One of the most common ways print overheads are sent soaring is down to silly errors in document processing. Most businesses use Microsoft Word, others use open source suites such as Apache OpenOffice, and for those working remotely – file sharing can be used, too. When that happens it can wreak havoc on printed documents for a number of reasons.
To ensure you can minimise the cost of print, consider the following, and preferably have a printed document for your staff to refer to these common print errors so they don’t waste any more consumables on poorly formatted documents.
10 checks to do prior to clicking print
1) Get the MS office setup configured properly
The most common document processor is that of Microsoft Office. It covers a suite of features including PowerPoint, Word, Excel, and Publisher.
There is a problem with it though. It has not been designed to produce press ready documents ready for print. On occasion, some manipulation is required. This is due to conflicts between the print driver and the Microsoft coding. Word can override the print driver and cause the output to vary in the margin size, or even paper size.
If that happens, Microsoft has this workaround, however, another option is to convert the file to PDF. Most commercial grade printers recognise PDF properties and do not allow the file commands to override print driver settings.
Some MFPs can handle the file conversion, but there are some units that can’t. If your business MFP does not convert files automatically prior to printing, the set up will need altered.
Page sizes may also need adjusting.
The default for most MS Office documents are set to American page sizes. One of the most basic errors to occur when new hardware is installed on site is the default MS Word being set to US. It’s a different page setup size to UK print.
Whatever size of paper you are printing to; always check the page margins and size are set to UK A3, A4, A5, or any other custom size you require.
There’s a useful guide to UK paper sizes here
2) Don’t hit ‘enter’ to get to a new page
Let’s face it, reaching the bottom of the page with only a few lines left to run is much easier to repeatedly strike the enter key and hit the new page we need for the next section of the document. It’s a rookie mistake, and a lazy one at that, albeit for the effectiveness of productivity.
Many a person has this habit because it is faster, but prior to printing, the editing stage of document production must include inserting page breaks where appropriate.
Otherwise, any training manuals or other documents printed will have a messed up index. The page numbers will not correspond with the table of contents. Chapters will run into each other and the entire document can be ruined. That can be a costly error when mass printing volumes. All because of one simple tweak in the editing stage being skipped.
3) Don’t get fancy with fonts
Custom fonts are great for presentation purposes, but if they are not on the hard drive of the networked PC/computing device and printer, it will automatically switch to one that is.
When this gets disastrous is when documents have been edited in different processors through file sharing. Employees can do some work on their PC at their workstation, share it via Google Drive and log in to do some adjustments or insert some information and it’s inserted in a different font. If that font isn’t recognised, you could have a print output with different fonts which won’t look right at all.
4) Know the difference between screen quality and print quality
There is a huge difference between these two. A screen grab can look pixel perfect on your monitor, but print it out and you’ll scratch your head wondering what you did wrong. It’s simply pixels playing tricks on you.
Monitors can display quality graphics at 72 PPI (Pixels Per Inch). Printers cannot give a quality print with a low pixel amount to work from. For a quality image print, you need 300 ppi, although you may be able to get away with 150.
This is important to note because Clipart graphics and images downloaded from the web are not print optimised. You may be able to scale an image down in size, but you cannot scale it up. Even using sophisticated image manipulation software you will not get quality results.
Images for print must be high resolution to start with. That’s why there’s an entire market for high quality digital cameras. They produce imagery capable of press print quality. Downloaded images do not do that because they are mostly compressed in file size to save on memory.
5) Transparent backgrounds are a no go
Unless you are trained in graphic design and know the technical intricacies of watermarking documents, do not attempt to do this. The only exception is if it is already installed within theWatermarks Gallery of MS Word. If you choose to do a custom watermark using a transparent background, you can find the print output will not render it, and instead produce a crosshatch pattern across the entire document.
This will happen if the printer driver doesn’t recognise the syntax that’s been inserted into the document.
6) Know the file formats the printer understands
Files can be saved as many formats but save in something the printer doesn’t recognise and you’ll have a hard time achieving a quality output. You need the input to correspond with the effective output. The universally industry standard is Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF).
Converting to PDF reduces file sizes and maximises the digital memory capacity of the printers.
Generally, you can expect PDF, Tiff, Jpeg, and EPS to be printer recognisable file formats on many colour MFPs.
7) Chose the right print quality for the job
This is one of the most effective ways to cut costs fast. In an unmanaged print environment, the first run will be done on the highest resolution, which will soar the cost of print.
When you send a print job to any printer, you have options for the quality you require. If you’re only requiring a test run to find out if the document will print okay, then you do not need to print on the highest resolution possible.
There is a reason the settings have a low quality print option and that is to print drafts. It will give you an overview of how your final document will look. This is the best setting to alert you if you have the page margins set up wrong, if the enter key has been used instead of page breaks and that the page numbers correspond to the index in the document.
When printing any first draft document, select low resolution. That can be anywhere from 72 – 150 dpi which is screen quality only. When you’re satisfied the document will print as you want it to, then opt for the high resolution option, which could be anywhere upwards of 600 dpi.
The higher the resolution, the higher the cost of print, and the faster you’ll burn through toner kits, or ink cartridges if your business still uses them.
8) Set Desktop Publishing Software settings to align with the printer
For businesses designing their own posters, or colour brochures, and pretty much anything that requires colour printing, you need to set the DTP to CMYK colour mode. As you may or may not know, graphic design has two colour systems. The CYMK model stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key [black]. The RGB colour model is light based representing red, green, and blue. That only works on screens because it’s based on light colour and not on ink.
As much as technology has advanced over the years, it is impossible to produce colour out of light. That requires ink and that’s why you need to have your graphics designed with the CYMK colour system enabled. It’s the only way to print images.
9) Know your image limitations
Before you even consider printing a colour image, you need to know if it’s going to look horrendous before you send the job to the printer. The way to tell is the image resolution.
As previously mentioned, you cannot scale images up in size. If you have an image designed for a postcard (A6) paper size, and the DPI is 300, if you double that to fill an A4 sheet, you will cut the resolution in half.
Whenever you scale an image up in size, it reduces the resolution. The print output result will be pixelated, and not the sharp and crisp image that you see on your screen. Any raster images you are working with – ensure they are a minimum of 300 dpi when sending to print.
In terms of image size, there’s a reason the government’s traffic-sign images are supplied to professionals in two formats. Jpeg, and EPS (Encapsulated PostScript). The majority of commercial printers recognise Jpeg file format, but only top quality printers will have EPS file comprehension. If you need to scale images, you need a printer with EPS functionality; otherwise, you’ll have a difficult time producing large poster size quality prints.
10) Always account for bleeds when the feature is enabled
Full bleed printers are important for colour brochures, poster printing and similar graphical print jobs. The margins can be up to five millimetres of a differential to the original document you sent to print.
The bleed feature is designed to enable right to the edge printing. You’ll know yourself when you print a document, or even use your home printer for a photo printout, you’ll have a white border surrounding it.
The bleed is there to get rid of that white border.
Where the problem creeps up is when people forget about the bleed feature and print a colour brochure with text on the edge of the document, or even page numbers. The printer will print to a larger size of paper, but once it’s been processed it will then be trimmed to ensure the colour does indeed run right to the edge of the paper. If you forget to account for that, you will find page numbers being cropped out, or even text cut completely out the document.
If you work with a large number of file formats, or find that you’re spending more than you’re comfortable with, it could be mishaps in your print management. You can refer to our print assessment information here, learn about print technology here, or a contact member of theCopylogic team here for any advice you need on print management.