Your pre-flight check

‘Create a leaflet for a local company and get it ready for print. If possible, pick a type of company that allows you to use the resources you have to hand. For example, if you can easily take photos of your garden you might want to create a leaflet for a garden centre. On the other hand, you might choose a tool company or food takeaway.

Create your leaflet to these specifications:

  • A4 landscape, folded in half to create A5
  • printed double-sided
  • full colour on the front
  • two spot colours on the inside
  • 3 mm bleed.
    Do a pre-flight check of your document:
  • Spell-check and proofread (use the proof marks to note any mistakes) the document.
  • Ensure your bleeds and printer’s marks are in place.
  • Convert images to CMYK and ensure they are at least 300dpi.
  • Specify your spot colours using the Pantone system.
  • Gather together the relevant image files and fonts into a digital folder.Export your document as a print-ready PDF or gather together the necessary files to send to your printer. Make a note of any information you think you need to tell the printer, for example, which Pantone colours, fonts or other instructions you need to communicate.Having gone through this rather technical process, what points do you think you need to be more aware of next time you prepare a design for print?’

At the end of the level one Graphic design course I chose to have my final assignment professionally printed – just to get a little pre-flight experience.

The printer asked for a PDF with the text converted to outlines, with a 3mm bleed, saved as Press Quality. I think this is likely to be what most printers would ask for, but it would depend on the company. Obviously, I’m not an expert at this point!

Talking of which, I haven’t used spot colours before, and I found tutorials very helpful (I feel like they should give me shares by now??) Here’s a couple of screenshots.

An ink technician at work mixing and checking a Pantone colour

Seeing the care and precision that goes into mixing and checking inks before a larger batch is made was fascinating!

I’ve learnt what these other colour options are like TOYO( Asia) and HKS (Germany). Oh and what the Pantone Colour Bridge is. And that Coated and Uncoated are the same inks, but giving you a review of the end result according to finish.

How to check the Separations Preview…

A quick experiment of my own in Illustrator using two spot colours and one CMYK.

I learnt that you can create a custom Preflight check, via ‘Define Profiles’

And I refreshed my memory about the ‘Package option’ in Illustrator.

I decided that I’d like to produce a leaflet for florists. Just because I’m really quite girly, and we get to choose the topic! As you can see I thought about categories of occasions, and what sort of info they might want to display. I think I will use fake latin text fill for some of it though.

Collecting images from Pixabay. Thank you Pixabay!

Next I roughed out some ideas with a sheet of A4 paper to brainstorm the layout. (Naturally I didn’t stick to this at all!!)

I set up my document as requested A4 landscape, 3mm bleed. I chose an image of tulips for the front page, and edited it to the correct format in photoshop. Hmm. What should I call my shop? ‘Heavy petal’ says my partner. So I have a play with that.

I love cute brush fonts – this is chocolate heart free. But I have a strong feeling these are going to date quite quickly so I went for another option. And shortened it to Petal.

I show you the result in a mo. Once I’d finished my design, I carried out the necessary checks

Check Indesign is actually set to UK English and use spell check.

Check bleed is set to 3mm

Check pre-flight. I can see there’s an error – overset text

Its actually just placeholder text, but I tidied up anyway

Checking my image is 300dpi and CMYK via Links…I think this is OK though it’s telling me ‘effective PPI is 155’. Why is it less? I don’t know.

I tidied away unused colours in the swatches panel and checked with separations preview.

I can check my colours are OK by toggling on and off the spot colours. Yep. They are in the right place…

…and I’ve placed them in their own separate layer in the layers panel marked “Spot colours”.           I really am trying to be tidy(!)

As I click on Package I see there are more fonts than there should be. Yikes

With a bit of digging about I find an empty text frame, set to a font I previously used. It doesn’t show, but I deleted it anyway. I also had forgotten to change all instances of Raleway to Avenir (double yikes) Using find and replace I was able to quickly tidy.

That’s better

Image OK. Inks all present and correct

Do people actually add notes for the printer? I don’t know.

The Packaged files on my desktop

My Preflight Checked Leaflet

CMYK front and back

Two spot colours

I found it tricky matching the CMYK colours from the text and photo with similar Pantone ones (to give a sense of unity – additional hues would have been easier!). The spot colours are the pink background colour, and the purple type.  I am really pushing my luck with white text (I know). It felt a bit complicated making sure a design had two Pantone colours only on the inside, not as a theme throughout. I took this literally and didn’t include any images!!

I really appreciated systematically using all the available methods Indesign has to check and re-check my document. I think I would probably use Package as an additional way of checking in future, even if I was actually planning to export as a PDF.



Production for Graphic Designers by Alan Pipes

Learning Print Production with Claudia McCue (

Print Production: Spot colours and varnish with Claudia McCue (

Print Production: Pre-press & Press Checks with  Claudia McCue (



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s