Apr 27 2009
By: Rick Yaeger
In my experiences working in advertising agencies, design firms and production houses, I have found that taking the time to double check jobs against a list of standards quite valuable in preventing costly reprints.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, although to those who do not employ such a system, it might seem so…
- check spelling: Most, if not all, page layout programs have spell checking abilities. Make sure you use them to check your jobs. It’s also a good idea to keep your programs dictionary current by “teaching” it to recognize words unique to the jobs you work on.
- check revisions: The whole point of the client checking proofs is to catch and correct errors before film is run. Make sure you carefully go over these proofs and have another person double check to be sure of accuracy. It’s a great idea to use a highlighter to… well… highlight where proofs have been marked up with corrections. Any steps that can be taken to make things more clear are always beneficial.
- proof read: The client is supposed to read and proof everything but still spelling mistakes and errors squeak through. Don’t be so focused on the client’s corrections that you miss other errors that they might have missed.
- check size/proportion against docket and job request form: There are few things worse or more embarrassing than bringing a job to completion only to find that it is an inch wider than intended. Check the specifications, assume nothing.
- update document tags: Many production houses and film shops have adopted a system of tagging jobs with information that is updated throughout the jobs life until completion. If you are working in such a shop be sure to pay careful attention to updating this information. Some of the information that may appear in such a tag might include:
- docket number and version number
- current date
- proofed by…
- color bars
- line screen
- font list
- indication of the use of FPO images
- trapping: This is an art unto itself. Many production houses leave this worry to the film shop to deal with. Trapping is the precaution taken to insure that minor misregistrations of color on the press do not entirely compromise the quality of the printed piece. If you happen to work at a shop where you are expected to check the trapping, I suggest you take every necessary step to be sure that there are no trapping issues with your job. Printing laser separations before sending a job out to the film shop is often a good method of checking for trapping errors.
- bleed: If your current production project prints right to the edge of the page, make sure that there is a suitable amount of image overlapping the edge of the page. Check with the printer of the job to determine the correct bleed width (usually 1/8").
- spot colors represented in color bars: This is simple common sense. If you are printing a two color job, make sure you include a color tag representing each color outside the jobs bleed area.
- custom colors in process jobs set to process separation: Often when a color is chosen in Quark XPress it comes out of the PANTONE color matching system and is then added to XPress’s colors palette and forgotten. Most likely XPress sees this color as a spot color. This is fine if the job you are working on is using spot colors, but if it is separating into cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks, then your new spot color has made your four color job into a five color job. Make sure you specify Process Separation for custom colors in CMYK jobs.
- custom colors in process jobs with inconsistent CMYK break downs: Occasionally, different programs have slightly different ideas of the CMYK equivalents for certain PANTONE colors. This is something you should confirm and rectify if you are bringing art from Illustrator, Freehand or Photoshop into a page layout program like Quark XPress. It is almost always easier to allow the imported graphics to introduce the new colors to XPress’ color palette … even then, you should make sure that all the different files you are importing see the colors the same way or they will not look the same on the press!
- flag FPO images, odd scaling, art director’s poetic license or any items that should be dealt with before the job is output: Here’s a great idea for large production houses that takes advantage of Quark XPress’s library feature. Make a library of warning symbols (select supress printout on them before adding them to the library). These tags would warn anyone opening the job that:
- a certain photo has be scanned for position only (FPO!)
- a corporate logo has been scaled at a different percentage in the X coordinate than in the Y.
- an art director has gone against the client’s wishes and altered the file
- a low resolution image has been placed to speed printing but the high resolution version should be replaced before sending the job out.
These kind of notes can protect you from finger pointing and ax wielding when jobs go sideways and are utilized by some of the bigger production facilities in Vancouver (most notably Artefact and Detroit).
- investigate job flags: Okay, once you’ve made the wise decision of tagging anomalous items in your documents, you must follow through by investigating them when they are found. If you are asked to collect a job for output and then discover that it is riddled with FPO! flags, it’s time to talk to your production manager and formulate a strategy.
