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The pre-flight print process: explained

Printing is a complex process that has always required a great deal of preparation before it can run at full speed. While today’s print methods need very different preparation methods than the print technology of old, there are still many processes that need ticking off your list before you can carry out successful print runs. This is called pre-flighting. If you (or your print management company) fail to carry out these processes thoroughly, your print run could be an expensive and time-consuming disaster…



The process

Pre-flighting aims to eliminate compatibility issues between digital files and their prints. Commonly this process is used on PDFs, but other file types also require pre-flighting. This is because they need to be converted into a format that the raster image processor (part of the printer system) can understand. Here are some of the pre-flight checks that should take place before almost every print run.


Check that typefaces are accessible to the print system, and embedded in the document. You should check that fonts aren’t corrupt, and are in a compatible format. If not, a different font will have to be used – which may affect design.

Images should be converted to a compatible file type. The wrong file type will lead to an image not being printed.

RGB images (or Pantone spot colours) should be converted into CMYK to ensure that the desired colour is achieved when printed.

Check images are of sufficient resolution. Your photos mightn’t look blurry when you view them from your laptop, but when printed out they could appear pixelated unless their resolution is high enough.

Check margins and bleeds to ensure that the design is printed as required.

Check page ordering.

Alter font size, where necessary, to ensure it’s readable.

Check layers. Some PDFs have layers, and some printers aren’t equipped to read which layers aren’t hidden – so all of them will be printed on top of each other, unless otherwise specified.



The importance of pre-flight testing

Without this type of testing, you could very easily carry out an entire print run with a compromised finish. While carrying out these tasks may seem tedious, it’ll certainly take far longer to resolve the error and set up an entire new print run than it will to pre-flight.


Pre-flight testing doesn’t have to be carried out by designers. If you’d like your designers to be able to concentrate on creativity and not on file formats, PMG Print Management can help. As part of our comprehensive print management services, we offer pre-flighting on all documents and artwork. Our team of experts will double-check that everything is in order before the documents are sent off to the printers.

Pre-flight testing is one of the many extras we offer our print management clients. We can help you add value to your print projects while cutting costs and improving turnaround times. Book a print inspection to begin.

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