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Trouble in Prepress

On our recent in-plant prepress survey, respondents listed their top prepress problems. Guess what headed the list?

March 2008 By Bob Neubauer, Editor
Our latest in-plant prepress survey pulled in some very useful information. What’s more, I was impressed that 60 percent of those who responded chose to provide a comment when asked for their “top prepress problem.” There was a striking similarity in the responses.

The top problem cited—the root of just about every prepress problem noted, in fact—was summed up in just one word: Customers.

I laughed at first, but then the word kept coming up again and again as the “top prepress problem.” For those unaware of the customer’s role as a prepress impediment, here’s the gist of the complaints I read: They change their minds every few seconds. They don’t really know what they want. They all think they’re designers—but still can’t prepare a file correctly. And they never fail to complain that the job doesn’t look like it did on their screens.

As bleak as that sounds, the list of transgressions went on. The most egregious—and the one cited most often by respondents—was creating files in Microsoft Publisher or Word. (I can feel the earth trembling right now from all of your emphatically nodding heads.) Other common frustrations:

• Submitting low-quality (72 dpi) images.

• Graphics not linked.

• Incorrect image page alignment.

• Color matching.

• Converting RGB to CMYK.

• Images that are CMYK but need to print in spot color.

• Files that mix RGB with CMYK or use both black and registration black.

• Multiple version levels of software, or using too many different softwares.

• Files not set up correctly for color separations.

• Jobs not having the appropriate bleeds built into them.

• Fonts missing or the wrong size.

• Files not proofread before arrival, resulting in multiple proofs.

• Bad PDF files, often sent with Standard Quality instead of Press Quality settings.

Most of these come down to the customers’ lack of knowledge—and lack of motivation to learn. This is especially apparent at in-plants that don’t charge for prepress services. (Why should customers learn the right way? You’ll fix it for free.)

While I can’t offer much of a solution (other than customer education, which is fraught with its own complications), I figured I’d at least present the list, so you could all feel united in your frustrations.

In the end, what this probably shows is that, for prepress departments everywhere, fixing customers’ bad files is just another requirement of the job.


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