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Print projects often start with a file, known as artwork. This file is essential and tells the printing machines what to print. If this is constructed correctly, then the end result should be what you were expecting. If, however, your artwork is not 100% accurate, then all manner of strange things can go wrong.

Here is our list of the top 10 artwork mishaps, and most importantly, how to avoid them:

10. Wrong colours

Have you ever printed a document with a printer, and the colour that comes back is totally wrong? If so, this was likely caused by your artwork file being set incorrectly. Printers use several methods to achieve colours, but they usually fall within two basic principles; Spot/Pantone colours or Process colours. If your file is set to process colours, when it should be Pantones, the colour will not print correctly and vice versa, no matter what the printer does. Getting the colours in your artwork set correctly will make a huge impact on the end result. Remember to check how your printer has quoted to print your job, typically full colour process unless you have requested spot/Pantone colours.

Pantone colour chart

9. No Bleed, white edges or poor cutting

Bleed is an area around the file, which is larger than the finished size of the printed item and will be trimmed off. If you produce an A5 leaflet that has no bleed, and you use images or backgrounds that run right to the edge, then you may end up with a line of blank white material around the edge of your document. This can be down to the tolerances of the trimming machines. By adding bleed to your document, normally between 3 and 5mm on all edges, this can be avoided, as any over or under cut will fall within the bleed area, and the images will continue to run happily right to the edge.

8. Text moving, fonts or characters changing and words disappearing!

This is a very common issue, and very simple to avoid. Designers should either outline or embed fonts they use in their artwork. Not every font will work at every printer, as it depends on the printer’s font collection containing the same versions as your designer’s. The best way to avoid this issue is to have an artwork file supplied, with fonts outlined or embedded. This transforms the letters and symbols into vector images, and therefore fonts are not required by the printer. This does limit the ability to change the document so keep a master copy, with the fonts not outlined or embedded, for future amendment.

7. Oops, folds in the wrong place

Folded printed items require space for pages to fold into. For example, a book has extra space on the bound edge, to allow the fold of the cover, so when you open the book, the text doesn’t disappear into the spine. Leaflets use a panel system so that when a page folds, the page stops short of the fold, allowing the finished leaflet to sit flat. It also makes the leaflet easier to open, by allowing a few millimetres for a thumb to slide under the edge of the first fold. The easiest way to avoid this issue is to ask your printer for a template or dimensions for margins, bleed and fold lines. Follow these, and your panels will all be in the right place.

6. Image Issues

Images bring documents to life and can project a powerful message. Still, many issues occur within artwork files that impact on the images printability or appearance, and most are easy to avoid. Image colours need to be CMYK or spot colour tints, depending on the design, and not RGB (this is for screen/PC use only, websites, etc). These images will print, but the colours will look very different to your intended effect. Also, make sure that all images are a high print resolution (300dpi or higher), otherwise they will look all pixelated, and out of focus. Getting images right in your artwork can make a huge difference to the quality and end result of your printed marketing materials.

5. Finished size of the document is not correct

Many designers supply files larger, or smaller, than the intended finished printed item. This is not a fundamental issue as files can be re-sized before being printed. The issue lies with the content. If an A4 file is supplied to print an A5 document, it has to be scaled down by 50%. This can leave text and images looking very small. A5 to A4 can also cause issues as this reduces the resolution of the file, unless the images are vectors. Supplying a file at the correct size for your print job will reduce these issues, and will be beneficial to the finished results.

4. Errors in the text, type errors or omissions

Any good printer will supply you with proofs. These can be delivered on screen (via PDFs), or as printed copies. These, however, should be a final check for layout and not a time to proof read the document. Make sure that your artwork has been proof read before sending it to the printer, and extra costs and time delays can be avoided.

3. Clipping masks, cropping and blocked out areas

Although there is no reason not to use clipping masks, cropping and blocked out areas, if done incorrectly, they can impact on the effect your finished project may have. Make sure that when you use these, that you crop shadows to avoid strange lines appearing under your images. The less of these you can use for each item, the better. Masks on top of masks are not a good idea, as every new mask is a new possible issue. Keep it simple.

2. Margins and safe areas

Not allowing enough space between the edge of the finished printed item and the start of the content can cause some serious problems. Text or images being chopped off or text disappearing into folds are common symptoms of this. All these issues can have a serious, negative impact on the aesthetic nature of your document, and as a consequence, on its impact. Check with your printer for recommended margins and safe zones if you have any doubts.

1. Not supplying a print ready file

A print ready artwork file is critical to the production of your printed project. Without this, the printer cannot produce the effect you desire. Our top 10 biggest issue is that clients supply files produced from software that is not designed for print artworking, such as Microsoft Office. As such, these documents have issues that reduce the quality of the finished file or even prevent us from printing it altogether. Getting a professional artwork file can save a lot of time, money and disappointment and is well worth the investment of a graphic designer, if you don’t have access to the software yourself.

So, there you have it, our top 10 artwork mishaps and how to avoid them. In short, don’t let your print suffer because the file you have supplied is not 100% accurate. Getting the basics right can make a big difference to the success and quality of your printed project, and as a result, the image of your business.

Speak with a professional design, print and marketing agency today, and eliminate your printing woes!