Like every other skilled field, large format printing is rife with hidden issues just waiting to inflict damage to your health, sanity and pocket book. If you can avoid the lions, tigers and bears in the Forbidden Forest you’re half way to the Emerald City. So here are my top four print production pitfalls.
1: Stop trying to save money with inexpensive software applications. Often those applications, which shall remain nameless, are designed by companies who refuse to purchase a full postscript license. Just like LAB values drive all color values for digital printers; postscript is the language which drives all digital printing. They endeavor to find their own unique solutions to digital imaging outside of the accepted standard. This may work fine when you print from within the application to your desktop printer; but will often fail to produce a quality image when you attempt to save as a PDF. More than occasionally, those PDFs will fail in the real world of large format and offset printing.
2: Don’t try to do everything with Photoshop or one of its competitors. You need to be able to deal with both raster and vector art for quality design. In addition, unless you are extremely knowledgeable concerning design for print, you can really paint yourself into a corner with your digital art. There are numerous technical challenges just waiting to swoop down like a gang of flying monkeys on the unwary innocent when it comes to subjects like color conversion, image manipulation, text management and PDF creation. We always recommend that design personnel be equipped with Photoshop and Illustrator at a bare minimum.
3: Work with people that understand print production. They may not be the least expensive hires in the world, but they will save you and your firm time and money. Why? You will avoid the most expensive business expense in existence – doing something twice (or three times). Your print order will be completed on-time and on-budget.
4: Watch out for phony vector art. Just because a file is saved as an eps (encapsulated postscript), it does not mean it is vector art. Over the years we have received several bogus logos from large corporations. Someone would place a low-resolution jpeg (usually snagged from a company website) inside an Illustrator file and save it as an eps. Then, submit that art for a large banner project. Sorry folks, there is no magic eps dust that converts tiny web graphics into 4 foot by 8 foot banner ready art.
We can hear what you’re thinking now. You’re thinking, “Okay, smart guy; tell me how things should be set up and the explanation better make sense”. And, that’s what I’m going to do.