HOW TO PREPARE A FILE FOR PRINT
JODY BURSON, ARTWORKER AT WIEDEN+KENNEDY LONDON, WALKS US THROUGH HER PROCESS FOR GETTING FILES PRINT-READY
“At Wieden+Kennedy London, when preparing an artwork file for print, I start with an approved file from the design team. I make several rounds of minor amends – copy and image updates, such as edits to the headline or adding retouched images.
Once I receive final sign-off internally and from the client, I prepare the artwork file according to job specifications defined by the design or media channel booking. This usually includes checking the resolution and colour space, so for a print job we ensure the image is a minimum of 300dpi and in the CMYK colour space.
I then set the document up to specification, making sure the document size, bleed, trim and copy safe area are correct. To ensure the artwork is colour accurate, I print a colour-certified proof to be signed off by the necessary parties.
For press and out-of-home campaigns, I will adapt the master artwork to suit specific media bookings. For example, if I’m adapting a press ad for Sainsbury’s, I receive different sizes and specifications for each newspaper and adapt the file while being careful to keep the overall look and feel as close to the master layout as possible.
Once adapted, files are then packaged up (collecting the individual assets, layout files, fonts, graphics, images) or formatted to a particular file type, according to the printer’s requirements. We then supply to the printers or production partner ready to print.”
In short, artworkers are the middlemen between creative and design
images,” she explains. “I’d check the correct fonts are being used and give a quick overview of line endings. If the file has cutter and fold guides, I’d check these work correctly, but if unsure, I’d create a mock-up.
“I’d also check that any spot colours will print correctly and check the colour separations in Acrobat. I’d then package the open artwork and print PDF, ready to send on through to the printer or to the client.”
There are a number of standard tasks you perform every time you prepare files for print, says Michele Stocks, in-house designer for PR agency Nelson Bostock. “For instance, you make sure everything’s in CMYK, and that there’s at least 3mm bleed. You make sure all the artwork and important information is housed within the set margins. If you haven’t done this, you risk your text, artwork or logos being cut off by the cropping process, or for white lines to show around the edges of your pages because you didn’t have any bleed on it.”
There’s also a lot of back and forth involved, she adds. “You’ll often have to liaise with the printers – or the clients if they’re having it printed themselves – to make sure you understand the nuances of how they want it printed. For example, with one client I have to have a specific amount of colour density,
The work is often meticulous, but there are often opportunities to be creative and free
because their paper is so thin, you can’t have too much colour or it won’t look right.”
It’s also about having a wider appreciation of what the design is aiming to achieve, points out Jody Burson, artworker at Wieden+Kennedy London. “Whatever job you’re working on, it’s essential to know where it will sit in the world,” she says. “There are different considerations when artworking a print job for a billboard poster rather than a digital file for social media or a piece of 3D packaging. Plus you always need to refer to the client’s brand guidelines to ensure you’re adhering to their requirements.”
In summary, artworking is not just a narrow technical role, but something that should draw on the broad range of your design knowledge and creative skills. “The work is often fairly meticulous, but there are also opportunities to be creative and free,” stresses Burson. “Every job I work on challenges me and gives me new opportunities to learn.”
Glynn Harvey concurs. “It’s not just sitting in front of a screen resizing ads, which is what I once thought an artworker did,” he says. “You take the big creative idea and use your knowledge and experience to not only point out what can’t be achieved, but to enhance projects and add that wow factor, especially with print finishes and cutter guides.”