The 3 Workflow Mistakes I Made on My Holiday Card

Arrrgh! I am a pro! I know all this stuff!

I received my holiday newsletter from the printer and I am like, ‘what-the-heck is going on with the body font?’ (I didn’t really say ‘what-the heck’ but I am trying to swear less). I ran to grab one of my proofs to see if the type was as fine on the proof as it was on the printed product and is was not!  I then remembered, I proofed it at home on my little Canon Pixma (that I love to bits, not her fault). Crap. Why didn’t I ask for a proof? Because I was late with my holiday cards this year and had already turned it into a New Year’s card and I didn’t want any further delays.

My husband and I are the only ones who saw the proofs and would know the difference, but it was still disappointing. And it is not the first time this has happened to me on a personal project! On a client project I have SOPs, (Standard Operating Procedures) and do not cut corners and typically am not working from home. I have a studio with professional equipment, including printers, so that I can work at the level necessary for commercial work.

This morning I thought, dang, maybe my readers can learn from my mistakes… they might like to see what I am talking about.

The Backstory

This year I did a tongue-in-cheek newsletter “Hark the Herald News” and spent a few minutes researching actual newspaper typefaces from the 1940’s and 50’s to give it that newsy look. (Here’s a pic a friend sent, he thought it was funny, yay!) I loved the Blackletter masthead and condensed Helvetica fonts and thought the non-beautiful spacing of Times was the perfect body font to convey that newspapery feeling. (I also thought a farcical newspaper was the perfect wind-up to 2016 🙄.)

Mistake #1: Know what you are proofing

It is easy to forget what you are proofing or why you are proofing when you are caught up in a project. In my case, my husband was proofing typos and content and whether or not my jokes would fall flat on our friends and family. When he was done with his proofing, I thought, okay, good to go, one last check and let’s send off this pdf. When I printed the proofs for my husband I knew that they were for copy only. I knew that I needed to print another set of proofs to check everything else; halftone densities, ink gain on the copy paper, margins, etc. I totally forgot that we were proofing content only, not visuals. 

MISTAKE #2: make a final proof the right way

After we worked out our content and captions I printed some more proofs to make sure I had done the best I could to balance columns and whatnot.  I am a terrible production artist and I know it. I dread this stage of tightening everything up. I like it when I have a design and prepress team with eagle eyes to catch everything I miss. In other words, I rushed through as quick as I could. At this stage I should have switched out the paper to proofing paper instead of 24# copy paper and changed the print setting to “High Quality” or gone to the studio and printed it out on the proper printer and paper.

MISTAKE #3: If you can’t generate a hi-res proof get one

I sent the PDF to the printer with instructions to print it on a nice, unbulky, text (lighter than 80#), because it had to be folded in quarters to fit in my announcement envelopes. I remember being a little concerned about the halftones being dark and was wondering if they could lighten them up on press. I decided against asking that question when I submitted my pdf for fear of slowing down the process. I knew I was getting the file in late and asking for a rush deadline and I did not want to be a pain in the you-know-what. I did not ask for a proof.

Mistake #4: make sure everyone proofing knows what they are reviewing

My husband was surprised by the size when he saw the finished cards. He thought it was going to be tabloid sized and I was shrinking it down to print at home. The proofs I showed were tiled, trimmed and taped together at actual size, 10″ x 15″ but because of the ratio and the subject, a newspaper, he thought it was going to be bigger! I should have explained that he was seeing the final size.

THE RESULT: disappointment

When you are speccing or setting body copy the “color” of the type has a huge effect on the look of a page. On the left is what the body type looked like coming out of my desktop inkjet printer on plain 24# copy paper with printing quality set to “standard”. On the right is the final output with the body text looking cleaner and more delicate than I wanted. I wanted that soaked-in-newspaper-ink look. This one difference completely changed the impact of the page and man was I bummed. It is the worst feeling to be totally excited about seeing a job come back from the printer and be disappointed. The. Worst.

 

This morning I printed a few more versions so you could see the differences that paper and print settings make.

Below, left is a proof printed on non-inkjet paper but smoother and “nicer” than 24# white copy paper. As you can see, the output is worse than the proof on the 24# paper, above, left. Copy paper is designed for imaging, not necessarily inkjet, but definitely laser printing. The proof is printing better on plain old copy paper than a much nicer non-imaging paper.

Below at right is a proof printed on Photo Glossy Paper. As you can see, the “color” of the paragraph is much closer to the final output than the copy paper proof. The photo paper is designed for desktop inkjet printers and does a fine job of representing how it was going to print. And that is exactly what a proof should do!

I am pretty picky about my print-outs, and that’s why I have a printer at home that uses archival inks and is capable of very high quality printing. Forgetting to use the correct paper is just plain dumb on my part. And even though my printer is awesome, it doesn’t hold a candle to a million-dollar digital printing press. Commercial presses have similar color and resolution, but they are completely different when it comes to speed, media variety, and repeatability.

We were each a little disappointed, I with the color of the type and my husband with the finished size. We still sent them out, folded in quarters, to spread some holiday cheer. The moral of the story is; if you don’t follow the steps necessary for a professional print project…you won’t get a professional outcome. Do you have a story about missing a step? I’d love to hear it.

I wish you a joyous 2017 with perfect proofs and awesome printing!

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