Friday, October 29, 2010

History of PDF

For almost two decades I have been promoting the use of PDFs when dealing with customer files. Today most customers know what a PDF file is and successful printers use a PDF workflow to save time and money.

The PDF file format not only changed the print world but it has become one of the reasons that printed material can now be easily transferred over the Internet. PDF has been around since 1991 but wasn’t embraced by the prepress world until 1996. If you want to trace the history of PDF and how it has evolved over the past 20 years, visit and read the history of PDFs. It is also a good tool to help train sales people as to why PDF is important.

Just because a customer knows what a PDF is doesn't mean that the PDF a printer receives from the customer will print properly. Printers still need to educate their customers about how to create a PDF file that means print industry standards. The easiest way is to have the customer use a software system such as Adobe Job Ready, PagePath's PDF2U, Global Graphic's Jaws or Prismatek's PrintThat. If customers want to create their own PDF files, printers should be supplying a custom Job Option for Acrobat.

It is hard to believe, but there are still printing companies that don't have a PDF workflow or use PDF files to help them cut costs and time. As the print world gets more competitive, the company's that have embraced this 20 year old technology will succeed.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Top 10 Errors in Design Files

If your CSR staff is checking customer files,you might want them to look for the top 10 mistakes Adobe reports are usually made in a graphic design file.

1. The resolution of images is too low.

2. Fonts are not embedded in the PDF.

3. The wrong color space is used.

4. The information about trim or bleed are incorrect.

5. There is an inconsistency with the native file. The original page, as viewed in QuarkXPress or InDesign or whatever other application looks different from the PDF. Hairlines might be different or gradients have changed.

6. A spot color is misnamed or it is accidentally converted to a process color.

7. Images are compressed too much. This causes a quality loss and in some cases artifacts appear inside or around the images.

8. The page size is incorrect.

9. There are problems with transparent objects.

10. ICC profiles are missing or incorrect.

One of the reasons why many of these problems go undetected is that users will make proofs from their lay-out, check the proofs and then create PDF files. The PDF files don't get reviewed. It would be far better if designers created PDF files and then made a proof of these files. This way the consistency between supplied file and proof is much better.

All printing companies should be preflighting PDF files with Acrobat, Enfocus Pitstop, Markzware and other similar programs.

It takes time to check files to assure they will print properly. Rushing jobs through and skipping preflighting procedures won't save any time if you have to reprint the job.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Is A Black Hole Sucking Away Your Future

Is your prepress department ready for the future? The role of the prepress department will expand and evolve as more services are added to the arsenal of products sold by printers. But before any printing company can add services, it has to be sure that the prepress department can handle the services now being sold.

Typesetting, design and file output are the standard services now offered by most printing companies. If you look closely at most financial statements, you’ll see that the prepress department is losing money because the printer isn’t charging enough to cover the department’s cost. As John Stewart says, prepress is a black hole.

To survive the future, the typical printers will have to attempt to reinvent themselves and offer more cross media services. Most of these services will be computer and Internet based so the logical department to produce the services is the current prepress department.

Print owners need to make sure their prepress department is making money today. Typesetting, design and customer file output should be profitable and not considered loss leaders. Printers can do this by using outside design and typesetting services to supplement the work produced in house. Printers can set standards for customer files and use the automation and workflow tools that come with most digital presses and direct-to-plate systems to cut production costs and increase profits.

It will be very difficult for a printing company to add additional services if the prepress departments are already losing money. If a prepress department is inefficient now or the prices charged for the service too low, then there will be no way to add other services to offset the current losses. If it isn’t profitable now it is never going to be.

You have to get ready for the future today. Make sure your sales people are charging fair and profitable prices for design and typesetting. Printers shouldn’t be giving away design work just to get the printing job. If you can’t produce it profitably in house, then use an outside vendor.

Automate now. Require customers to provide PDF files that are constructed according to your specifications. Use the hot folders and workflow systems that come with your equipment. Make the prepress staff learn how to use the tools properly.

It is up to the owner to make sure the changes happen. The owner needs to lead and make sure pricing for prepress tasks is correct and profitable. The owner has to make sure the staff is using the tools available to be more efficient. Printing is more competitive and as printing evolves it will be harder for the typical print shop to survive. You can no longer afford to live with a “black hole” in prepress sucking away profits. Unless you plug the profit leaks now, you won’t be able to add the new services that will be required to stay in business. The black hole may not just suck away prepress profits. It just might suck away your future.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Will Graph Expo Hold The Future?

How relevant will this year’s Graph Expo be to most quick and small commercial printers? As printers prepare to descend on Chicago, they are pondering the questions about the evolution of printing and where it will be over the next decade. Will the trade show offer a “killer app” to drive customers to printing? Will there be a new development exhibited that will eliminate production problems and guarantee profits? Will printers see the future when they walk the floor of the expo?

Graph Expo will only be as relevant as the attending printer makes it to be. Everyone knows the industry is changing. The printing pie is shrinking and the shift of work from offset to digital is well documented. Printers shouldn’t expect to see solutions jump out and grab them as they walk by a booth, but if the printer has a plan, then he or she should begin to get an idea of where the industry is going.

You should see a lot of interest in booths featuring products that expand a printer’s role in the communication process. Web-based products that allow printers to integrate a customer’s printed message with the Internet should get a great deal of interest. Any booth that has anything to do with automating the order entry and prepress process should get a lot of traffic. Products that make it easier for a customer to order should also gain wide attention.

In reality, a lot of the industry-shattering booths will be overlooked. Printers will gravitate toward “big iron” and traditional print processes. The real action will be in the booths along the edges of the trade show floor where “the next big thing” will be trying to gain some attention.

I suggest you go to Graph Expo with a plan. Look for products and services you aren’t using now. Look for things that you don’t usually see on the trade show floor. The big innovations will be in the small booths. There is where you are going to find the future of printing.