We get a lot of questions in regards to what should my file spec be, what should I do with X and Y, how should I do my black etc. etc. and a large majority of the time we suggest to ask the printer which is an accurate assumption. Even though I think this is an accurate answer I think we should have a question that would help educate designers on what questions they should ask the printer. Knowing the right questions can help determine if the printer is professional and if you can meet the requirements. So my question is when print designing what questions should I ask to make sure my designs are compatible and high quality for print?
Ask them if they have a template?
At our print shop we offer a full template selection that allows designers to enter in their desired output and it will email them a template file. We did this because many questions and files we received proved to be an issue in regards to accurate bleed, trim, and non-print elements.
What black do you guys print?
Registration black is 100% CMYK which is an inaccurate black and should never be used as other than registration marks and our prints vary by the printer we use.
What are the desired file types preferred?
Some shops hate
What are your bleed settings?
Most shops typically have the same bleed but some shops try to cut costs and can reduce the amount of bleed to save on material waste.
What is the stock being used?
Knowing the stock that will be printed on (such as gloss or matte) can render different color outputs. If this is the case you can address this with the client and make the proper adjustments for accurate color.
If I send in a PDF what should the settings be?
We recommend a certain
For PDF delivery, spreads or single pages?
Single page PDFs are customarily preferred, however some shops require printer imposed spreads in order to reproduce a multi-page publication accurately.
Do you offer black and white printing and what should the specs be?
Good question for shops that will be printing black as CMYK or just K.
How should my images be for black and white printing?
We require images for black and white printing to be converted to grey-scale but this may change based on how their black and white printing is done.
What is the lightest opacity I can use if CMYK printing?
Some people would like blockquotes to be as light as possible but still visible and some use a light color with a very low opacity. We require nothing less than 20% opacity but it may change on machine.
Can I get a proof and is it free or do I have to pay?
Before a large run its better to get a sample proof then risk dropping a lot of money..
Do you accept or convert Pantone colors?
At our shop we deny any prints with Pantones but some shops can print Pantones or charge to convert to CMYK. Depending on the printer some presses are set-up to have X color runs. Knowing if they can print CMYK plus a Pantone helps if a client has a targeted color for their brand but some newer machines only offer CMYK.
I have a multi-page publication, what are the requirements for gutter, creep, and spine?
For publications with multiple pages the print provider may have a minimum gutter requirement in addition to any live area requirement. Creep can be a factor if a publication has many pages. Creep measurements and the width of the spine in perfect bound publications can only be determined by using the width of the stock to be printed on. Customarily the printer provider will be able to factor these measurements quickly and provide numbers.
Will my prints be consistent or will you notify me of a printer change?
This is a good question I currently ran into. After you send a print to a printer, they send you a proof, and you approve the print but the print quality and color accuracy changes if a new printer is introduced into the equation or they outsource regularly to different vendors based on availability. However, you already approved the print but they wont tell you they are changing the printer when you place a re-order.
In regards to screen printing:
In addition to other answers, specific questions For advertising...
What is the live area of the advertisement?
What is the color breakout? If less than 4 color, what inks (spot)?
What are the file requirements?
Should bleeds and marks be included?
For advertisements in digital publications
All of the above in addition to...
If reproduced digitally, can live links exist in a supplied PDF?
Color space to be used?
Specific to screen printing
The one question you should definitely ask is:
What are your pre-press document requirements?