“Camera Ready” Artwork

by Brad “the printer”

Prepress, Action, Print

Eight years ago I started a print shop in Fort Myers, Florida. Minuteman Press-Printing.

Technology was really not affecting our daily lives at the rate that it does today.  Cell phones did not have cameras; AOL was the big browser, and most everyone who had a desktop/laptop computer used a telephone driven dial-up modem to access the internet.  Desktop publishing although around was not as widely used as it is today.

Today people access the internet on their phones, tablets and laptops.  Everyone has access to various types of desktop publishing software.  People do their print designs and email their print companies to print flyer, postcards, brochures and business cards.  Pictures are “Googled” and downloaded. People are becoming are becoming “designers” who often use low-end to midrange desktop publishing software.

Print shops now have to deal with files that are not camera ready.  Just because it looks good to the customer on their computer screen does not mean the file is “camera ready” for professional printing.  Nowadays your printer is faced with any number of customer software types and file extensions including various Microsoft, Adobe, Corel, etc. and other word processing software’s.  One of the most universal types of files is the Portable Document File (PDF). Overall, a PDF is a good way of providing your printer with a manageable file for print.  However, this only works if the artwork is correctly setup.   The main issues are usually:

  • missing fonts
  • lack of accounting for bleeds
  • low resolution pictures
  • attempting to fit as much graphics and text as the dimensions of the pages can seemingly fit.

This is usually demonstrated by placing text directly on the cut lines, not allowing for the small deviations (bounce) that happen during the print process.  Print becomes cutoff during the bindery process. Also the folds, if required, can be off if the artwork is not accounting for the folds.

A PDF file can also scramble when being brought into other software, in particular Corel Draw used by a significant amount of print and sign shops.  Fonts are often an issue.  It is a continuing challenge for the printer/graphics person to have access to every font possibly available to the non-designers and others without graphic design experience. Hundreds are continually being created. It is impossible for printers to have them all.  Whenever sending a file to your printer, you should send your fonts packaged with the artwork file, if you cannot send the fonts, set the file to curves so that fonts are not required.  More importantly, just because you pdf a file created in another software does not mean that the file is printable.  An example is a Word file.  Text boxes are visible on solid backgrounds and colors may not match.  Bleeds are usually incorrect.  In general print and sign shops do not accept files that are Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.  JPEG’s are acceptable if they are setup correctly and are high resolution.  However these files are not easily editable.

Print customers often submit files that they try and setup up to maximize the use of a particular size of paper.  In general the file does not allow for bleeds and bindery.  They also do not account for correct dimensions or allow setup of the number of images up on a sheet of paper.  An example would be a business card in Publisher.  Printers/graphics will do their own setups using their own software designed to accomplish correct setups for the copier or the offset press.

Everyday more and more print shops turn away work because they do not support Microsoft files.  In general, it is that they involve a significant amount of graphic / prepress time that requires additional cost for both the customer and the printer.

So with the ever increasing advance of consumer based technology to everyone, it is important to remember files may not be “camera ready”.