Print Problems to Avoid

Tips for Advanced Users
Getting it right!
Your design looks great. You are happy. Your client is happy. So why does it refuse to print correctly!?!
Even the most experienced and computer-savvy desktop designers have been tortured by seemingly possessed files. Most problems with electronic files are either font or image related. Master the basics of these two areas and most print-job demons can be exorcised.

Missing fonts
The desktop publishing revolution began more than 15 years ago and the number one problem is still missing fonts. Banish potential font demons back to the pit-of-doom by purchasing and religiously using a font collection utility.
Missing images
One missing 40 MB image can really ruin your day and print job. Instead of just getting a font collection utility, consider getting a preflight utility program that collects images in addition to fonts while checking your files for other problems. Utilities such as FlightCheck from Markzware ( or Preflight Pro from Extensis ( are good choices.
RGB images in a CMYK print job
RGB (red, green, blue) is the color mode used when viewing color images on a monitor. But most presses use four inks to make color images: cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK). Unless you have a modified workflow, make sure all your photos are in CMYK color mode. Otherwise they may come out with no color at all.
The dreaded extra plate
So your four-color job has five separations? Oops. You are suffering a possession from the dreaded extra-plate demon. Go back and make sure all the colors in your page-layout application are process and not spot. The best way to make sure this demon is not still haunting your print job is to eyeball your page-layout print options with separations turned on or printing the file with separations on. If you get five sheets of paper for each page, you are still possessed.
WYSIWYG is not true for color
The red on your monitor will probably not look the same as the red on the printed page. Despite having a calibrated monitor and standard viewing conditions, colors on screen will be different from on the printed page. If your monitor is in a bright area or not calibrated, the color difference will be even greater. Make important color decisions from a printed proof.
Low-resolution images
Does the image on your monitor look fine but jaggie and blurred in your proofs? You are probably using a low-resolution image. Your monitor is most likely set at 72 dpi. Your laser printer has a 300 to 600 dpi resolution. Printing presses are even higher. Your images need to have a dpi 1.5 to two times the linescreen of our output device. But be warned–you can’t increase the resolution of an image in Photoshop just by typing in a higher number. Most of the time they have to be rescanned.
Banding in blends
Although blends, vignettes, fountains and gradients can really make a design look great, using them improperly can make your hard work look horrible. Banding in blends looks like stair-steps where there should be a smooth gradient. These demons are hard to explain and can be even harder to banish. And they may even show up on proofs but not in the final print job. Keep these demons at bay by not making blends very large, creating them in Photoshop and using a wide range of tones.
Corrupted fonts
Fonts can become corrupted. They can cause your print job to fail, your computer to crash and your applications to quit. These can be the most evil demons to possess a print job. If you suspect a corrupted font may be at the root of your problems, reinstall a fresh copy of the font.
Images in wrong file format
You should use the TIFF or EPS file formats for saving your images for printing. Do not use JPEG, GIF, BMP or the dozens of other options Photoshop offers you. You may have to use the DCS 2.0 flavor of EPS for some special jobs but that is an exception. JPEG is good for archiving images and publishing them on the Web but not for printing.
Dirty page-layout files
Don’t leave unused images and scraps of text just laying about. You are just asking for trouble. Images on the pasteboard in your page-layout program may not directly add to your printing problems, but they do increase the size of your print job and may be confusing for our prepress department. Get in the good habit of cleaning up your files.