Prepress Resources

When preparing a project for printing perfection, there are several moving parts, checklists, and details to consider. From ensuring all work is created with the proper CMYK or spot colors to meeting all expectations for file formats or sizes, the resources below include tips and tricks to make your print solutions efficient and consistent across all materials.

These specifications do not cover every situation. If you have any questions about these standards, please feel free to contact us before submitting your files and we will be happy to work with you and explain exactly what we need to ensure the highest quality product possible for you.

General

To ensure that Graphcom can provide you with the highest quality print solutions, we ask that you review and apply the following standards and concepts when submitting your files.

Color

  • Graphcom is a G7® Colorspace Master qualified production facility.
  • All files are converted to the GRACoL2013_CRPC6.icc CMYK color space for production.
    • We recommend you use this color space profile for your production.
    • These color profiles and Adobe color settings file are freely available at from IDEAlliance.
  • CMYK is the preferred color mode for file submission.
  • RGB color is accepted.
    • Note that RGB color exceeds reproducible color for most print devices. Bright, vivid, saturated color in RGB image/art is subject to color gamut compression, converting the out of gamut color into a device’s printable color space. This conversion/compression leads to what is many times referred to as duller or washed out color. This does not mean your product will be dull, they will be produced at the maximum vibrancy printable. Our color proofs should reflect this conversion adequately. Hard copy sample proofs will provide the most accurate representation.
  • Media (Stock, Paper) Color Performance
    • Offset (conventional):
      • Coated media reproduces the brightest color gamut.
      • Uncoated media color reproduction is duller and cannot provide an exact match to some “bright/saturated” colors, produced on coated media.
    • Digital (many methods)
      • Coated or ridged media will reproduce the brightest color.
      • Uncoated media on many digital devices can reproduce brighter color than conventional offset print on similar media. Some, like aqueous inkjet, cannot.
  • Matching Color between print processes and/or media.
    • Exact matches between differing processes and/or media may not be possible.
    • As an example, you can only match color to the lowest color gamut device (printer) and media combination used. If printing a vibrant blue on a digital printer with coated media, you will not likely be able to print a matching vibrant blue with offset uncoated media. You may be able to match the color hue but not saturation or density. However, the opposite of this scenario is possible. The duller color printed on uncoated media could be matched on coated media in most cases.
    • Please discuss color matching between printing processes and differing media with your Graphcom Project Manager early in your project planning.
  • Color critical work
    • Please discuss color matching between printing processes and differing media with your Graphcom Project Manager early in your project planning.
    • Please ensure all color critical work files are built consistently with proper CMYK or spot colors. File elements that are intended to color match, but built with mixed color modes (RGB, CMYK, and spot), may not convert consistently and may require longer production times and billable production work. This includes native color swatches and settings, as well as those embedded in links.
    • PDF/X-4 is preferred for color critical work.

Color–Pantone & Pantone Matching

  • Please build files with default Pantone Coated (C) or Uncoated (U) spot color swatches for our systems to provide the best color match for each printing process. This allows Graphcom production operators to find and target your intended color usage. Our production systems will convert Pantone spot color to Pantone Bridge process color mixes as specified.
  • DO NOT alter default Pantone swatch color names.
  • DO NOT alter the color of Pantone spot color swatches in your design application. This will not alter the Pantone color produced. If your intention is a custom mixed process color loosely based off of a Pantone color, please alter the name of the swatch and set the swatch to process color.

Coatings and Dies (used for special finishes and processes)

  • Dielines for Cuts, Scores, Foil, or Embossing, and/or coating separations such as Varnish and UV Coatings can be referred to as technical inks.
  • These dielines and separations can be supplied by the designer or created by Graphcom per supplied specification.
  • Please set all technical inks as spot colors, named similarly to their intended process (i.e. Name a die cut key line: Die Cut). Contact your Graphcom Project Manager for a current list of Graphcom’s technical ink names to streamline your production success.
  • Overprinting: Technical inks are required to have overprint applied. This prevents the ink below from knocking out (disappearing) on your separations.
  • All die and finishing separation art must be built as vector art. Rasterized art used to create a separation will need to be traced manually or auto traced. Loss of detail or alignment offsets may occur.
  • Supply these separations to Graphcom in a single PDF and/or native file.
    • If appropriately named technical inks are used in your production file, as described above, your production PDF can, and is preferred to be, supplied as a single PDF file containing finishing separations and printing art instead of separate print, die cut, UV coating, etc… PDF files.

