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InDesign Poll Results: Sending Files to a Print Service Provider

Stop the presses!! Or rather, start them and send off your print-ready files! This past month’s poll was all about the format you choose when sending off your files to a commercial print service provider. And the clear winner is PDF. Just which flavor of PDF is where things get divided. And fairly evenly, at that.
Poll results 11-2017
The included Adobe presets won the day—albeit by a small margin—with the PDF/X standards a close second. As someone who rarely uses the predefined PDFs, I was surprised to see such a relatively high percentage.

More surprising, though, was how far behind using a PDF preset from the provider themselves finished in this race. That may speak more to the lack of information provided or preparation on the service provider’s part, however.

Sending native InDesign files—a practice I avoid to ensure errors won’t be introduced at the printshop—accounted for a not-too-shabby 16% of the vote. The last mystery in this month’s poll is, just what types of files make up the “Other” category? A poll can only say so much. If you chose this option, let us know what kinds of files you send in the comments!

New Poll: Upgrading to CC 2018

Speaking of polls, start your engines for the newest race and (puts on best announcer voice), “LET’S GET READY TO RUMMMBLLLLLE!” This month’s poll asks the question of the season: When will you upgrade to InDesign CC 2018?

Erica Gamet

Erica Gamet

Erica Gamet has been involved in the graphics industry for nearly 30 years. She is a speaker, writer, and trainer, focusing on Adobe InDesign and Illustrator, Apple Keynote and iBooks Author, and other print- and production-related topics. She has spoken at the InDesign Conference, PePcon, ebookcraft in Canada, and Making Design in Norway. When she isn’t at her computer, she can be found exploring her new hometown of Seattle and the greater Pacific Northwest.
Erica Gamet

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10 Comments on “InDesign Poll Results: Sending Files to a Print Service Provider

  1. Send the packaged files AND the PDF. 19 times out of 20 they won’t need the original files, but when they do, it’s good to have sent the hi-res images, fonts, original .indd files, and an .idml for good measure. My experience is that printers are typically on older versions than studios and in-house teams.

    Often this means posting a link to the PDF and a download link to the ZIP of packaged files. The ZIP is larger, of course, so keep that in mind for archiving purposes.

    • In my experience (having worked in and then with prepress for decades), I find comfort in NOT sending them my native files. I am 100% confident in my PDF-making ability that there is no reason they should need my native files. Too many errors get introduced. Now, the key is being communicative with service providers ahead of time. What exactly do they need in a PDF? What do they want to handle on their end, and why? How do I set it up so that it flies through their workflow seamlessly? If they can’t answer my questions about how they need their PDFs provided, I will run in search of a new print provider. It’s up to them to tell me (or better yet, provide me) what they need to ensure a perfect PDF and perfect finished piece.

      • Does anyone here remember creating PDFs in the late 90s? It wasn’t too unusual then to supply native files to a printer, but what a headache font issues often were!
        Nowadays, I use whatever PDF settings the print provider recommends. One printer might suggest an Adobe preset, like PDF/X. Another printer might suggest their own unique preset, suited to whatever machine they choose for the job.
        I agree with Erica, if a print provider can’t tell you exactly what PDF settings they require, don’t waste your time with them… run don’t walk to another provider.

      • I would not worry so much about sending native files. Most printers who are worth working with employ artists on staff to prep files. I am one of those artists. Sometimes we DO require native files for complex foils, dies, or layouts involving spines etc. We are not here to hamper, but to help. We know the layout end AND the printing end of the process. We have no desire to reprint jobs for free because of errors on our part either.

  2. There is zero chance I’d send them my original files! That is just asking for trouble and you need to know who is responsible for what.

    If there is an error or they want something provided differently, they can tell me what it is and I’ll ‘fix’ it myself.

  3. I will upgrade to InDesign CC 2018 sometime in 2018, probably in the spring, as I learned long ago not to jump on the upgrade band wagon right off the bat. Let the problems float to the surface first where they can be skimmed off, right?


  4. I don’t think I’ve ever used one of the Adobe presets for commercial work. In most cases, because they are well-defined industry standards that any provider must support, I use PDF/X-4 or, less often, PDF/X-1a. As for vendor-provided presets, opportunities to use them are surprisingly few. I have one for a billboard vendor, one for a specialty print house I occasionally use, and a couple for ad submissions to national magazine publishers. When I asked a new print provider if they have a custom preset, the most common responses have been “PDX/X is fine” or an expressive shrug.

  5. When sending out to the printer, we use a preset from the one of the two printers that are used. The major publishers use the same presets for when they do their stuff in house, and so do all of their vendors.

    We rarely send the production people (or the designers) our ID files, unless we are doing rough pages and we are returning the file to the designer put in all the art. And when the job is all done, we package the job and send it to them for archive purposes.

    So far as CC2018–I have already upgraded at home, but we have not done so at work yet. Besides, we are still using CS6 for some of our clients as that is the version they have. Mostly CC2014 and 2017 though.

  6. As a designer I will only supply PDFs to my printers, sometimes to their specific specs, but mostly as PDF/X-1a. I haven’t had an issue for at least 10 years now.

    On the other hand, as a print broker I prefer clients to send me their ID files along with their PDFs. If there is nothing wrong with the PDF than that’s great, but you’d be surprised how often I receive plain sloppy files with missing bleed where required, odd bits left in that should have been removed, and all kinds of other crazy things. So much quicker and easier for me to fix these issues myself than to go backwards and forwards to the designer, especially if there’s an impossible print delivery deadline (and let’s face it, when is there not?). Afterwards, I always send them an updated file for their records, of course, plus an explanation of why it was necessary in the first place.

    As for CC2018, I’m using it now and have been since it became available, in particular because of the endnotes improvements.

  7. I always use one of two presets I’ve created myself (one flattened, one APPE) as neither Adobe presets nor the standard PDF/X presets give me the full control over color conversion etc. regarding the specs of the job.
    I then do preflighting, setting the rendering output and PDF/X verification and so on in Acrobat.

    Might be old fashioned and is for sure not a one-click solution, but I have never had any problems nor did I ever have to redo a PDF made this way.

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