File Errors

We would like to focus on preventing the submission of files that are potentially faulty or less than perfect, saving time and – last but not least – costs and annoyance in the ever shortening production processes.

This is why we are aiming to help you with our PDF Creation Guide, and our PDF Verification Guide supporting the checking of the finished PDF documents. Unfortunately, due to the complexities of the PDF files, the most common file errors are not always easy to find and fix, and thus, it is reasonable to know about them and eliminate their root causes in the source file.

Most common file errors and their effects

ProblemPossible effectPreflight
is checking?
1. Inadequate page countPrice difference compared to the orderNo
2. Inadequate color countPrice difference compared to the orderNo
3. Inadequate page sizePrice difference compared to the orderNo
4. Bleed is missingTrimming problemNo
5. Unnecessary marksTrimming problemNo
6. Content near trim lineTrimming problemNo
7. Undefined trim lineTrimming problemYes
8. Incorrect color space (RGB)Color mismatchYes
9. Incorrect color space (RGB)Color mismatchYes
10. Incorrect overprintColor mismatchNo
11. White overprint elementsColor mismatchYes
12. Registration color inside trimboxProblem with printingYes
13. Thin lines in 4 colorsProblem with printingNo
14. Total area coverage is excessiveProblem with printingNo
15. Low resolutionPixelated printYes
16. Font is not embeddedMissing charactersYes
17. Incorrect die line separationProblem with die cuttingNo
18. Page cannot be identifiedCollation problemsNo

1. Inadequate page count

If the number of pages in the PDF does not match the volume submitted in the order, it may have an effect on the production price of the product!

Hint: Not only check for technological compliance in the PDF, but also check its content for those placed in the order!

The PDF page number and the volume submitted in the order are the same.

More pages have been received than the page count in the order.

2. Inadequate color count

As the correct color separation is commonly determined by the parameters of the product to be made, incorrect color separation will mostly occur when the received file contains color channels other than those specified in the order. This means that a file submitted for a product that should be printed in at least one spot color (Pantone) will not be suitable if every element in the file has been separated as CMYK values. However, it would not be acceptable either if a spot color channel remained accidentally in a publication file that should be printed in CMYK colors. Another common error in single color products (e.g. containing text to be printed only in black) is to leave some element with a CMYK color fill in the file.

Hint: Not only check for technological compliance in the PDF, but also check its content for those placed in the order!

One color black printing on both in the order and in the file.

File submitted in CMYK compared to the order.

3. Inadequate page size

Files in which the specified final trim size differs from what was indicated in the order submitted to us will be considered as files having an incorrect page size. This is also true for cases described in point 9 (undefined trim), if the exact position of the trim cannot be established in the publication.

Hint: Not only check for technological compliance in the PDF, but also check its content for those placed in the order!

Same size as the order.

Size difference compared to the order.

4. Bleed is missing

If the bleed is missing, it can lead to problems with trimming in the case of graphical elements that extend to the edge of the page. In such a case, a larger area should be printed and trimmed back to a small size in order to avoid having a white (unprinted) frame around the printed area. Please always check the presence of the bleed in the finished PDF file, and set up the layout of the page properly, using the correct trimbox size settings. The recommended size of the bleed is 5 mm, for coverboard 15 mm!

Hint: When editing a publication, start with setting the bleed to the correct size so that you can base your edits on that bleed without having to deal with it later.

Appropriate bleed.

There is no bleed outside the trim size.

5. Unnecessary marks

Registration marks that desktop publishing applications optionally insert into the document at the time of creating the PDF file are completely unnecessary as the final product will be printed sheet by sheet instead of page by page, and for this reason our printing house uses its own printing marks for setting registration marks which are different from those offered by the DTP programs. These superfluous marks are rather detrimental as they usually take up much needed millimetres from the bleeds on the pages, which are absolutely necessary in terms of the production technology.

Hint: When creating PDF files, you can turn off the use of automatic marks (Marks and Bleeds). Please do not use marks other than crop marks!

Only crop mark on the page.

Unnecessary registration mark and colorbar which reduce the size of the bleed.

