File Preparation / bleeds

Who wants to talk about file preparation…specifically bleeds? Let’s talk.

The internet is full of quality information on preparing files for printing. But, we understand that it’s very difficult to decipher all the information just to find the one little piece of information you need before you release your files to the printer. I’m going to address bleed issues that repeat often (everyday) in our prepress department. Usually, by the time the printer gets the file there is just not enough time remaining in the schedule for us to go back and forth with the designer to get all the issues resolved. So, sometimes a job is compromised and that, we know, keeps printers and designers up at night.

Bleeds. Some of you may be asking, what is bleed and why does a printer need it? Here’s an example:

When you open a document that you intend to design, you will need to create it in the actual size you want the finished piece to be. Let’s say you want to work on a 8.5 x 11 data sheet. Great, open the design document to that size. Let’s say you want to place a blue banner across the top 2″ where the color will fill the entire 2″ and across the 8.5″ dimension. Okay, but do you know that you need to pull that color out .125″ on each edge of the document for printer bleed? Why? Well, we guillotine cut press sheets and there is no one, or no piece of equipment can hit the edge precisely, so we require the color to extend beyond the final size so when we final trim the piece it has ink coverage all the way to the edge. (no white paper showing)

What if you have a photograph that you want to use to fill the entire sheet? If you open a photo box and place the picture, you should open the entire file so the picture will be 8.75 x 11.25. This allows a .125″ bleed at the top, bottom, left and right side. Often we see photos that are specifically set up with type fitting around specific areas in the photo. But, if the photo wasn’t set up to allow for bleed, the printer then has to make a decision to either not allow enough bleed (which causes problems down the production line) or to enlarge the photo to allow for the bleed and possibly mess up the designers intention. Nobody wins and nobody is happy.

We’re starting to see a lot of files uploaded in PDF form. This is terrific if printing standards have been followed…specifically bleeds. In a PDF format we are often unable to go into the file to edit for any reason.
Here’s what our prepress department suggests concerning bleeds for Print Ready PDFs:

File size: Set document paper height and width to actual Quark or InDesign trim size plus 1″, include registration, with bleed set .125″ (.25″ if job mounts or laminates.) Set the offset for the marks to an amount great than the bleed (ie. .25″.)

PS: If you need help call us…we’re here for you. We’ll even answer the telephone.


Who you gonna call?

What kind of commercial printer do you want to work with?

Do you want to work with a printer who can offer up options and other ideas?
Do you want to work with a printer who is FSC Certified?
Do you want to work with a printer who will deliver on time?
Do you want to work with a printer who can drop ship anywhere and has storage facilities?
Do you want to work with a printer who can develop an internet portal for repetitive orders?
Do you want to work with a printer who can provide extra-valued services?

Who you gonna call?

The Plant Tour aka Print 101

I gave a plant tour to a Marketing Manager the other day. Watching the “aha” moment when he got it still hasn’t lost its luster, even after all these years.

Back in the early nineties when technology was changing from traditional art boards to digital files, I snagged a color key from a pile of proofs that were headed toward the recycling bin. (they are no longer made) I still use this color key because it’s such a splendid example of the separation of 4/color process. The color key has four layers of acetate and each layer has a representative of CMYK. One layer is cyan, the next magenta, then yellow and black. When the final layer is laid down, the 4/color photo is complete. Once a newbie to printing sees this example they have a level of understanding that was missing before. Then, I take that comprehension another step and show them how each color is then digitized onto a plate and how that plate is then hung around a press cylinder. The ink is loaded into the ink well with the corresponding digitized plate. Paper is fed through and each cylinder rotates around and offsets onto a blanket that then offsets onto the actual paper. It’s truly fun to watch them understand.

The other moment of wonder comes when I take a parent press sheet and fold into a 16-page signature, number it and then unfold it. There, I’ve just provided a basic example of imposition. We talk a little about page layout, bleeds, photos and all the possible ways for a job to wrong. Customer files, imposition, plates, paper, inks, press and finishing. There are four main departments and within those departments a minimum of 8 people will physically touch that job.

Thomas gave me the nicest compliment when we were done with the plant tour. His response was, “I can’t wait for Print 201.” My job is satisfying on those days.


