.  Here are the primary issues - 

  • These programs create the files in a low resolution format which is fine for viewing on screen or printing to a laser printer or inkjet printer.

  • The files are created in RGB (red, green & blue) which once again is fine for viewing or network printing but if your wanting to print the job CMYK (four colour process printing) the colours will look dull & flat.

  • If your job is to be printed spot colour (premixed ink to match a colour), any graphic files from Microsoft cannot be separated into individual. For example, if a logo is designed to print two colours, those colours cannot be extracted separately from the file and therefore cannot be printed as separate colours.
Lets now have a look at some files that are commonly used for transporting artwork.  
TIFF –           Tagged Image File Format 
GIF –             Graphic Interchange Format 
JPEG –        Joint Photographic Experts Group 
BMP –          Bitmap File 
EPS –           Encapsulated Post Script 
PDF –            Portable Document File 
PSD –           Photoshop File   

It’s possible to print all these files to a laser printer or inkjet printer that can be found in the average office however EPS and PSD files require particular software not normally found on an office network printer. 

TIFF’s, GIF’s, JPEG’s & BMP’s cannot be colour separated so they are useless for offset printing in spot colour. They can be used for four colour process printing however the colours will print dull & flat. 

                   Learn more about  4 Colour Process Printing

EPS Vector files & PSD files are generally used by graphic designers and prepress, within the printing industry as they are the preferred file type.  
A vector file is one that retains its resolution as the output size increases whereas a “non-vector” file will reduce in resolution in direct proportion to the increase in physical size. 

In other words, a 300dpi non-vector file of 30mm x 30mm physical size will reduce in resolution to 150dpi at a physical size of 60mm x 60mm.   

An EPS created in Photoshop is a vector file.  Over recent years the PDF has become the file format which can be used by amateurs and professionals alike as virtually any document can be saved as a PDF from just about any software, including Microsoft.   

PDF’s now stand as the workflow format of the future.

For more insider tips & proven methods for saving money, time & stress on company printing, download our FREE Printing Guide.
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