6. Content near trim line

Red lines in the figures show where the cuts will be made. It is easy to see that in one of the cases the content elements are too close to the trim lines. In such a case there is a risk that due to the inaccuracy of the trim inherent in the technology, which can be 1 or 2 mm, a few important parts of the page may be removed. It is reasonable, therefore, to place important content elements that will not extend into the bleed, at least 3 or 4 mm from the trim line that indicates the place where the cuts will be made.

Hint: In the DTP programs, the correct margin settings can help you avoid cutting too close to designing important items.

Appropriate distance from the cutting line.

Too close to the cut.

7. Undefined trim line

It is absolutely necessary to define the exact location of the trim in the files, since the submitted graphical content that includes the bleed is larger than the final trimmed size so the position of the trim within that size makes quite a difference. Essentially there are two days to define the trim. The first is to use a drawn crop mark to indicate the place of the trim, but this is the less preferable solution due to the fact that the registration marks (mentioned in point 4) can reduce the bleed in certain cases. A more practical approach is to add the correct trim box setting, indicating clearly the place of the trim, to the PDF file as metadata. This trim box size can be interpreted by the PDF workflow software used at the printing house, and with it you can always add the crop marks automatically at the correct position.

Hint: In the DTP application, the size of the document (page) should always be identical to its final trimmed size, which makes it easy to use the correct trim box setting.

Properly setted trim box.

In the absence of a trim box setting, the exact location of the crop is not clear.

8. Incorrect color space (RGB)

Printing presses use the CMYK color system so the images to be printed should also be encoded in the CMYK color system. Cameras and monitors operate in the RGB color system so images in the submitted final version of the publication should be converted from RGB color space into CMYK. Since the colors that can be rendered in the two color systems differ, the conversion typically leads to changes in coloration, which make it particularly important not to perform the conversion in the printing house, but during the initial phase of image editing so that the colors are set to the correct color space.

Hint: When you convert colors, always make sure you use the correct color profile settings! A misconfigured ICC color profile may produce incorrect color separations!

Picture in CMYK color space.

Highlighted in green the areas of the image where change color due to an RGB-CMYK conversion.

9. Incorrect color space (RGB)

The color space is incorrect if color separation was not carried out in accordance with the printing technology or the ICC color profile that is suitable for the paper to be used for printing. You will find more details about the correct color profiles in the ICC profiles menu item on our website. It is a frequent mistake that color separation is performed by leaving the default settings of Photoshop set to the U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) color profile, which is incompatible with the European standards and leads to unexpected differences in color.

Hint: If you view the file on a suitably calibrated monitor, with the correct color profile you can simulate, with good approximation, the printed colors, and consequently you can correct the images in the retouching phase to achieve the best possible rendering.

ICC color profile appropriate for the paper.

An incorrect color profile in the file can cause discoloration in the finished product.

10. Incorrect overprint

A graphical element is called ‘overprinted’ if it does not affect the fill of other graphical elements it overlaps. If something is not overprinted, then it will knock out the other object below it. Both cases may be good and bad depending on the situation and the intended visual effect. It is, however, very important to understand that due to the stretching of paper, the alignment of elements that are not overprinted can be imprecise, and for this reason it is recommended that you should always set lower grade black texts, thin rules, bar codes, etc. to ‘overprint’ if they overlap any other objects. However, setting “white colored” object to ‘overprint’ should be avoided as this would make them disappear in the print. For die line drawings, it is particularly important to always set the elements of the die line drawing to ‘overprint’.

Hint: In order to avoid unexpected results, always turn on the Overprint Preview display mode in your graphics program, which is capable of simulating the effect of overprint settings.

In case of overprint, the black text does not knock out the green background.

If the black text is not set to overprint, the text will be negatively missing from the green background, and the white color of the paper may appear on the print due to paper stretch.

11. White overprint elements

Setting the white elements to overint is always incorrect! If an object is not overprinted, it will not knock out the color of the underlying objects (not the white color of the paper will appear, but the color of the underlying object). Because white elements do not have a CMYK color, the white element cannot be visible with this setting.

Hint: Always set the view of your graphics programs to simulate overprinting! (View > Overprint Preview)

White elements must not be overprinted!

White overprints do not appear in print!

