Beware the Blade!

Are you new to design for print? One of the things you may not be familiar with are the dimensions we attribute to artwork. In this short article, we’ll explain what they mean and how we use them in the world of printed publications.

  • Trim – this is the exact size of the publication. The 2 most frequently used sizes are A4 = 297mm x 210mm and A5 = 210mm x 148mm. Note that in the world of print, we use the Y axis before the X axis, which is the opposite of cartography, but we usually confirm the orientation with either ‘landscape’ or ‘portrait’ following on.
  • Bleed – we need 3mm added all round your page so for A4, our bleed dimensions are 303mm x 216mm
  • Critical Matter – we also refer to this as the ‘type area’ . We mean the area where you can safely place text within the page – for A4 we use 285mm x 198

Designers who are new to print often question why we need these considerations. It can be quite difficult to describe without the benefit of a print factory on hand, but we’ll try!

Production involves 3 principal processes: printing, folding and binding. All are executed with high precision, but there is always variation, however small. This variation translates into movement of the trim which is rarely obvious, but nevertheless means that there is potential for unsightly results.

  1. where text is placed close to the edge, there is risk that it may ‘move’ right up to the trim, or even partially cut off
  2. where there is no bleed, there is a risk that a white ‘line’ may appear on the edge of a page where the intention was to have a colour panel right up to the trim

There’s more to these margins where perfect bound work requires additional treatment in the spine but we’ll leave that for another post. If you need any support with your artwork prep, our studio team are always happy to help. Just give them a call on 01727 733263 or chat at 

Renewable Energy is here

You can now enjoy an extra warm glow of satisfaction when you print with The Manson Group!

We’re delighted to announce that since November 1st our factory electricity is provided from 100% renewable sources.

Using a Zero Carbon Tariff is a big step forward in our drive for sustainability and our mission to reduce the environmental impact of our activities. Find out more about our environmental journey here

Ad copy – PDF OK?

Ad copy – PDF OK?

Ad copy – PDF OK?

If you’re producing a magazine, you will almost certainly be dealing with finished pages in PDF format from advertisers. Firstly, beware! PDF is a format, not a standard. PDF files can be created from almost any desktop application, so just because it looks OK on screen, doesn’t mean it will look good when printed on a commercial press.


One of the misconceptions about PDF ad copy is that it can be inserted into the layout document and then ‘PDFd’ again to create the finished press-ready document without any problems. Whilst this is possible, it can create a number of hidden defects in the artwork, many of which may not be visible before the finished product is printed.
How can that happen?
When most PDF files are created, a layer of compression is added to improve the ‘portability’ of the final document. If you check your settings, you will see that jpeg compression will probably be applied on halftone images for example. No problem in small doses, but…
Where you create your final document ready for press, you may be applying a second layer of compression on top of the first which already existed. This seond layer can start to remove important ‘structural’ information from the document which can be detrimental to its appearnce. We’ve seen blends turn solid, colour pictures turn to mono and certain components just disappear. Rare, but scary nevertheless.
So how do you eliminate this risk?
Decompress the ‘ingredient’ file by turning it from a PDF format into eps format.
Open the original ad file in Acrobat®, then go to…
File>export>Postscript>Encapsulated PostScript then in the browse window, hit Settings
General Binary // Font Inclusion – Embedded and Referenced Fonts // PostScript Level3 // tick Convert TrueType to Type1 // tick Include Preview
Output tick Simulate Overprinting
Colour Management Colour Handling – Acrobat Colour Management // Color Profile Coated FOGRA39
Save and you’ll have an eps with preview ready to import into your layout document. It’ll be a good deal bigger than the PDF original because it contains more information, but will be absolutely reliable.
Don’t be tempted to use Illustrator or Photoshop to convert. Illustrator tends to create huge file sizes with lots of superfluous information, whilst Photoshop will rasterise all your vector graphics and text, making them look fuzzy / pixelated.


Forget protein shakes and bodybuilding – in print, bulking is a very different phenomenon. And much more important!

If you’re designing a saddlestitched booklet of significant pagination, you’ll need to deal with it. The main symptom of bulking [also known as creep] is that the pages in the centre of your publication actually turn out a couple of mm narrower than those on the outer reaches.

