Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Magazine ads: Prepress Chaos

Being a print media professional, I often get complaints from clients and agency people that they had sent the ad material as per the specifications but it has been rejected by the scheduling department on technical ground but they are unable to understand the reason stated for rejection. And then starts the process of making them understand the reason of rejection and also the need and importance to meet those technical requirements. Actually these technical terms are not as difficult to understand as it seems. In fact it is as easy as making a bowl of Act II Popcorn.

That's why I came up with an idea of creating a blog on the prepress technical jargons which is often misunderstood by people of the trade. Rather it's an opportunity for me to venture into sphere of serious blogging. I have tried to explain these jargons as simple as possible. I have also used illustrative images in doing so. I hope my effort will help a lot of people out there.


When a designer finalizes an artwork after getting approval from client and is happy with its look and feel, it is still not ready to go to the press. Here comes the role of Prepress. Prepress is the term for the processes and procedures that occur between the creation of an artwork and the final printing.

During the prepress stage one has to make sure that the final file has all the information in it, properly arranged, so that their artwork prints the way intended. Either the artwork is intended to be printed as bleed or non bleed, how much bleed allowance is required and where to place crop marks or what is Gutter Space.

Cut/ Trim Size

This is final size of the magazine. You should create your artwork in this size.


When the artwork is printed on page from edge to edge it is called bleed ad. A non-bleed ad has white space between image/artwork and edge of the page.

Bleed Allowance

The part of the artwork that extends beyond the edge of the cut/trim size is called bleed allowance. The bleed allowance ensures that the final image goes right to the edge of the paper after binding and trimming.

When you want to print your artwork from edge to edge, you need to provide bleed allowance which has to be as per the specifications from the publication house/printer, usually its 3 mm (i.e. 0.3 cm).

Bleed allowance should be provided on all four sides of the page/artwork. If you need to provide artwork in a size 19.6 cm x 25.7 cm then after including bleed allowance the size of your artwork should be 20.2 cm (19.6 cm + 0.3 cm + 0.3 cm) x 26.3 cm (25.7 cm + 0.3 cm + 0.3 cm)

Crop/ Cut Marks

These are the mark which are place at all the corners of the artwork and indicate where to trim. These are applied manually or automatically with some DTP software. Cut marks are to be placed at final size of the magazine.

Print Margin/Live Matter area

This is an important element of overall page layout. It provides breathing space in an artwork. It also keeps text and graphics 'falling off the page' by providing a buffer zone.

Gutter Space
Space allowance used to accommodate the binding in two facing pages in magazines is called gutter space. Main purpose of the gutter space is to save any text or important part of the artwork from getting hidden in binding area.

This is it for now. I hope the above information will help a lot of people. In the next post I will describe 'How to export a high resolution pdf?'. Till then Goodbye :)