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Designing for Letterpress

Don’t use a jpeg or save as a bmp file for your images!

Our favorite image mode is a .tiff. Or send us vector art images (made in Illustrator or Freehand) instead of raster images (made in Photoshop). Jpeg files will create low-quality letterpress plates that will make you unhappy; its file format is best intended for the web.  Files that end in .bmp can also give unwanted results by saving as the wrong size and are also lower quality.

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In Illustrator, the only black your submitted file should use is 100% CMYK black (CM and Y are 0%)

When opening any new document in Illustrator, choose File > Document Color mode > CMYK. To Check this before submitting your file for upload – in illustrator versions CS4 and CS5, you can open your Output-Separations Preview window. Click on the drop down window showing Off and select Separations. Click off the black eye and everything left showing on your file is not in 100%K. If you select a part of your file that is left, and look at your color palette, anything that shows a percentage of C,M, or Y needs to be corrected. To correct this – go to Select > Same > Fill (or Stroke). It should highlight everything that looks like black (but isn’t). Than go to the color palette and using the eyedropper, click on the black part of the bar (far right). The C, M, and Y will go to 0% and the K should go to 100%. Now this part of the file should disappear because it is correctly set to 100%K.

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When using Illustrator, how do I outline my fonts and why is it important?

Sending all your fonts packaged is not fail-safe: all needed fonts aren’t always provided, or all your fonts may not be recognized when we open your file, causing shifting and changes in your design. On the other hand, outlining fonts is fool-proof, safe, and ideal. So outline your fonts! In Illustrator, you do this by selecting TYPE>Create Outlines. This will automatically convert your text into vector shapes.  Your type will temporarily look bolder and be highlighted in blue.  Click on any white area of your file and it will look normal again.

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Do I send my files to size or scaled down?

You will need to send your files at 100% scale. We do not resize, scale up or down, or rotate any artwork. We highly recommend using the ruler feature available in Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign to check your work to see if it is the size you want.

When exporting a PDF from Adobe Illustrator or Adobe InDesign, please double check to make sure it is the correct size by either re-opening it in Illustrator or placing it in InDesign to check the actual dimensions of your file.  In InDesign you can use the Rectangle Frame tool to draw a box around your images/text to measure.

In Photoshop, use the Image Size tool to check your size. Saving your file as a .TIF locks your image size.

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Do I send my files reversed for your processing?

No. Please send your artwork and text right-reading as you want it to appear as the final print. We will make a film negative here at Boxcar Press for you. However, if you are planning to use your files in a different process than printing, please call us to discuss how best to prep your files.

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How do I submit artwork for print jobs or quote requests?

Send an email to printing@boxcarpress.com. If the file is too large try using yousendit.com. (Boxcar Press can accept up to 25MB via email but your email capacity may not allow a file that large to be sent.) Before you send, make sure you have outlined your type, included actual crop marks or a cut rule and that your files are set in solid, uncoated Pantone colors.

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What file formats do you accept?

We prefer press quality PDF files and also accept Adobe Illustrator files and EPS files. (If sending an eps file please also send a pdf for reference.)

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How do I outline fonts?

While either in Adobe Illustrator or InDesign, select all your text that needs to be outlined using the black arrow tool (the default arrow tool). Next, select TYPE>Create Outlines. This will automatically convert your text into vector shapes. Your text will temporarily look bolder and be highlighted in blue.  Click anywhere on your artboard that is white to deselect your text and its appearance will look normal again.

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How do I select spot colors in my file instead of CMYK?

Spot color or Pantone swatch colors can be applied to objects via the Pantone Swatch Color Book or Spot color library found in Adobe Illustrator. For Adobe InDesign, Spot Colors are more easily accessed. First, activate the Swatch palette by selecting WINDOW>Swatches.

Notice the fly-down menu icon in the upper right-hand corner of the Color palette? The icon looks like a small downward black triangle with four small lines next to it. Clicking on this will open a fly-out window menu. Hover your mouse over “Open Swatch Library” to open another fly-out window menu of all the color books. Very carefully move your mouse to hover over “Color Books”, which will open up another fly-out menu. You’ll see a lot of different color book options, but we recommend using “PANTONE solid uncoated”. Clicking on this color book will open a new window filled to the brim with a plethora of color
Swatches that Pantone has to offer.

Finally, assign all your file’s artwork, objects, and text to their appropriate Pantone Swatches or spot colors.

In Indesign, open the swatch window. click on the downward black triangle to the right and choose New Color. This opens a New Color Swatch Window. Select Spot as color type and Pantone Solid Uncoated as the Color Mode. The PMS colors will load for you to select and click OK.

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What’s the smallest type size you can hold in your platemaking?

This question is not as straightforward as it seems. We can hold a 3 pt. Times New Roman type face on 94 and 95 plate material but the real question is the next one about the thinnest line and dots the plates can hold. The font choice and characteristics of the font may limit the point size.

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What’s the thinnest line and smallest dot you can hold on a plate?

It depends on the plate (though no hair lines, please!). If your plate has a 94 or 95 in the product name, we recommend at least a 0.25 point thickness (or larger). If your plate has 145 or 152 in the product name, we recommend at least a .35 point/.007″ thickness (or larger). Watch out for typefaces with swirly curves that thin or have breaks or fonts with fine cross bars.

For dots, we recommend at least a 1 pt diameter if your plate has a 94 or 95 in the product name. Boost that to 1.25pt diameter for plates that are 145 or 152 in thickness. Each of those dots has to stand on it’s own on the plate and that thickness will provide the support at the base of the plate to hold the dot. Watch out for typefaces where the dots on the “I’s or periods are small, as seen in many sans serif fonts that are decorative, free form or look hand drawn.

Undersize lines and dots may appear on your plate as wavy or be missing completely so checking this is very important for a good file and usable plate.

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Can you scan my camera-ready artwork?

Yes! Simply mail us your camera-ready art and we will scan it in for you. When possible, we love art work that’s on smooth, bright white paper or drafting vellum. Textured paper makes our job more difficult as the scan will pick up any background patterns, paper shadings, paper texture, etc. We are faithful to originals: if you require modification or retouching, you may be charged for additional file preparation time at our shop rate of $60/hour. We’ll contact you before we bill for additional file prep. We can scan, in house, artwork up to 12 x 17 inches.

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If I’m scanning an image, what resolution (DPI) should it be?

Most folks want clean line art, and if this is what you’re seeking, scan at least at 600 DPI, though 1200 DPI is even better. Open your scan in Photoshop to convert your file to the Image mode of Bitmap via the 50% threshold method and an output of 600 – 1200. If you lose too much detail, you can make adjustments to your image by using Image Adjustments > Levels or Image Adjustments > Brightnesss / Contrast.

If you’d like a halftone, you can use a 300 DPI scan. With halftones, keep the image in the grayscale color mode in Photoshop, and let us know the LPI / line screen.

Either way, save your image as a TIFF with LZW compression. This will make your file size more manageable when placing into another program like Illustrator or uploading to your job ticket.

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