Proper planning is critical. Know ahead of time what you are trying to accomplish and know how you wish to accomplish it. Use scans where scans are needed (usually only in photos or continuous tone art) and line art as logos and flat art.

Always work with your printer at the inception of a project. Consulting a printer at the early part of a job will usually save you time, money & frustration.

If the final electronic file you give to the printer is too large for a 1.44 floppy -- MAKE sure that the storage device you use will be compatible at the printer / service bureau. Nothing like getting the whole project on a 200Mb Syquest Disk and finding out your printer can handle only up to 88Mb's. Or, worst yet, has scrapped the Syquest for Optical or Zip Drives. Check out your compatibility first -- if you have to work around it, it's nice to know it while you have the time to.

Be aware of folding panels. Do your work at 100% the size of the printed piece and allow for proper margins where you want it to fold!

Plan what program is best to accomplish your goal. QuarkXpress or Pagemaker are the programs best designed for page layout. Illustrator is great for line art, but is limited in page sizes. Freehand is usually best to overcome this page size limitation. Resize ALL halftone and four color scans in PhotoShop or any other paint program. Resizing in the page programs or draw programs can lead to long imaging (RIP) time (and therefore cost more money). DO NOT compress the scans in PhotoShop! Export scans or graphics at the size they will print.

When using colors, plan on what the colors will be and how they will print -- spot or process. If you use spot colors, specify colors in PMS (Pantone Matching System). If the colors are built out of process, please specify them as CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow & black) or Separations within the color pallet. A quick check to see how many plates (or negatives for making the plates) will be printed is to bring up the "Print" menu and select "Separations." The colors will be listed (note: "Registration" is NOT a true color or plate).

The term "Gripper" refers to the space at the edge of the sheet where it is "gripped" and pulled through the press. This area is not printable and each press can have a different requirement on the amount of gripper it needs. Check with your printer to find out which press (and thus how much gripper to allow for in laying out your job. If you need to print within the gripper (or want to bleed an ink off the sheet) -- let the printer know. They will usually have to print on a larger sheet and then do a final trim to the desired finished size. This will cost more and can sometimes be avoided by changing your layout slightly during the planning stage.


To avoid font problems use either PageMaker's Prepare for Service Bureau or QuarkXPress's Collect for Output utility. PageMaker's utility gathers the fonts and tells you whether they're TrueType or Type 1. XPress's utility merely generates a list of which fonts you used, but at least you have a reference when you copy them.


After fonts, the biggest troublemakers for service bureaus are graphics.  30 percent of jobs require the modification of a graphic.

The most obvious problem, as with fonts, occurs when customers don't include the graphics. They place a linked graphic into a page layout program but then forget to send it, so at output time they get either no graphic or the low-resolution placed version. Or sometimes there's simply no linked graphic at all. Many financial firms and government agencies tend to copy graphics from Microsoft PowerPoint or Excel and paste them into a document. The page layout file then contains only a Windows Metafile (WMF). Either the line weights come out wrong or the colors shift.

Its best to re-create the illustrations in Adobe Illustrator or another appropriate drawing program, either by redrawing them from scratch or by pasting them into Illustrator, tracing over them if necessary, and exporting them as EPS files.

WMF files aren't the only ones that don't go through a PostScript RIP smoothly. According to Pennington, the worst are TIFF files saved with LZW compression -- especially if they're then resized in a layout program. Because the RIP has to decompress the graphic and resample it at the new size simultaneously, the file takes forever to print or won't print at all.  Save files in uncompressed CMYK TIFF or EPS format.

Delete any extra paths they've created in a Photoshop file before saving the final version. Designers might create paths for a variety of reasons -- to use them as selections, to stroke the edges, or to create clipping paths -- but when left in the image, paths are just that many more objects for a RIP to process. When it comes to graphics files, simpler is better.

The popularity of the Web is again a big contributor to service bureau difficulties with graphics. Several bureaus complained about receiving GIF or JPEG files. Griswold, for instance, says it's not unusual for clients to give him 72-dpi indexed-color RGB images in GIF format that they've pulled off the Web. The graphics look great onscreen -- and print fine on an inkjet -- but they can't be separated.  A GIF has only 256 colors and a JPG is normally heavily compressed for the web.

The only way to ensure that you get a high-quality image is to start by scanning or acquiring it at (or close to) the size and resolution you need for the final printout.

Adobe Pagemaker hints can be found on their web site.

'' A Prescription for Problem-Free Pages
This 12-step program, developed from suggestions by service bureau owners and prepress operators, is a designer's primer on avoiding common pitfalls and ensuring that files print correctly.
1 Set up your file so that the page size of the electronic document matches the page size of the printed piece.
2 Unless the typeface is intricate or finely detailed, convert any text in EPS graphics to paths before you import the graphics into your page layout program.
3 Scan or acquire images as close to the final size as possible (larger is not necessarily better) and at the appropriate resolution.
4 Rotate, mirror, or flip graphics in the program used to create them rather than in a page layout program.
5 Remove extra paths and channels to simplify the files before saving your final graphics.
6 Define colors according to the CMYK model if they are to be separated, or as spot colors if they're to be printed that way.
7 Save graphics in TIFF or EPS format, uncompressed.
8 Print test separations on a laser printer to make sure you don't have extra plates or unwanted spot colors.
9 Use QuarkXPress's Collect for Output or Adobe PageMaker's Prepare for Service Bureau utility to make sure you know what fonts to include, and send the fonts with your files.
10 Leave trapping and imposition to the service bureau unless you've previously discussed -- and agreed on -- these procedures with them.
11 When sending files to the service bureau, clearly label on the disk what's needed for your job, and include a current hard-copy proof of your file with crop marks and bleeds, preferably printed at the final size (100 percent).
12 As soon as you get a proof back from the service bureau, inspect it carefully for errors and report any problems immediately.