- use the right tool for the right job: In the last few years, the lines that defined what made a layout application, a vector illustration application and an image editor have been smudged. You can now apply Adobe Photoshop plug-ins to images placed in Adobe Illustrator, you can create clipping paths in Quark XPress and you can manipulate vector images in Adobe InDesign. Heck, if you want to, you can drill a hole in the wall with a ball-point pen! Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Use layout programs for layout and leave image editing to image editing applications. Quark XPress just isn’t as good at clipping paths as Adobe Photoshop … nor should it be expected to be!
- quotes (“ ”), apostrophes (‘ ’), inch marks (") and foot marks (‘): Each of these marks of punctuation has a specific use. Be sure to go over your work with a fine toothed comb to make sure that you aren’t inching quotes or quoting inches. (Please note that the internet is somewhat vague on the difference between these marks due to issues of compatibility between systems).
- widows, orphans and hyphenation: Never leave a man behind! The definitions of terms “widow” and “orphan” have been debated over and over again but the concern remains the same regardless of nomenclature. Avoid the following:
- leaving too few lines of the beginning of a paragraph at the end of a column
- leaving too few lines at the end of a paragraph at the top of a column
- leaving too few lines of the beginning of a paragraph at the end of a page
- leaving too few lines at the end of a paragraph at the beginning of a page
- leaving too few words at the end of a paragraph
- hyphenating a word staring at the end of one column or page and ending at the top of another column or page
- hyphenating too many words in a row down the edge of a column of text
- superfluous spaces: In the age of typewriters and other monospace devices, a period was not enough to clearly end a thought in type on a printed page. Every typing student was taught that a period must always be followed by two spaces (a semicolon was treated similarly). Though this is no longer a concern with Postscript fonts and computer typesetting, the tradition has snuck its way into misuse in the print production industry. Do a “Find and Replace” for all double hits of the space bar and replace them with on single solitary space. Tell the client that the space you saved enabled you to enlarge his logo!
- kerning: Another art within an art. Most page layout programs enable you to finesse the tracking and kerning of your type so that the spacing may look consistent and pleasant. Take a typography course, it will open your eyes.
- white backgrounds on images: If aren’t careful, Photoshop images in your Quark XPress jobs might get printed with unsightly jagged edges. This is often caused by placing a grayscale or color TIFF into an image box with no background. (If you have never witnessed this, you need only comb through the back of any MacWorld magazine where they present the greatest number of low-budget ads … or just a look at the image below!) Though you may want the background to show through, this is not the way to go about it. Only bitmapped TIFF’s and EPS’s (preferably EPS’s with clipping paths) can get away with having their backgrounds set to "None."
- artwork resolution, rotation and scaling: Though image setter rips are getting so sophisticated now that it hardly matters anymore, for the sake of file size, beware of images scaled too much or rotated in page layout program. It is best to take the scaling and rotating information from Quark XPress and apply that to the actual Photoshop image. Images scaled down more than 60% are simply occupying too much hard drive space. Also be sure that you haven’t scaled any images up so much that their effective resolutions are below twice the printing resolution.
- image naming convention: Always conform to the agreed naming conventions when saving files. This will aid in identifying the correct files when collecting for output or retrieving from archive.
- elements in their assigned folders: As with naming conventions, adhere to any procedures for keeping all images, fonts, logos, graphics, etc. in organized folders.
- copy jobs back to the server: If you happen to be working on a system with a central file server, make sure that you copy your files back to the server before moving on. This will make them available to the file backup system and ensure that you work is not lost in the event of crash or corruption.
- trash jobs off your hard drive: Once again, for those using a central file server, make sure that once you have copied your files to the server that you remove them from your drive. This will prevent any kind of confusion caused by having multiple copies of the same job. Keep the most current version on the server and dispose of all copies. Possible exceptions include:
- situations where the stability of the file server is in question. In this case, keep a separate folder on you drive to hold your work as a personal backup.
- situations where the stability of the art director or designer is in question. It is best in this case to employ a naming convention that uses version numbers to preserve a project in its various incarnations just in case the designer’s mind changes.
Removable Media Usage
- remember to sign out the disks you use: Many studios require that any jobs going out on company owned removable media must be signed out. If this is the case in your working environment, remember to comply.