I am the graphic designer and sole prepress person for a small quick print shop. I often come across issues with a file to be printed and cannot make the needed changes or compensations as they arise due to the file hand-off from the clients' designer. For example, we use EFI Fiery Command Workstation to print our jobs and it sometimes misinterprets .PDF files, especially element-heavy files created in InDesign which uses transparencies, and results in a loss of elements. Or, the client is requesting the printed file to match a certain existing copy which requires color correction to mimic the final... Even if the desired customer copy in question was printed with the colors over-saturated and blown out ("We want people to know how bright the place is" was her defense...)

I often come to issues with the clients' designer because they do not want to give me the native files. I understand the value of native files to a designer, and that the contract may not include the hand-off of the working files. However, I am not their client -- I am just someone in the process of making sure their printed work looks best for their client. I am the PREPRESS person trying to make sure THEIR client is happy with their printed piece.

How should I communicate to the designer that I need their native files for prepress purposes ONLY? Is that even acceptable? We have missed deadlines in the past for our clients because their designer cannot make the needed changes in time, or does it incorrectly, or not at all.

It's driving me nuts!

Thank you!

  • 4
    I'd go with "Hey, can I have your native files to allow me to fix things for you in prepress?"
    – DA01
    Oct 23, 2014 at 7:12
  • If it's a printer I trust, and depending on the client, I usually send the working files too just in case anyway. I always appreciated this when I worked in a prepress department at a printer. Oct 23, 2014 at 20:29

2 Answers 2


I can't speak for everyone, but I generally have no issue providing files for press. I do not provide native files to clients for free.

Perhaps the issue is the client is your middle-man. Any client asking for files is met with a pretty standard "they aren't free, see the contract" response. Any press house asking for files is treated differently. If you could contact the designer directly, they may be more open to the request.

I customarily ask any press department to sign an agreement stating they will not store, backup, or retain any aspects of the native files - such as images, fonts, etc. in addition to not provide them to the client if requested. Fonts particularly are dependent upon other licenses. Most fonts allow transfer for reproduction, but not all fonts do.

Perhaps contact the designer directly with such an agreement ready for them.

  • It's a difficult topic. The InDesign files I create are packed with "built-in smartness", from script labels and handy object styles up to a fully nested paragraph style setup with lots of intricate GREP styles. I, for one, sure don't like to send these around for everyone to inspect at their leisure.
    – Jongware
    Oct 22, 2014 at 22:10
  • That is fairly standard - you would probably be wise to mark up exactly what changes (prepress) you need to make before you go ahead explaining why the print file is not complete/correct and allow them to make amends, as this work is really chargeable. If they want your to make the file correct they should pay your company! If any amends are made a proof should be provided for sign off.
    – Mark Read
    Oct 22, 2014 at 22:11

How should I communicate to the designer that I need their native files for prepress purposes ONLY? Is that even acceptable? We have missed deadlines in the past for our clients because their designer cannot make the needed changes in time, or does it incorrectly, or not at all.

I do not know many designers who will hand off their native files even if you're clarifying that you're using them for prepress purposes only and if you do get ahold of the designer you would likely be met with "What is the issue", "can you send me an example", or "please provide proof of the issue". Not saying that you would do this but I've seen some designers get burned by the printer because they simply told the client, "if we had the source files we could do the edits for you" which isn't fair to the designer and as you already mentioned you sort-of are doing that. If there are issues then communication is the key. I would imagine you are leaving yourself enough room to meet a deadline and not printing everything at the last min. but if you are then maybe you should re-valuate a procedure that within X days start calling the client. You should make sure to document as such to the client you're having issues with the designer if its constant through multiple projects.

Per "the designer does it incorrectly" maybe you should consider creating templates or some documentation for the designer. Not every designer will know how to do everything and its fairly common that large print shops have templates they require to be submitted that are structured to their printers or production workflow and automation.

As stated by Scott, you could contact the designer, but as you've already mentioned I would assume the designer will tell you no. If you're having normal issues maybe take a pro-active approach and figure out how you can eliminate certain areas of constant attention. You could even extend out and make relations with designers and vent them or send them a couple of jobs from your clients to gauge if they are reliable and meet your print needs.

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