Short run digital printing:

Preparing your artwork

Short run print intro

What is digital print?

Why go digital

Picking the right printer

Preparing artwork

Avoiding problems

If things go wrong

Preparing your work for digital print is not really any different from preparing it for any other form of print.

The caveats and potential pitfalls that many of you know about from regular repro work will be exactly the same, so you can draw on any existing print-based experience you might have. Always ask for details of the printer’s preferred artwork delivery format; deliver the wrong thing and your print might be delayed or, worse, look unacceptable when you get the job back.

Some printers will ask you to supply your original layout documents; QuarkXPress, InDesign, Illustrator, or whatever software you used. Make sure that the application versions they have are at least as new as your own, then use your layout application’s ‘collect for print’ feature if available or turn to a third-party flight-checking tool to make sure you include everything the work needs.

These days PDF is generally the format of choice for artwork delivery, as its output can’t normally be messed up through missing images or fonts or the dreaded ‘operator error’ at the far end. This does mean that you have to accept more responsibility for the artwork in the form of preparing the PDF to fit the printer’s output requirements, and last-minute changes at the printer’s end are much more difficult to do. Follow standard guides for generating print-ready PDFs to match the most common requirements, but always check with your chosen printer to make sure it suits their output devices, and in the case of multiple-page jobs to discuss possible page imposition requirements.

Finally, delivering your artwork can normally be done in a variety of ways. Sending files by email is common, but it is wise to follow up with a phone call to make sure everything arrived intact. Some printers insist on this step. FTP transfer is often allowed, sometimes by uploading to their server and occasionally by getting them to download files from your own online storage. ISDN file transfer is still used by a number of companies, although it is becoming less and less common. Sending CD-Rs in the post or by courier is always accepted, but of course that method will either take much longer or be more expensive than any electronic delivery method.

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