Friday, January 27, 2012

How to get Microsoft Publisher files printed by a commercial printer

I recently had to get a leaflet printed without having the time or budget to go to a designer. Normally I would have done this using colour digital printing, but 10p per sheet it was too expensive for a run of 2000 or so. My usual designer uses Adobe Indesign which is the standard these days for graphic design. All I have is Microsoft Publisher 2010 and professional printers can't handle publisher files so I had to find a work around.

The solution turned out to be to design the leaflet in Publisher and output it in pre-press PDF format. This does not compress images like a normal PDF and it will embed font files (where this is possible). To do this requires using a printer who can print from PDF so I settled on who are based in Germany, but deliver to the UK. I paid £99 for 2500 double sided, full colour, A5 leaflets on 170gm paper including delivery and a £10 charge for checking my file for errors before printing.

The leaflet was designed normally in Publisher, but with bleeds set (so the background colours would go over the edges of the paper).

The first thing you need to do is set the document to use process colours - CMYK - not the default RGB. RGB is fine for screen images and some desktop colour printers, but commercial printing uses a four colour process. To do this, start a new document or selct an existing one, go to the file menu, click on info, then commercial print settings. Select "change color mode" and select CMYK.

Setting CMYK as the colour mode in Publisher 2010

Now design your publication as normal. When you are finished save it as a publisher file (so you have a back up in editable form) then go to file > save as and select PDF:

Click on the Options button which opens up the following dialogue box.

Select Commercial press and click on "Bitmap text when fonts may not be embedded".

Commercial graphic design packages use Postscript fonts which can be embedded in a pdf. Whilst Truetype fonts can be embedded, very few have their right set to allow embedding. By choosing to bitmap the text you are turning it into an image and you don't need to embed the font. The results will not be as crisp, but they will be very close to the quality of an embedded font.

Now click on the Print Options button:

Tick the box marked "Allow bleeds" but do not tick the one marked crop marks or bleed marks. If you do that then you may get the lines intruding into the publication.

Make sure the page size is the same as your document. if you have set it to A5 with a bleed area then you will need to select custom size and enter the full size of your document.

Now you can save the document. It will be a larger PDF file from those you are probably used to seeing. You can open it in your usual PDF viewer to check it and generate a new PDF if you want to make changes in publisher.

This method gives charities and voluntary groups the opportunity to improve the quality of their publications while saving money on digital printing and colour photocopying costs. I have had good results, but it requires careful colour management. 

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