Art Layout & Production Templates

  • Supply all final art as individual pieces, not imposed or on art boards larger than the product dimension + bleed + crop marks. Graphcom will impose files as needed. Unless you are supplied a template or conflicting instruction to this rule.
  • We prefer that you use templates provided by Graphcom for custom cutting and folding to avoid late term corrections to final files. Unvalidated templates from 3rd party sources may not account for our requirements to seamlessly run your product through our software, machinery, and the process built into your production estimate. Seemingly minor differences can cause late term delays, errors and require new estimation to account for inefficient machinery and flow requirements necessary for layout to work as supplied.
  • Graphcom’s prepress dept may be required to strip the art from your supplied template and place into a production template. This does take additional production time after file submission.
  • Graphcom can sometimes alter 3rd party templates to work inside our production systems, but this may require additional production time and is not always possible.

Resolution

  • Photo/graphic effective resolutions of 300 ppi are preferred for high quality printing. Any effective resolution below 150 ppi (sign production requirement may be as low as 72 ppi, depending on viewing distance) is subject to additional approval before final production to acknowledge possible low quality reproduction.
  • Note: Effective resolution is the final resolution after an image (photo or other pixel-based art) has been scaled larger or smaller, not just the file’s native resolution at 100% size.
  • High resolution PDF export settings DO NOT make low effective resolution images (photo or other pixel-based art) high resolution. These settings only ensure the resolution of high quality images are not reduced to unacceptable amounts during optimization. Low resolution content remains low resolution.
  • In applications such as Quark or Illustrator set drop shadow and/or effects settings to 300 ppi. (minimum 150 ppi).

Native Design Files (Adobe, Quark, Microsoft)

  • Create new with or verify existing design files have the bleed size set in the document setup or are created with bleed integrated into the file dimension before PDF export.
  • When submitting native design files, please provide a full package with fonts and links using the design applications built-in packaging function.
  • Fonts are necessary for Photoshop text editing and in current versions of Photoshop, links may be needed if we are required to edit your file. Photoshop now has a package function, but will only collect linked files, fonts are not collected.
  • Microsoft Office native files:
    • Please submit fonts, along with Microsoft Office files (Word, PowerPoint, etc…) to avoid font substitution when output to PDF.
    • Word and PowerPoint have a function to embed an entire font for portable editing or a subset for production submission. Submitting the font separately or entirely embedded are the two best options if production editing is expected by a Graphcom production department.
  • Please remove unused design elements from art boards before submission or packaging, especially those elements containing fonts or linked images/art.
  • Please correct all overset text before file submission or packaging.

Bleed

  • Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office documents do not have a separate bleed setup. Create these documents at larger than desired size by adding the required bleed to the desired final file size.
  • Products have different bleed requirements, see the product sections below for more specific instruction

Trim Safety Area

  • Any text or graphics should be inset from the final trim edge of your design. This is to prevent required text or graphics of your final product from being unintentionally cut off or punctured during production finishing.
  • The safety requirement may be different, based on the product being created. See the individual sections below for requirements.

Fonts

  • Graphcom does not store customers’ fonts for editing later projects.
  • Project fonts are expected to be submitted with each design package or separately for editing Microsoft Office, PDF or any other file format that does not create production file packages.
  • We may optionally use a Graphcom owned font to apply required edits, but our font version may not contain matching or full character set of your original font.
  • We take great care to match original typesetting, but mismatched font versions may not match character size, baseline, leading, kerning, or other aspects required for matching. If a mismatch is recognized, we will communicate the problem and request the original font to be submitted to complete the edit.
  • We will not “harvest” other customers fonts submitted for their projects to edit another customer’s document. Fonts are legally licensed software that must be provided by the owner to be used on a specific document or project.
  • Graphcom must own a proper license for the font, that allows for the required usage, to edit files that do not have fonts supplied.

