Prepress checks, tips and tricks

Prepress checks are very important when it comes to getting the right deliverables that you want produced. I will be discussing various terms that every designer should arm themselves with the knowledge of because when the time comes you will all need to know these things.

Take-off bars: Take-off bars are bars that span the width of the substrate and stop 0.125 inches from the edges. They are centered horizontally and at the center to the given substrate.

Check coverage: Check coverage is a broad term but it applies to the checklist that a designer needs to make sure that a design comes off the press looking how it should. The check coverage steps include type, ink, trim size, bleeds, overset text, and many more.

Platemaking: Creating a plate for printing or engraving.


Digital prep versus offset prep: digital prep is typically faster, and is not applied to plates, however, offset prep requires cylinders and the press is required to warm up. Offset colors can also be modified by the printers for more precision.

Spot colors:  Spot colors are easier to control and alter on the press in with multiple prints in a row.

Proof on the press: Be positive that the colors are CMYK and not RGB as CMYK is for printing and RGB is for web. Make sure plates are in the correct positions and that the ink cartridges are stocked. If sheet size is different than the dimensions, run a few tests through to see if it aligns properly.

Sign off on final prints: Decide whether the print can be finalized after viewing the test prints. If everything checks out, let the production people know they’re good to begin.


Client sign off: Once the proofs are showed to the client they can then decide to sign off on the final print job if they approve the production and the specs are correct.

Confirm schedule: Be sure that you know when you can get the job in and how long it will take (provide yourself some cushion time for complication). The client relies on you to meet their expectations, so always have the work done on time or even early.

Take a plant tour: Be sure that you know who is doing your print job. Understand the business and what you can contribute to their needs. Also understand the inner workings of the press.

Arrive early: Arriving early will show that you are motivated and allows more time to fix any mistakes that may have occured. Arriving early also helps build up your reliability and reputation with the people you work with.

Multiple stages: Be prepared to take on multiple stages for the print production. Documents will have to be edited and multiple test proofs will have to be made to make sure that the print job comes out correctly, with no errors.


Makeready: Always be sure to have your work ready to be made. If it happens to be late, make it the best it can be and run the production.

Learn the pressman’s name: It is courteous to remember the pressman’s name and it also reflects very well on their image of you. Try to build a good relationship with the people you work with so working with them in the future will be more enjoyable.

Comparing to proof: Always check the print with early proofs and the final proof. Be sure that the process is going as planned so no mistakes have to be corrected.

Crops, type, crossover-check color: Be sure that you have crops, and make sure that type is the correct size. Colors should be checked with samples or swatches.


Scum: Scum is the unwanted ink marks that make their way onto areas of the print. They typically cause streaking in offset print production.


Streaking: Unwanted ink that smears an area of the print.

Hickey: Spots on a print either with or without ink, these occur when dirt or dust makes its way into the machine and causes spot errors (similar to painting a car, if dust or dirt make its way onto the areas being painted it creates spot errors)

Check alignment: The alignment of the paper and text can be the factor of good or bad design. Testing is necessary for marking alignment, and pressmen very helpful for alignments, they can help with realigning the design.


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