Prepress 101: Making Your Creative Work Printable

Your creative teams spent months developing the perfect package design for your product. The colors, layout, and vision perfectly encapsulate the spirit and quality of your brand.  And yet the results on press are, at best, disappointing, failing to live up to the design’s promise.  The color is lackluster, the images aren’t crisp, and the print quality is highly variable.  Is it time to find new printers? 

Actually, no.  It’s time to review your prepress process.

In his presentation at FachPack 2015, Schawk’s Carsten Hoppmann discussed how improved prepress processes help brand owners and retailers achieve their desired goals on press.  “The goal of prepress is to create uniformity,” notes Hoppmann, “And the key to achieving uniformity is effectively translating creative artwork into printable data.”

So how is this done?  While the technical details are vast, there are three key elements to a successful prepress process:

  1. Data Verification – Before production artwork can be translated to a format that the raster image processor (RIP) can interpret, operators must check that all the necessary data are provided. Using digital software, production artwork files are scanned to confirm the incoming materials meet the production requirements, checking for information such as fonts, images/format, and color separations. The preflight check ensures the overall success of the prepress process by confirming in the early stages that all necessary data is present and usable.
  2. Color Management – A comprehensive color management program guarantees brand images reproduce exactly the same no matter where the material is printed or on what substrate while allowing you to create a metric for evaluating printing costs, out-of-tolerance materials, and waste.  Implementing G7 best practices to achieve gray balance, your color management program should comprise six key areas:  developing color standards, formulating inks, setting press tolerances, sampling during press runs, monitoring the print process using tools and software, and seeking continuous improvements.
  3. Print Management – A strong print quality management program offers myriad benefits not only in the final print output but also in measuring print quality.  Combining software, such as printer databases and Schawk’s ColorDrive with the technical expertise of print specialists allows clients to track print results, provide feedback to print suppliers, and assemble plans for continuous improvement.  It also ensures the consistency of printed materials across printers and substrates.

“Ignoring any one of these prepress elements could cause your brand to lose equity,” adds Hoppmann. “What’s important is finding a partner who can effectively manage all of these technical details so that the final printed package looks as good as the original design.”