Myth-Busting PDFs for the Print Industry

myth versus reality

We’ve been around long enough to remember when design approval and prepress were done completely off-line. We remember exchanging proofs with our customers by mail and detail-checking page after page of printouts by hand.

Things are different now. And we think that’s a good thing. But the rate at which technology has changed—and varying expertise with new software and other tools—have led to some misconceptions about building and sharing digital print files.

 

Much of the confusion surrounds the file types used to send designs to printers—specifically, the use (or lack of use) of Portable Document Format (PDF) files.

Don’t worry if you’re no PDF expert—a few easy steps will ensure your job will breeze through our shop. Here’s the truth behind a few PDF myths.

Myth: We’d rather receive a design file than a PDF.

Reality: Like most other printers, we have a “PDF workflow.” This means that any files we receive will ultimately be converted into PDF. Rather than opening a design file (like one from InDesign or Publisher), making sure all fonts and links are present, checking for bleed, checking color separations, and exporting to PDF, it’s a huge time-saver if we just receive PDFs in the first place.

That said, the PDFs we receive should be set up correctly. Otherwise, we’ll still have to backtrack through the steps above.

Myth: Fonts in layout look the same on all computers.

Reality: Fonts are the bane of many printers’ existence—and they’re a big reason we prefer PDFs over other types of files. If a customer wants to use a non-standard font, they must send the font to us to install. Otherwise, we’ll get an error message—or a program will simply swap in a different font, so what we see may not be the look you intend.

PDFs on the other hand, have the ability to embed the font in the PDF and get read as a whole—meaning computers don’t get confused by fonts they’ve never seen.

Myth: PDFs should be compressed so that they’re easier to send by email.

Reality: Finding the perfect middle ground between file size and print quality is an ongoing challenge for desktop publishers. In general, though, we recommend sending larger, compression-free PDFs when possible—otherwise, graphics may appear low-res.

Myth: If you want to print a book or booklet, set up pagination before sending it to the printer.

Reality: This is one thing we’d actually prefer to do ourselves. Oregon’s imposition software can calculate pagination order, taking into account front covers, multi-page spreads, and the like. Just be sure pages are in order before you send.

Myth: All files should be positioned on a letter-size canvas.

Reality: Files should be set us as “true to size,” or the size at which they will be printed. For example, a business card should have a native file size of 3.5”x2”—not pasted into a letter-size file. Our software must know a document’s finished size in order to impose correctly for printing, and having to manually resize a file can slow things down.

Myth: You need special software to create PDFs.

Reality:  Adobe Acrobat is the most popular software for creating and managing PDFs. But you can actually convert files to PDFs from many other programs. Here’s how:

  •  InDesign: File > Export > Adobe PDF
  • Publisher: File > Save As, File > Publish as PDF—or File > Print to PDF (if Acrobat is installed as a print driver)
  • Word: File > Save As or File > Print to PDF (if Acrobat is installed as a print driver)

We can handle just about anything customers send our way. But these approaches can help us get prints to you faster and more easily. If we can help it, we prefer not to waste customers’ time by requesting multiple changes. We gave that up with 8-tracks and floppy disks, a long time ago.

Got more questions about working with PDFs? Give Oregon a call today.

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