PDF corrections

  • PDF should be considered a final file that should not require any alteration aside from general prepress conversion operations.
  • PDF editing can be performed with varying tools, but the format is not recommended for extensive edits or use as a master design file. Native design applications and files are more precise for editing, especially for type/copy and native file may be requested if prepress determines alteration is too complex or not possible. Extra time may be incurred if PDF needs to be rebuilt in a native format to complete alteration.
  • Corrections to any type/copy may require us to request the original font used in the document as most PDFs only contain the font characters already used in the PDF, not a full copy of the font. This is called Character or font subsetting when exporting a PDF. An entire copy of a font can be embedded for later edits but can create extremely large PDFs with all of the extra data embedded.

Production-Ready PDF

  • General requirement
    • Always export PDF with bleed. Some products require different amount of bleed. See specific requirements in the following sections.
    • Crop/Trim marks are requested for some production. See specific requirements in the following sections.
    • DO NOT include bleed marks, registration marks, or color bars on production-ready PDFs.
    • Preferred to have unflattened transparency for editability.
    • Do not add PDF annotation for instruction or to alter your production PDF. If annotation is required for any reason, please inform Graphcom at file submission or submit a separate PDF as a design key with annotations for instruction.
  • PDF/X-4
    • Preferred PDF type. Use PDF/X-4 export Settings for flexible production.
    • DO NOT flatten transparency during export or on native files or links.
  • PDF/X-1a
    • Acceptable.
    • Difficult or impossible to apply late stage edits. Native file or new PDF submission may be requested if corrections are required.
    • Files are forced to CMYK, which may reduce color gamut for some digital printing devices.
  • Distilled postscript to PDF
    • Acceptable.
    • At best this will create a PDF/X-1a file as described above.
    • Note on postscript output: While it is an older and generally acceptable output method to output/print to postscript and create a PDF with Acrobat Distiller, Graphcom prefers PDF files that are directly output with native transparency (PDF/X-4) to optimize production output. The postscript output method renders difficult to correct PDFs with flattened transparency and many times no defined PDF page boxes. If supplied correctly, these files are accurate and acceptable, but may require longer production times or may not be able to be adjusted and require new files to be submitted if correction is necessary.
  • Other nonstandard PDF formats
    • PDF is an open format and not all features of PDF are compatible with print production.
    • Other Adobe built-in PDF presets. Other presets than our preferred types above may produce acceptable production-ready PDFs but may require prepress file correction. Others may produce poor color or impossibility to match between products, and some may produce poor image quality.

Offset and Digital

We ask that you understand and adhere to these additional standards and concepts when submitting your files for offset or digital print production:

Color

  • Files, including Image/art links are preferred to be set in CMYK color space.
  • Linked photos are acceptable in RGB.
  • DO NOT use the swatch “Registration” for black.

Color—Pantone

  • Offset print production uses the Pantone Color Bridge system to match Pantone Solid Coated and Uncoated inks to process color.
  • Your process color job (i.e. 4/4 color) built with Pantone Solid Coated and Uncoated color will be converted to Pantone Color Bridge process color formulas for production, except where Pantone Solid color is specified to be used (i.e. 5/4 color).
  • Digital printing only prints in process color. Pantone spot color is converted to its closest process color match available for the printing method used.
  • See “File Submission Guidelines–General” section for Pantone swatch usage in your design file.

Trim Safety Area

  • Any text or graphics should be inset a minimum of 0.125” (1/8 inch) from the final trim edge of your design.

Bleed

  • Include at least 0.125” (1/8 inch) bleed on all sides.

Production-Ready PDF

  • Please review all requirements in General section.
  • Crop marks are preferred, but not required.
  • Prefer PDF/X-4

Fabric, Flags, & Floors

We ask that you understand and adhere to these additional standards and concepts when submitting your files for fabric, flag, or floor production:

Design/Art Files

  • Utilize vector art (bézier curve/ line based art) when possible to allow for high quality scaling of your design if necessary.

