Step-by-Step Guide to Designing PrePress Artwork For Printing

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Prepress is the term used in the printing and publishing industries for the processes and procedures that occur between the creation of a print layout and the final printing. The prepress procedure includes the manufacture of a printing plate, image carrier or form, ready for mounting on a printing press, as well as the adjustment of images and texts or the creation of a high-quality print file. In today’s prepress shop, the form of delivery from the customer is usually electronic, either a PDF or application files created from programs such as Scribus, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, or QuarkXPress.

What is prepress?

Prepress is the most complex of all printing processes. Why is prepress so important? The majority of sales, as well as all editorial decisions, are made by the customer before a page of art is laid down. The development of the final page is a complex and detailed process. Many important decisions have to be made at this time, such as the decision to darken a particular shade of ink, or leave out certain details in the artwork. These decisions can be made quickly and with the highest level of accuracy, but a rushed decision or erroneous change can result in having to redesign the page. Also, prepress is the most consistent part of a print layout, and where the highest level of quality control exists. What do all the terms mean?

The prepress procedure

High-quality printing requires a high level of service from the factory, product testing and calibration, accurate post-processing of the print files, and a high level of control by the print operator. The majority of prepress companies offer a full range of services including: Post-processing the print files with applications such as Artista, Adobe Acrobat, Agfa Inventor, AutoDesk Trio, Final Cut Pro, and others Customization of print layouts with templates Import of finished files into printed jobs by tools such as Adobe InDesign or Illustrator Supporting hardware and software, including printers, scanners, computers, and web browsers The detailed step-by-step guide to designing for print can be downloaded here.

The creation of the printing plate

In a standard prepress shop, the printing plates are manufactured by using a printing press. The term “print plate” also includes the printing block in which the image carrier or form is placed in preparation for printing. If no printing press is used, an image carrier is used for the printing block. Prepress production printers normally measure the dimension of the printing block, the size of the printing plate, and the size of the image carrier, then measure the size of the final print file. Because plate size is important for print quality, it must be adjusted depending on the image carrier selected for the printing process. Because image carriers have to be trimmed for printing, there is a need to calculate the correct size for the printing plate based on the total file size.

What is the prepress workflow?

Prepress artwork is used to achieve a standard output. In each manufacturing process, the prepress artwork is the standard output which is used to achieve your final printed outputs. Workflow [ edit ] Layout and Proofing The layout of the booklet, poster, brochure or magazine is the first step in the prepress workflow. The layout is the set of documents that determines the layout of the printed output. Proofing Once the layout is complete, proofing is carried out. This is the next step in the prepress workflow. Proofing refers to checking that the selected illustrations have been placed in the correct locations and are aligned correctly with the text and other content. Proofing is usually carried out on a layout program and is followed by registration.

Creating the print layout

Pre-press layouts are sometimes called “pre-designs” because they are developed before the printing process begins. The purpose of the layout is to design how the image will be printed on a suitable printer’s printing plate. This information can then be incorporated into the printing plate or special plate carrier or “slides” provided by the equipment supplier to the customer. Once the creation of the plate carrier or “slide” has been completed, the plates are produced at high quality to the required tolerances and then delivered for processing at the customer’s printing facility. The purpose of the layout, once the plates are produced, is to define how a print should be produced, and the detail of the image to be printed on the plate.


This article addressed the initial steps of creating a design to be used for prepress purposes. If you wish to prepare a cover design for printing, you should practice the steps in this article before producing the final cover design and delivery. I hope that this article has inspired you to spend some time on learning how to make a good prepress cover. When you have designed a quality prepress cover, you will have done a fine job.

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If you have further questions or if you need an artwork made print ready, or need a cover designed for book or need an artwork created and made ready to print on a t-shirt, speak to one of our graphic care associates at +1-732-917-4133.


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