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In the olden days, by which I mean before desktop publishing, job responsibilities were very clearly divided. Designers designed, photographers took photographs, trade shops performed composition and created final films, and printers printed. But desktop publishing changed all that and suddenly designers found themselves responsible for performing tasks that we're previously performed by trained craftsmen. Now designers had to perform color correction and retouching and set type and build completely print-ready files going directly to the printer.
So how are the responsibilities divided now? Well, the designer, and that's you, creates print-ready files to the correct dimensions, adds the correct bleed, uses the correct colors, and then you should check your work. You've been working on it for a long time, it's easy to overlook things. Always check for common problems such as typos and spelling and size and so forth. You want to be sure that you submit the job in the format specified by the printer, and you want to provide the printer with all the pertinent information. Such as the stock that you've agreed on, inks to be used, and finishing that's going to be required on your work.
You should always provide hard copy to the printer just print out inkjet prints or lasers just something so they have something to look at so they have an immediate idea of what kind of jobs they are going to be running. And always be available for questions when the printer calls or your client calls and be available if necessary for press checks. Now what are the responsibilities of the printer? The salesman is usually your first point of contact. He should obtain all sorts of necessary information from you about your expected run date, what you want the job to look like, and that's when you sit down to have a conversation about the comps and make sure that he understands the nature of the job that the printing plant is going to do.
The next person to touch your job is usually the customer service representative, referred to usually as the CSR. They're going to enter your job into the schedule at the printing plant and usually they remain your primary contact point for the remainder of the job. Next, the job is handed off to a planner or estimator to estimate the job cost and set the required schedule. Because they understand all the processes, all the equipment used in the printing plant, and they're going to determine what the appropriate press is, the appropriate finishing equipment, and they have to keep in mind that there are other jobs running in the plant at the same time your job hits and have to determine the individual deadlines for each segment of the job.
Usually, preflight is performed on your job, and that's essentially a game of what's wrong with this picture. The preflighter wants to find general problems that you might have missed like typos and misspellings, but they're also looking for aspects of the job that could affect the printing. For example, if there are large areas of the job that use black ink that may not look quite heavy enough when the job is printed. So often the preflighter will indicate that it rich black needs to be created. So this is not something that you've done as a mistake, it's something that the printer does in order to ensure that the job prints as you expect.
After preflight is performed then the job is handed off to prepress and prepress is essentially a catchall term for everything that happens before the job hits the press. So the prepress operator will perform any required job modifications. They may have to scan supply transparencies or reflective artwork that you want to include in the job. They will also perform any color correction or retouching the images might need and usually this is a specialist with long experience in color and retouching. Trapping, briefly speaking is where two colors abut there needs to be a little bit overlap so that you don't see a gap in-between.
So it's up to prepress to determine those parameters. Once everything is all set up prepress is going to generate proofs, and this is for you look at and make sure nothing's been missed that you haven't left anything out that they haven't changed anything that you don't want them to change. They will also create something called a folding dummy if it's a multipage job so that you can see how pages look next to each other in the finished piece. Once all that's approved they'll set up the imposition also called pagination for printing plates. Page 2 doesn't print next to page 3. That's something we're going to talk more about later.
They need to make sure that the pages are in the correct position so that when the plates are made the papers printed that everything falls into place. Once the papers is printed the press operator is responsible for mounting plates, setting up the press to establish values for ink coverage, and registration and then performing what's called makeready, which is getting the press up to speed, getting the ink coverage up to those established values, and making sure that everything is running optimally. Then of course the press operator is responsible for running your job and making sure that it matches that contract proof that it's been approved.
Once the paper is printed then finishing takes place and finishing includes everything from simple trimming, folding, and binding to specialty work such as die-cutting or embossing and foil stamping. Now some finishing work such as folding and trimming may have been in-line at the press. Some of its handled offline which is after the paper is printed and handed off to a separate department. So as you can see your design is really just the first cog in this giant machine. Many people touch your job and multiple processes are set in motion with that very first mouse click. But don't let that intimidate you.
Really, you should find it exciting.
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