Color

  • Files, including graphic links are acceptable in CMYK or RGB color space.

Color–Pantone

  • Build your design files with Pantone spot color swatches to achieve the best match to that color. Do not convert the swatch to process color.
  • Digital printing only prints in process color. Pantone spot color is converted to its closest process color match available for the printing method used.
  • See “File Submission Guidelines–General” section for Pantone swatch usage in your design file.

Color–Neon

  • Neon colors are available for fabric production upon request. Please discuss neon color availability and application with your Graphcom Project Manager.

Resolution

  • Raster art (Photoshop or other pixel based art) files should be created to be 300 ppi or greater at 100% of final size.

Trim safety area

  • Standard posters, smaller banners, and signs: Any text or graphics should be inset a minimum of 0.5” (1/2 inch) from the final trim edge of your design.
  • Grommeted banners: Any text or graphics should be inset a minimum of 1” (1 inch) from the final trim edge of your design.
  • These insets only represent a minimum to prevent production trim errors. The suggested inset will vary by product, design, and content to achieve the best visual balance for your finished product. Contact us for any suggestions to achieve the optimal visual layout for your design.

Bleed (Hem)

  • Include at least 0.5” (1/2 inch) bleed on all sides. Graphcom production will apply additional hem adjustment as needed per product.

Design Scale

  • Floors and Props–Art Setup
    • Please size your artwork to a scale of 1 inch equals 1 foot (1″=1′)

Native Design Files for Production

  • We prefer receiving native design files for production including layered, unflattened Photoshop files.
  • When submitting native design files, please provide a full package with fonts and links.

Production Ready PDF

  • Prefer PDF/X-4
  • DO NOT include crop marks, bleed marks, registration marks, or color bars.
  • DO NOT flatten transparency.

Signs

We ask that you understand and adhere to these additional standards and concepts when submitting your files for signage print production:

Color–Pantone

  • Build your design files with Pantone spot color swatches to achieve the best match to that color. Do not convert the swatch to process color.
  • Digital printing only prints in process color. Pantone spot color is converted to its closest process color match available for the printing method used.
  • See “File Submission Guidelines–General” section for Pantone swatch usage in your design file.

Resolution

  • For most signage a minimum of 72 ppi to maximum of 150 ppi are preferred resolutions. The lower resolutions can be acceptable due to further viewing distance.
  • Smaller POP displays, signs, and posters may require resolutions up to 300 ppi due to closer viewing distance.

Trim safety area

  • Standard posters, smaller banners, and signs: Any text or graphics should be inset a minimum of 0.5” (1/2 inch) from the final trim edge of your design.
  • Grommeted banners: Any text or graphics should be inset a minimum of 1” (1 inch) from the final trim edge of your design.
  • These insets only represent a minimum to prevent production trim errors. The suggested inset will vary by product, design, and content to achieve the best visual balance for your finished product. Contact us for any suggestions to achieve the optimal visual layout for your design.

Bleed (Hem)

  • Include at least 0.25” (1/4 inch) bleed on all sides.
  • Large banners that need hems and grommets, please include 1” of bleed on all sides.

Design Scale

  • For large format signage: to keep file sizes/upload and download times manageable, please feel free to work in scale as opposed to working actual size. (If a scale is used, please specify in file name.) Example: MillersBeer_360x48_TenthScale. (This tells us the file is 36”x4.8” and needs to be printed at 1000% to achieve desired size.)

Cut Lines/paths

  • Set all cut line/paths as a spot color swatch set to overprint.
  • Name the swatch “CutContour”.

Native Design Files

  • Native design files may be requested for production.
  • When submitting native design files, please provide a full package with fonts and links.
  • If submitting native files, please provide a second copy with ALL FONTS CONVERTED TO OUTLINES/PATHS.

Production Ready PDF

  • Prefer PDF/X-4
  • DO NOT include crop marks, bleed marks, registration marks, or color bars.
  • DO NOT flatten transparency.

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