4 Design Tips Your Prepress Team Wants You to Know, Part 2

By Donovan Dowty

"Print Basics” is a series that provides an in-depth look at print, prepress, ink and more.  

In our previous post, we looked at the activities that take place in Prepress when getting artwork ready for print – Step 1) reviewing a proof and Step 2) preflighting the artwork. Now, let’s turn our attention to two other important things that occur in Prepress – color match and obtaining design approval – and some helpful tips for each. 

Step 3: Determining Color Match 

Most digital design files feature process colors, also known as CMYK (cyan, yellow, magenta, black) colors. The Prepress team finds the closest color match according to the Pantone Matching System (PMS) — which are solid, spot colors and the preferred industry standard for identifying colors — and recommends them to the customer. Once the Prepress team has determined the exact number of spot colors needed for the job, they include this information on a digital design proof so the customer understands all the colors involved in the design.  

Tip #3: Stick with PMS colors when possible. 

PMS colors are the industry standard for color description and should be used when possible. However, in cases where PMS colors do not accurately match brand or corporate colors, custom ink formulas can be created to achieve the desired match. Be sure to communicate brand colors to your sales team in advance. 

Step 4: Obtaining Design Approvals 

Once the artwork has been preflighted, color matched and equipped with necessary envelope specifications such as paper type and envelope size, it’s ready for customer approval. Prepress sends a PDF of the design file to the customer for review.   

There is an important disclaimer on the proof stating that the customer needs to obtain USPS® approval on the final design. While the teams at Tension are well-versed on USPS guidelines and can advise on certain aspects of them, the final approval must be from the party sending the mailpiece. 

Tip #4: Understand and keep up to date with postal design guidelines. 

The use of bad barcodes (e.g., outdated barcodes, or barcodes that don’t feature a proper Intelligent Mail® Barcode (IMb) as required by the USPS for routing), designs that appear in the barcode clear zone and other unapproved mailpiece designs can wreak havoc on your mail project’s budget and schedule. A Mailpiece Design Analyst is a good contact for any questions on mailpiece design relative to USPS requirements; you can email an MDA at mda@usps.gov. Also, take note that the USPS is the only agency that can create an accurate, working IMb. Tension can recreate a design of the code but only after it has been generated by the USPS.  

Contact Us 

Let your designs reflect your brand in a positive light: Prepress is an opportunity for you to review your designs in detail and have them reviewed by the USPS for accuracy. Talk with a Tension expert to discuss your next design today. 

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