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Print Production Essentials: Packaging
Illustration by John Hersey

File formats for print


From:

Print Production Essentials: Packaging

with Claudia McCue

Video: File formats for print

When you're finished with your job, and you're ready to send it to the printer, take a good look at their specs and make sure you know what file format they want you to send. Now, there are several possibilities. They might want an Illustrator native file, and ai file. But, they might be using an older version of Illustrator than you are, so make sure you know which version they're using. Here, in Illustrator if I choose File>Save As and I choose Illustrator as my format, it may give me this little warning, spot colors are used with transparency changing them to process could produce unexpected results.

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Print Production Essentials: Packaging
1h 47m Intermediate Oct 02, 2013

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Packaging is where engineering meets design. Learn about the basics of designing packages for everything from foodstuffs to fragrance, in ways that are practical for manufacturing and shipping, and make the products visually appealing. Author Claudia McCue reviews the types of containers real packaging engineers consider, and then concentrates on folding cartons, which can be created with the tools available to most designers: Adobe InDesign and Illustrator. Learn how to create dielines (the flattened view of your product) and add artwork and text. Then find out how to print and cut out a mockup version of your packaging, and prepare the job for professional printing. Claudia also takes you for a quick view of the factory floor, where products are packed into their final containers.

Topics include:
  • Deciding on the type of package
  • Considering the consumer experience
  • Replicating an existing package
  • Adding flaps and fold-in tabs
  • Using Illustrator and InDesign for layout
  • Creating a dieline
  • Checking the mockup
  • Preparing your jobs for the printer
Subjects:
Design Print Production Design Skills
Software:
Acrobat Illustrator InDesign
Author:
Claudia McCue

File formats for print

When you're finished with your job, and you're ready to send it to the printer, take a good look at their specs and make sure you know what file format they want you to send. Now, there are several possibilities. They might want an Illustrator native file, and ai file. But, they might be using an older version of Illustrator than you are, so make sure you know which version they're using. Here, in Illustrator if I choose File>Save As and I choose Illustrator as my format, it may give me this little warning, spot colors are used with transparency changing them to process could produce unexpected results.

The only spot colors that are used in this job are the ones that are being used by the dye line. So it won’t really matter, they’ll actually turn that off when they go to image it. So, I’ll just hit continue. I know everything’s okay. I’m using the CC version, which is Illustrator 17. But there are older versions available to me. So, always when you back save, keep your original file intact. So save this as a copy, or keep that other file archived, and perform this on a copy.

I could go as far back as Illustrator Three. Now hopefully you won't have to go that far back. There are some cautions with that. If you go back too far, so for example, if you go back to Illustrator Ten or Illustrator Nine. Your text may turn to outlines, even if you haven't already turned it to outlines. Although that's something you ought to do as a good practice when you send in a packaging job. But there are things that you can do in this version that you couldn't do several versions back. So, some of that might get sort of reconfigured and that could impair editability.

As long as you know that, that's fine. The job should still be okay. It's just that round tripping might be an issue. And again, that's why you want to keep your original file intact. So you're going to choose whichever version they ask for. if my printer wants CS6, that's all I have to do. Again, the yellow triangle is just to warn you that you're saving in an older version than the version that you're currently using. The rest of this you should be able to leave at its default settings and everything should be fine. If your printer asks you for an Illustrator EPS you also have to designate the version.

So, here if my printers asked for an EPS when I say File> Save As, and I choose EPS as my format. That's not enough I still have to answer some questions. And also I have to pay attention to this. Again my spot colors are only the ones that are being used by my dye. It's not an issue, none of my artwork is using spot colors. And you might not think that this is true but there are versions of EPS. So you want to be in keeping with whatever version of Illustrator they're using. Now, do know that anytime that you save as an EPS, any of your transparency is going to become flattened.

So, again, you want to keep your original file intact before you do something like this. So, let's say that if I choose CS6, I'm just going to let the rest of these little check boxes take care of themselves. If your printer asks for a PDF, they should tell you the specs for the kind of PDF that they need. Interesting thing about making PDFs in Illustrator is that Illustrator sort of is PDF under the hood. So it's not an Export function. It's actually a Save As function. So I just chose Adobe pdf, click Save, but then I had to determine which version.

And again, your printer should tell you what they want. Although I'm going to give you a suggestion for what to do if they don't tell you what they want. The Illustrator default is sort of an interesting critter. It's really two files in one. It's your original Illustrator file inside a PDF wrapper. Other applications will just see it as a PDF. But, if it needs to be edited, they'll be able to open it up in Illustrator, and frankly that's the only kind of PDF you're safe opening back up in Illustrator. But chances are this is not what they want, and it's going to result in a bigger file.

So, if they've given you something in the way of guidance, like Press Quality, by all means, choose it. But if they haven't, here's what to do, if you don't know what kind of PDF they want. Choose pdfX1A. Now when you look at the compatibility that may sort of shock you because you're using a much newer version of Acrobat. Why would you go back this far in time? Again it's to create what I would call, sort of the lowest common denominator PDF. This could be imaged by pretty much any imaging device for the last 10 years.

So it reduces the chances there's going to be a problem imaging this file regardless of where it lands in the world. So just choose that. Because of the way this file is built there is no bleed external to the art board. Everything falls within the art board. So I don't have to worry about adding any kind of bleed. And any trim marks would mean nothing. Because they'd be related, again, to the art board, not to the artwork. So, none of this really ought to be required. The one thing that you might want to pay attention to. It won't be true in this file, because I don't have any placed images.

But, if you have any placed images, you'd want to make sure that they are handled correctly. You might even decide that you don't want to downsample them and you don't want to compress them. If you don't downsample and you don't compress, you're going to have a bigger file, but then you've maintained the fidelity to your original image content. So, this is always a bit of a guessing game if your printer doesn't give you some guidance. It's worth pushing a little bit to make sure that they tell you what kind of PDF they want, but if they can't give you a straight answer, this is always your good fall back: PDFX1A.

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