12. Registration color inside trimbox

Registration color is a special color in DTP programs that is reserved for print marks. Since the print marks (crop mark, registartion mark) must contain all colors in a 100% fill ratio, the use of this color for the graphic elements of the page should be avoided!

Hint: You can easily check the color separations (overall coverage) of each surface in the finished PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC using Tools > Print Production > Output Preview.

One color black (100% K)

400% CMYK black

13. Thin lines in 4 colors

Offset printing involves transferring single color separations (CMYK) onto the paper in a series of operations performed by the printing press, which requires that you pay particular attention to the perfect alignment of the individual colors. Due to the characteristics of the technology, the print is also exposed to moisture, which means that certain parts of the images can be highly sensitive to color alignment and the possible stretching of the paper. Such elements are thin rules in several colors (CMYK colors printed over each other) or thin inverse lines on multi-color surfaces.

Hint: Please avoid using multi-color or inverse colored rules thinner than 0.2 pt, especially if you use thin-lined or low grade multi-color letters.

Thin lines made of 100% black color extract.

Thin lines in 4 colors.

14. Total area coverage is excessive

When using sheet-fed offset printing technology, the total coverage of color separations (CMYK) printed over each other should not exceed 280% ideally. 300% total coverage may even lead to severe printing problems. For this reason, please avoid using image elements of this kind. If you need to print elements in deep black color on a large surface, then we recommend that the coverage of such surfaces should be K:100% + C:40%.

Hint: You can use the Tools > Print Production > Output Preview feature of Adobe Acrobat Pro DC to check the color separation (total coverage) of the individual surfaces in the finished PDF file.

Deeper black with 40% cyan color.

Black color with 326% overall coverage.

15. Low resolution

An image with a resolution of less than 150 dpi is considered a low resolution image. Such images should be avoided, because even if they look good on a 72 dpi screen, they do not contain enough details for high-resolution prints (up to even 2400 dpi). In such cases, the so called pixelation of the image becomes noticeable, which can greatly reduce the appeal of the finish product. Thus it is important to ensure that a suitable set of images is selected, because if an image does not have enough details from the outset (which is true for images downloaded from the Internet).

Hint: Do not set the resolution to a higher value in the image editor, because the you will not get a better quality image!

300 dpi resolution.

72 dpi resolution.

16. Font is not embedded

Since the RIP program should interpret the PDF file accurately in the course of processing and rasterization, it is extremely important to ensure that the PDF includes all the required information. One important piece of such information pertains to the use font sets. Since we treat a PDF document as a closed file, it should contain every information that is necessary to interpret it. There are two alternative methods for embedding fonts that can be selected at the time of creating the PDF file. Partial embedding (subset) which embeds only the characters that are actually used, and full embedding of the entire font set.

Hint: Safely used to avoid issues related to problems with fonts: converting text to outlines after editing the publication. Then the text will be encoded as a series of vector objects instead of characters in the file.

Embedded font.

Font embedding problem.

17. Incorrect die line separation

For die cut products it is important to ensure that he die line drawing required for making the die cutting tool is perfectly aligned with the graphics, but it is also easy to separate them in the file as no part of the die line drawing should appear in the printed product after printing. The easiest way to ensure it is to add the elements of the die line drawing to a dedicated spot color channel (that will not be used for printing). It is also important to set the elements of the die line drawing to overprint as this ensures that an inverted version of the die line will not appear in the print after turning off the separation containing the die line drawing.

Hint: Check the die line setting in the finished PDF file by turning off the color channel containing the die line drawing in the Output Preview menu item of Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.

Suitable die line color from spot color, overprinted.

From CMYK color, the image of the tool will appear on the print.

18. Page cannot be identified

It is difficult to identify pages (which jeopardizes proper collation) if the publication does not contain page numbers and the names of the submitted files do not make it clear where a given page is placed within the publication. For this reason, if you do not submit all the pages of the entire publication in a single PDF file, then you should be particularly careful to name those file unambiguously.

Hint: Write the paginas in the name of the file. (For example, body_39-45.pdf) When uploading a corrected page, the name of the page should also be clear! (For example, body_45corr.pdf)

The file is named according to the page pagination.

There is no pagina in the file, and the name does not indicate exactly which pages are in the file.