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Preparing your art files for print

Production artwork must be created using standard graphic arts software such as, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, or Quark Xpress. We can accept the native files from these programs to output your job. Packaged files from InDesign or Quark are preferred. High-res PDF files properly exported to our specifications can also work, but PDF files cannot be modified, corrected, reformatted or resized. If we need to edit your file for any reason, it is better to submit your file in its native format, along with all associated fonts and images. The final product should have the following characteristics:

  • All images should be saved as CMYK files, compatible with a four-color press.
  • All spot colors should be converted to CMYK (process) colors. Solid blacks should be a “rich black” composed of 50C/50M/30Y/100K for increased saturation and durability
  • Files should have crop marks
  • Files should have bleed.

A rule of thumb is ½”–1′ in your file, although some outdoor products require additional bleed to accommodate pockets or other finishing considerations. The scale of your artwork also helps to determine an appropriate amount of bleed. When in doubt, do not be afraid to include excess bleed—unneeded material will simply be trimmed off. There are several things to consider when deciding how to do your mechanical. The elements being included in your artwork will largely determine which is most appropriate. Primarily vector art and type Quark, InDesign and Illustrator will keep your file size from being unnecessarily large and keep the vector elements crisp and clean. If only a small portion of your art is comprised of raster elements, bringing them into one of these programs will keep your file size down and make it easier to work with. Quark and InDesign are made specifically for production and offer certain conveniences in preparing your file, such as automatic crop marks and image analysis capability. Primarily photographic images Although artwork consisting mostly of photographic images can also be composed by bringing elements into Quark, InDesign or Illustrator, many people find it more convenient to work in Photoshop. However, this will create a larger file size that may be more difficult to work with. Scale Production art for outdoor media is rarely prepared at full size, due to their larger print size. As with all production, your mechanical can be created to any scale as long as it is in proportion. However, a critical element to keep in mind when composing your file is how to calculate the output resolution based upon the mechanical scale. Because you are likely to work at less than full scale, you will need to calculate the final effective resolution to make sure your files are big enough. For example, in a mechanical scaled to 1″ = 1′, the image resolution in your mechanical file should be divided by 12 to determine the effective resolution for final output since it will be output at 12 times the size.

rint production specifications
Resolution

Image resolution is one of the most important aspects of your mechanical. It is measured in ppi (pixels per inch), otherwise known as dpi (dots per inch). These two terms are used interchangeably. The resolution is the result of taking the pixel dimensions of an image or document, and distributing it over a physical area. The resolution of a document or file changes as the available pixels are distributed over a larger or smaller area (for example, when they are scaled, cropped or enlarged for printing). The dpi/ppi will change depending upon how many inches (or feet) the image will have to cover. Vector elements, vector gradients, live type and outlined fonts are composed of point-topoint renderings and are infinitely scalable. However, raster images have a fixed resolution and need to be of adequate size to accommodate output for large format printers. Unfortunately the native resolution of a raster image is somewhat fixed, and raster images cannot really be enlarged without compromising quality. For this reason, from a production standpoint, vector elements, if available, are always preferable to a raster conversion. The type of signage you are producing will determine the target (final output) resolution you will need to plan for:

  • Outdoor (billboards, Ecoposters, etc.): a minimum effective resolution of 18-25 ppi at full printed size.
Print poduction
Packaging your job for production

Different software requires different methods for insuring your job is ready for output. Quark or InDesign You must gather fonts, images and other associated files that are not imbedded in your file using the “Collect for Output” (Quark) or “Package” (InDesign) command in the file menu so that your job can be sent with all the files necessary to output it somewhere else. Use the Links palette to determine resolution of raster images by dividing the effective resolution by the scale you are using. Illustrator Create cropmarks, as well as outlines (vector art) of all fonts. Use Links palette to determine resolution of placed images via Photoshop, or the Document Info palette to assess embedded images. Make sure to divide the effective resolution in your file by the scale you have chosen for your artwork. Photoshop Remember to include bleed and create cropmarks. Bleeds of up to .125” and their cropmarks can be created in the Print with Preview menu (under “Show More Options” and the Output option); for larger bleeds, crops may be added manually. Use Image Size menu option to determine file resolution. Save as a TIFF file with LZW compression.

Preparing your file for printing
  • Remember, you must scale your artwork in proportion. Art does not need to be prepared at full size.
  • Name your file using alpha-numeric characters only (no symbols or special characters), which are more likely to be accepted by an FTP server when uploading, and avoid using spaces (underscores are an acceptable alternative).
  • Try to name the file something descriptive that can be easily identified with the job so that the printer doesn’t have problems locating it on their server. Names that refer to the client, copy line and/or size are ideal.
  • Compress (or “zip”) your files before sending, making sure to include all relevant images and font files.
  • If a set of files is very large (more than 300 MB), consider breaking it up into smaller files to reduce transmission times and errors.
  • There are various methods of sending your large files, including FTP, uploads via a printer’s website or desktop application, and free file sharing programs such as Send- Space, YouSendIt and Dropbox. Your printer will tell you which way they prefer to receive your files. Overage Due to exposure, overage is required for many outdoor media forms. The exact amount needed depends upon the type of media and the environment where it will be posted. For planning purposes, a range is provided below; please contact your outdoor provider for specifics. Vinyl bulletins: 0% Ecoposters: 5%-10% 8-sheets: 10% Transit (bus, rail and subway interiors and exteriors): 15%-100% per four-week period Street Furniture (bus shelters, magazine racks, urban panels, kiosks): 10%-25% per four-week period Mall kiosks, airport dioramas: 0% Getting a quote In order to get accurate pricing for your printed posters, you will need to know how many pieces (including overage) you need to produce, the size, material you are printing on and finishing specifics (varnish, grommets, pockets, etc.), and shipping details (method, time frame and zip codes) for the type of outdoor media you are producing. Proofing There are several kinds of proofs available to review your artwork before printing. Some are more accurate with regard to color than others.
  • Online PDF proofs are convenient, and good for checking that all the elements are there, as well as to make sure that everything is falling within the safety areas. However, the color on these proofs may appear differently depending upon the calibration of your computer monitor and/or the printer you use in your office. If precise color is critical to your job, this is not the best proof to use.
  • Epson/match print inkjet proofs are hard copy proofs that will give a fairly accurate view of the colors that will be reproduced on your final printed piece. There may be a cost associated with these proofs, and they are not printed on the press your job will be printed on, but output from a proof printer.
  • A hard copy press proof (or “mini-proof) can be made on the press that will be used to print your job, using the same inks and materials. This is the most accurate way to assess the actual color as it will appear on your printed piece. However, there is generally a cost associated with these proofs, and they take time to produce. Printing substrates and inks A number of different materials are used to print out-of-home, depending upon the type of media, exposure, and local or municipal requirements. Examples include PVC flex vinyl, polyethylene, paper, self adhesive vinyl, mesh, backlit vinyl, styrene and opaline, among others. In most cases, UV inks and/or varnishes are used to offer protection from outdoor exposure. Your printer or outdoor sales representative will be familiar with these materials, and can provide guidance on what should be used. Shipping Most printers ship within two to four days from the approval of your proof, and provide shipping notifications and tracking of your printed pieces.

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