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Design is not Prepress

There’s no doubt in my mind that everyone has heard of graphic design. If you haven’t then graphic design is the art or skill of combining text and pictures in advertisements, magazines, packaging etc. If you’ve worked within packaging and package design, you may have heard the term “prepress.” Understanding this step in the design/production process is helpful for business owners, purchasing agents, marketing professionals, and others involved in the process of printing and producing materials.

The prepress phase begins as soon as a customer submits art files to a pre-media house or printer for production. Prepress is responsible for applying specific press requirements to each design file that leads up to final production.

Prepress activities have traditionally included the following:

  • Workflow Management (Proofing, Production Planning)

  • File Management (Archiving)

  • Separations (File Corrections, Typesetting, Color Correcting, Color Management, Imposition, Knockout, Overprint)

  • Preflight

  • RIPping

  • Plate Production

It’s good to know the general guidelines of what we do when designing artwork in order to provide your pre-media house or printer with files that can be worked properly and provide the best output for printability.


Check your files to make sure you have what is needed to manipulate the artwork for production.

  • Images - All files must have linked images with all images provided as part of the final artwork package. Images should be provided in CMYK, full printed size or larger and 300 DPI resolution. Embedded images cannot be used for print production.

  • Fonts – All files must either have outlined fonts or fonts files provided as part of the final artwork package.

Press Minimums

Next prepress will check for minimums based on the customer and what press the job will be printed on.

  • Line Weight - It is safe to say that any lines or strokes must be at least 1pt. thick. If you don’t know how thick a point is I will tell you it’s close to 1/64 of an inch. Basically, it’s important to keep in mind the type of printing, size of carton, and your overall artwork, if something is too small, it’s likely going to either fill in and look like a blob or detail may not show up at all.

  • Text Size - This also goes for text size. There are different requirements for each printer’s specifications, but most often anything under 6pt. type will be illegible.


Something that most graphic designers don’t take into account is trapping. It’s super important to be aware which printing processes require registration for art elements. These print processes will need to incorporate trapping at the prepress stage that will change the artwork and elements may end up looking bad or simply not workable. If not accounted for during design your print cost may increase or you may end back up in the design stage.


Lastly, but just as important is color. It is crucial to take in to account how many colors are being used or can be used for a job and how they interact with each other. You can’t have a four-color process image with an additional spot color containing screen interacting with the image because it will cause a moiré pattern where the screens overlap.

If you can keep these guidelines in mind when designing and approving art for print then you are set up for a great print run! If you ever have any questions when designing for print reach out to your printer or prepress partner for guidance.

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