Jan 20, 2021
What is prepress?
The short answer is; anything that happens to the print file between receiving an order in a print shop and sending it to the press to be printed is considered prepress. Whether that’s adding bleeds, imposing files, checking for issues, separating into CMYKs, and generally anything that’s part of the process of creating a print layout and moving your project from a file to a final printed product. “Pre” from the latin “prae” meaning before and press referring to the actual machines that do the printing. That’s really all it means, everything that happens before going to press.
So, what exactly happens to your job before it goes to press? It goes through the three stages of prepress. Preflight, Proofing, Plate Printing.
You, or a graphic designer working on your behalf will send artwork to the print shop. This artwork will go to a preflight specialist.
These preflight specialists are experts who are trained in the mystical arts of printing and they will start the preflight process by looking at your print file. Since preparing files for print is their primary job, they’ll often notice things that others won’t, such as bleeds that are too small or lack thereof, text or images being cut off, images not aligning etc.
If it passes their initial examination, they’ll go through and check the file more thoroughly and make sure it has everything it needs to print correctly. This is the point where they check to make sure the file is at a proper resolution and that all the assets are included in the file, like the fonts and images. Basically they make sure that the file that you sent will print exactly the way that you want it to.
If you’ve ever used a print shop before, you’re probably familiar with proofs. They’re short run samples of your print that you can examine before the real printing begins. A preview of the final product to come. These proofs are an important part of the process. Maybe a certain color doesn’t look right, or it seems too big or too small once you see a physical print of it. The proof is for your approval so that what we end up printing is exactly what you’re looking for. Once you approve it we can move on to the next step. In the case of digital printing, this means we begin printing right away, but in the case of offset printing, this is where we begin printing plates.
In some cases, your proofs may be a digital pdf that can be emailed and viewed on your computer, instead of a physical copy. This saves time and cost while still providing the necessary checking in the process. However, digital proofs are not one-size-fits-all, there are times when digital proofs aren’t practical.
3. Plate Printing
What are plates? You probably know from context that they’re not the kind of plates that you eat off of. These plates work a lot like stamps. Very advanced and detailed finley etched stamps. They are split up into multiple colors, usually CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK) and each of these plates only produces a single color image, but when you put the inks from each plate onto each other, you get a full color image. Our plate printer operators take your image and split it up into those four colors each as a single image. Large plate printing machines then print these single color images onto plates to be loaded into an offset press.