These days computers come with lots of pre-installed software. Word processing programs for creating documents. Layout programs for creating templates. Drawing and art programs that enable you to design things. Photo editing software to manipulate images. Download a few apps and you can even go mobile with them. But software alone hardly makes someone capable of designing pieces properly for print purposes. Some people go to school for years to learn it. Others learn by working under the supervision of experienced designers.
One of the most common problems we come across in this business is clients providing art which is not camera ready. The term “camera ready” means that a document is, from a technical standpoint, ready to be printed. The requirements will differ from one printing company to the next based upon their software and hardware setup, but for our digital environment here at Kwik Kopy Printing in DC it means:
1. it is created with the right software
2. colors are set up properly
3. the document setup and size is exactly as it is to be printed
4. all fonts are embedded (or they are converted to paths/outlines)
If art is not camera-ready, one of us (either you or us) will need to get it ready! And that is not always easy. Let’s talk about each element and see if you can create camera-ready art on your own…
1. The Right Software
Documents created with word processing software such as Microsoft Word are never camera-ready. Open up the same document on 2 different computers and you’ll see what I mean. Formatting can be completely different from one to the next. One way to make your Word document camera-ready is to use a standard font and print it to your .pdf driver. Once it is converted, have a look at every page on your screen. This is how your document should look when printed.
Of course this is just a work-around. If you really want to design things that are camera-ready, we recommend you start using programs like those found in the Adobe Creative Suite (e.g., Illustrator, InDesign) and stop using Microsoft Office programs.
Your computer monitor displays colors in RGB format. When you look at your computer monitor, you are seeing a mix of Red, Green and Blue (RGB). The problem is, high-quality digital presses such as our Konica c7000 use the CMYK system with Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.
Making things even more difficult, RGB is a device-dependent color model, meaning that different monitors will display the same art differently. So, unless you have experience with RGB to CMYK conversions and spot colors, your final product will likely look different than what you saw on your monitor.
3. Document size and setup
Your document needs to be set up in the exact size and orientation as it will be printed. So, for example, if you are designing a business card, creating it on a letter size sheet will not work. For a standard size card your document size should be 2 inches by 3.5 inches. Also, if you’re going to print a tri-fold brochure, the panel measurements must be set up right. And this doesn’t mean they are simply each 1/3 of a sheet. You have to factor in fold lengths and other factors.
Plus, if your art is supposed to bleed, you must extend it 0.125 inches and also leave a 0.125 inch trim area so it is not affected during cutting. Yes, we cut things! (It’s pretty neat.) Document set ups and bleed and trim areas aren’t easy concepts to grasp quickly, or to use in practice.
They may be last on our list, but fonts are a really big problem when it comes to client-provided art. There are thousands of fonts out there, and more are created every day. There are different fonts (and variations of fonts) on just about every machine. If you create a Word document on your computer with a particular font and then try to open your document on a computer that doesn’t have that font installed (such as the one at your print shop), the second machine will often substitute a font. The result is the document can change completely. Your 12 page perfect booklet just became a 13 page debacle!
This is why you need to either: (1) embed/include all fonts in the art package you submit; or (2) convert all fonts to paths. By doing the latter you essentially change each letter into an outlined image, eliminating the need to have the font installed. Are you still with me? Be honest. If you’re still there I could lose you here: the easiest way to submit a camera-ready file is to create it in accordance with the standards outlined in PDF/X-1a. If you have Adobe Acrobat 7 or higher, your Adobe Distiller can easily create a PDF/X-1a file.
Now that you’ve heard some of the difficulties in creating camera-ready art, are you going to be sending us a file you created in Word? 🙂 Of course you will! But at least now you know why we’re going to need much more time to finish your job, and we may need to charge you to properly set up your art for printing.
As always, we’re happy to help you with the design of anything you’d like to create. You’d be pleasantly surprised at our rates for professional graphic design.