I’m not sure how many people are wondering about Bella.
Bella is fantastic. No, we didn’t find her owners, but one of our lead pressman, Moses and his wife have a new dog. Thank you Moses! Fran, Morgan and I knew beyond a doubt that if somebody kept Bella more than one day she would not be easy to let go of.

Well, the infamous Russell did not win. There are just as many opinions about this as there are paper and ink options. nuff said.

Budgeting for Print…
Sadly, I didn’t get the job, but I got a very nice note thanking me for my experience and input. The client had the out of town designer buy the printing. rats…next time.

Coupons and Savings~

Thank you Justin for being my inspiration today.

When I visit my parents in SW Michigan I can always count on my mom to ask the same question ….how much are you paying for gas down there in Texas? My response is always the same; I don’t know mom, I need gas to get to work so I pay whatever it costs. She’ll then proceed to tell me a story about how this gas station will be cheaper than this one and how she’ll watch them raise the prices over the weekend. She’s just as amazed that I don’t pay attention as I am about the level of her attention concerning gas prices. My brother-in-law will drive 10 miles out of his way to find cheaper gas. That amazes me too. Wouldn’t his time be more valuable than the chase to find the 5.00 savings on a tank of gas? He says it all adds up. Okay. Didn’t he just waste a bunch of the gas driving to find the cheaper gas?

Cutting coupons is just as crazy for me. I tried it back in the day, but I don’t enjoy the time spent time cutting, filing, analyzing, searching for the correct product and reading all the fine print. I’d just rather put back one or two items that I really don’t need and save 5.00 that way. How easy is that?

Why do I shop at some gas stations and grocery stores and not others? I prefer stations that are convenient, safe and clean, not the cheapest. I shop for groceries further up the street for the same reasons. I could shop at a store closer to my house that’s generally cheaper but it’s not very clean. I’m uncomfortable with a dirty grocery story, or gas station for that matter.

Some might argue and say, oh, you must have enough money not to watch your money. I’d say, you might be surprised at how frugal I am. I pay for what I value in convenience, safety and cleanliness. I don’t see it as paying more for something because those things matter to me. You can’t change your location to serve the convenience issues for everyone, but as a business owner you can certainly address basic issues of cleanliness and safety. Returning to basics requires a sense of pride, civility and concern about customers. Wouldn’t this be worth more than saving 5.00?

What do you want?

Really. What are your objectives?

Why is printing typically thought of as a commodity?
Why aren’t printers ideas included in the conceptual presentation?

Printing costs can be a significant part of your visual communications budget. Shouldn’t the mechanical and artistic design take into account the costs to produce the piece?

We can make a difference and help you to plan and present functional ideas.
We can if you’ll allow us to be a part of the team. If only you’ll ask.

Economies of Scale

What does Economies of Scale mean in printing?
It’s the increase in production efficiency as the number of printed pieces being produced increases. The average cost per unit (through increased production) is reduced since fixed costs are shared over an increased number of goods. What?

We explain this concept often, but let me try another way. Say you’re driving your car to SW Michigan and it’s about a 1000 mile trip. Let’s average 30 miles per gallon at 3.00 per gallon and that’s $100.00 for gas. But, let’s say you had to prepare the car with new tires and a tune up totaling $800.00. If one person makes this trip the fixed traveling cost is $900.00. But, if you add three other people in the car and split the cost, then it’s $225.00 per person. Sharing the fixed costs between four riders now reduces the costs per person. The same thing happens in printing. There are prepress costs and press set up costs to get any job ready for press. How much you pay per piece will then depend on the quantity you order to cover the set up costs. So, if production set up costs are $900.00 and you’re ordering 10 pieces the cost per piece is $90.00, but if you order 500 pieces your costs are 1.80 each.

Oh, but it’s not as simple as just that. (of course not!) Even though the increased quantity covers the initial set up costs (prepress and press set up) your paper, press time, inks and finishing costs all increase as the quantities increase.

Just remember that each piece of equipment has an hourly rate based on the cost to run the equipment and the cost of the equipment itself. Hourly rates, quantity needed, paper and inks all greatly influence the job costs. Sometimes I get work that could have been easily produced on a smaller press with lesser set up costs but were designed and planned like a trip to Michigan in a limo. How do you want to spend your travel, oh, I mean your printing budget?