There are so many things to remember when you are a graphic designer; bleed, page dimensions, color spaces… important things can easily slip through the cracks! When you are a new designer, it can be even more overwhelming.
Through my experience–both by committing these mistakes and by receiving files where others have made them–I have compiled the top three that I think are the most important to avoid and they are also the ones I see happen most often. I hope you can learn from these and avoid making them yourself!
Mistake: Submitting Incorrectly Setup Files
How It Can Happen: Often you may receive requests from clients to design an ad to be included in a publication for a tradeshow, newspaper or magazine. They may send you the files they used last time and ask you to update them, in which case, perhaps you don’t pay attention to the file properties and setup. Alternatively, if it is a new file, you may assume you know the specs of the ad, not noticing that it is a half-letter sized booklet, that no bleed is allowed and that it needs to be in black and white.
What Will Happen: Publishers send out very specific instructions for how they want to receive artwork. Not following instructions can end up costing you or your client money, a lousy-looking result or even exclusion from the publication, which will reflect very poorly on you, and could easily lose you future work from your client.
How to Fix It: Pay extremely close attention to final dimensions, bleed, resolution (almost always 300 ppi, but good to double check), color mode and file types the publisher will accept and do not deviate from these specs! If a certain requirement seems to be missing, contact your client or the publisher immediately and ask—this is one of those times where it is not easier to ask forgiveness than permission!
Always print out a list and check off each of the requirements as you verify that you have set up everything properly before sending the final file. This is the mistake I see made most often. Double and triple check the requirements if you need to because not doing so can have very bad consequences!
Mistake: Sending RGB Images to Your Printer
What Will Happen: The printer will probably contact you and tell you that you have some images in RGB and ask you to resubmit your files in CMYK. Not too bad, just a little embarrassing. Hopefully you are in direct contact with the printer so that your client doesn’t see that email or relay that request!
Fix It By: Check to see if all your images have the correct color profile in InDesign by going to File>Preflight. This will give you a summary of images that use RGB.
To fix the RGB images, open them in Photoshop and select Image>Mode>CMYK. There are some complicated things you can manually adjust, if you’d like, by going to Edit>Color Settings and then selecting Custom CMYK from the drop down menu next to CMYK in the Working Spaces section (dialog box pictured). Generally, though, the defaults should be ok.
Mistake: Submitting Low-res Images
How It Can Happen: There are many ways that low resolution images can sneak their way into your production; clients or sponsors can send low-res PDFs, you could accidentally export a low-res PDF from another InDesign or Quark file, someone could send you a logo or picture meant for Web and tell you to use it in their 52-foot banner or you could resize a photo in InDesign or Illustrator to be larger than the original (be careful when first scaling the photo smaller and then deciding to scale it larger that you do not scale it up past its original size!).
What Will Happen: The image will be varying degrees of pixilated, blurry or grainy, depending on how big it was originally and how big you need the end result to be.
How to Fix It: Ideally you should be using images that are 300 ppi. Check your resolution by taking the image into Photoshop and going to Image>Image Size (alt/opt+shift+I); 300 should be the value under Resolution in the Image Size dialog box.
Warning: Do NOT scale up your images to make them 300 if they are smaller! Always make sure to uncheck the box that says Resample Image so that you do not risk falsely increasing the resolution.
If you didn’t understand any of the terminology in this article (jargon like process, resolution, CMYK and RGB), then check out the Graphic Design Glossary! If you find any words missing or entries that should be expanded on, let me know and I’ll add them!
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