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Printing Terminology: What does Preflighting mean?

Graphic Designer reviewing an Artwork File to be Printed

Preflighting is a term used frequently within the graphic design and commercial printing trades. It refers to the process of reviewing a digital artwork file to verify it has all the elements and formatting necessary to produce high-quality printed output.

Basically, designers and printers preflight artwork to identify and correct any issues with the file that would prevent it from printing properly. Just because an artwork layout may look perfect on a computer monitor doesn't always mean it will output properly to a commercial printing press. This is why the preflight function is necessary.

A Term borrowed from the Aviation Industry

The "Preflighting" reference is borrowed from the aviation industry. Prior to take-off, pilots and aircrew go through an extensive series of inspections and tasks, known as a pre-flight checklist. This ensures the plane is airworthy and safe. The failure to properly perform all preflight procedures is often found to be a contributing factor in serious aviation mishaps.

Along these same lines, preventing a serious printing mishap is why graphic designers and printers preflight artwork early in the print process. Because it is costly and time consuming to remake printing plates, and even costlier and more time consuming to reprint an entire project, it is very important to preflight artwork to ensure the printing process goes smoothly.

Who performs the Preflighting?

Two computer monitors displaying graphics software

Experienced graphic designers will usually have the expertise and software necessary to preflight their artwork files prior to submitting them to a commercial printer. Most commercial printers have a pre-press department to preflight incoming artwork files as well.

The best case scenario is for the designer to preflight the file prior to submission and correct any issues found at that stage. Then, the printer's pre-press department will also preflight the artwork once it is received. If any remaining issues are found by the printer's pre-press department, these will be communicated to the client (or the client's designer) along with any recommendations for remedying them.

What are common issues uncovered during Preflighting?

  • Colors set to RGB instead of CMYK
  • Pantone "Spot" Colors not properly identified
  • Bleeds missing or set up incorrectly
  • Crop marks missing or improperly placed
  • Page dimensions or orientation incorrect
  • Extra pages, missing pages, or pages out of order
  • Inadequate margins
  • Images missing or with poor resolution
  • Fonts missing, or not embedded or outlined
  • Leaving unused colors or objects in file

As a full-service commercial printer, Color Vision has an in-house graphics and pre-press department to preflight all artwork submitted with a printing order. We work closely with you to ensure your files are print-ready and that you receive the quality results that you expect.

If you have an upcoming print project to discuss, give us a call at 800-543-6299. Or, if you already know your project's specifications and would like a quote, please submit our Quote Request Form. We look forward to working with you!

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