How to avoid common prepress blunders

Forward Thinking PrepressBlunder 1200x628 1

Your printed materials – brochures, catalogs, direct mailers, postcards and more – are the physical ambassadors of your brand.

When they’re flawless, they speak to your organization’s exceptional commitment to quality and attention to detail. But mistakes – such as typographical or grammatical errors or botched images and bleeds – reflect poorly on your company’s image and reputation.

They can also be costly in another way – by significantly increasing your setup and printing costs.

Here are some helpful tips to ensure that your files are 100 percent ready to go on press and that the finished product will meet your expectations.

Is your piece really final? This is the number one problem we see with the designs our clients send to us to be printed. As part of our prepress process, we inspect the file, generate a printed proof and send it to the client for final review. In the process, clients often discover one or more errors. Just as often, someone up the chain of command didn’t get to approve it and wants to make last-minute changes to it.

Each time this scenario happens, the client must generate a new print-ready PDF and send it to us. Then the prepress process starts over. This adds time and money to the project.

Include any bleeds in your artwork: Sometimes, bleeds aren’t marked on the PDFs we receive from clients. Bleeds happen when the artwork or background color of a printed piece extend or “bleed off” the edge of the page. To achieve this, the artwork or background color is created larger than the finished piece. The piece is printed and then trimmed down to the correct finished size. Always allow 1/8 inch for bleeds.

Bleed also prevents white lines from appearing along the trimmed edge caused by any slight misalignments of the sheets of paper as they pass through the press. Even with the best printing equipment, you need to expect and account for image shifting. The extended bleed area compensates for this.

When you’re laying out your document, set its size 1/4 (.25) inch larger than the finished size to allow for an appropriate bleed. For example, for a 6 x 4 in. postcard, the document size should be 6.25 x 4.25 in. For a 3.5 x 2 in. business card, the document size should be 3.75 x 2.25 in. For an 8.5 x 11 in. portrait flyer, the document size should be 8.75 x 11.25 in.

Caution zone: Text should be positioned at least 1/8 (.125) in. away from the trim line to ensure it doesn’t get cut off or end up too close to the edge of the finished piece if the paper shifts during the trimming process.

Allow space for a trim line: The trim line indicates the actual cut line to create the finished piece. Paper can shift during the trimming process and the trim line can vary slightly. That’s why the bleed and caution zones are so important.

Double-check your image quality: Low-quality images can make your printed pieces look unprofessional. Image resolution is expressed in dots per inch (dpi). The higher the dpi, the clearer the picture. To achieve a crisp, clear image on your printed pieces, 300 dpi images are required.

How can you tell if an image is sharp enough for printing? Viewing your proof at 300% will give a good idea of how clear an image will appear on the finished piece. Finally, for best results, use vector-based files (EPS files created in Illustrator, Freehand or Corel Draw) for logos and illustrations. They can be scaled up and down without any loss in sharpness.


Taking extra time to ensure that your design is ready for printing can save you a significant amount of time, money and frustration. It will also help to ensure that your brand communicates the quality and attention to detail that your organization represents.

If you have questions about preparing your files for print, please contact Heritage Printing at 262-790-5000 or via email at