This is simply due to the bulk of the inset pages of the spine.

thick spines mean smaller page area

Bulking occurs in large saddle-stitched products, since each section is progressively stitched inside the previous section. It varies according to pagination and paper thickness, but the inescapable fact is that when the spine is 3mm thick, the centre pages will be pushed out 3mm. Thus, a 210mm wide page will be 207mm in the centre. The 3mm is invariably lost from the fore-edge of the publication which can have dramatic consequences if you, for example, designed a bleed panel 4mm from the edge. When 4mm is cut to 1mm and we factor in machinery movement within industry tolerance, there’s not much left to play with.

So, if you have a thick saddlestitched publication on the go, give us a call to discuss before you finalise your layouts. We can help you avoid this, and many other pitfalls!

Hitting the Target: Colour Management

Hitting the Target: Colour Management

Our presses are regularly serviced to make sure that we achieve the most consistent results possible but how do you know that we’ll achieve the colour you’re looking for?

A commonly used standard where ink densities are concerned is ISO12647. That standard alone warrants a few paragraphs, but to keep it simple, let’s just say that over years of

target-e1412781988155producing magazines, we have found that these densities are a touch too heavy for images that have not been through post production and retouching. And a large proportion of the pages we handle haven’t.

The most important point here is do not rely on your monitor unless you have undertaken some form of calibration and you have sufficient previous experience of sending work to press and therefore have acquired an ‘interpretative eye’.

The simplest, cheapest way of checking colour before sending to us is to take an eyedropper sample in Photoshop® of the CMYK percentages in the given area on your page and compare these numbers with those in our colour selector (drop us a note and we’ll send you one). This will tell you (a) how close your monitor is to the printed result and (b)what you need to do to your image (usually in ‘curves’ in Photoshop®) to achieve your desired objective.

If you do a lot of colour retouching or find this too long winded, we have colour specialists who can spend a day with you and help you calibrate your equipment to reasonable tolerances so that you can use your screen as a guide. It may cost extra but we have lots of happy customers who concluded it was a great investment.

tick the [trim] box

tick the [trim] box

When we go through the imposition stage, we position each page on the plate to an accuracy of microns in precisely the right position so that when a flat sheet is folded down, your images will appear in the right postion.

How do we know where the edge of your pages are? Well, you probably use corner marks, or ‘tick’ marks as the print trade calls them, but beware – these are not the first port of call for page laydown software in the studio.

When you create a page in InDesign, the page dimension you specify in document setup creates a trim box which carries through to the press ready PDF file you’ll ultimately create and it’s what all page laydown systems refer to for positioning.

Why create a trim box? Years ago, imposition systems would position using X-Y coordinates from the edge of the document; literally the white space or what’s known alternatively as the Media Box. Most editorial applications would position trim 10mm from the Media Box symmetrically on every edge, but a multitude of originators (particularly advertising agencies) would often add extra space around the edge, creating more white space, sometimes asymmetrical, which caused mispositioning.

The presence of a trim box guarantees that the page will fall into the correct position irrespective of peripheral elements. Likewise, the absence of a trim box will throw a spanner in the works, so to speak. Broadly speaking, absent trim boxes fall into two categories – 1. the global setting and 2.the isolated pages.

1. tends to occur where pages are created in less ‘robust’ applications like Microsoft Publisher or where pages are saved as PDF directly from non-page layout applications. These tend to be spotted quickly because every page is out of position to the same degree and, in cases where it’s practical to do so, we can alter global settings at our end to correct the problem.

2. isolated pages are where the problem becomes more dangerous. They occur most frequently in magazines where ad copy is not processed through the main layout document and pages are supplied to us as exactly the same PDF file the advertiser supplied to the publisher. They can be more difficult to identify, lying as they do, in between correct pages.

It’s always safest to run your ad pages through your main layout document. That way, you’ll spot any discrepancies in the page geometry before it reaches us, avoiding possible extra costs and delay. It also gives you the opportunity to go back to your advertiser with constructive feedback at an early stage.

How do you check for trim boxes? Easy. Open your file in Acrobat Pro, go to Edit>Preferences>Page Display. Check ‘Show art, trim & bleed boxes’ then ‘OK’. You’ll now get a red hairline which won’t print to show the trim box on every PDF file you open.


TAC (Total Area Coverage)

TAC (Total Area Coverage)

When we use the term ‘saturation’, it’s often used as a way of describing colour areas which are too heavy. In fact, over-coloured areas can quite literally lead to saturated paper which in turn can cause problems with set off and accuracy of reproduction.

The ability of paper to accept heavy weights of ink is tightly calculated and managed. This is where the idea of TAC comes in. TAC refers to the Total Area Coverage of the 4 process colours on a printed sheet. For example, a bright red made up of 100% Y and 100% M would be 200% TAC. Fine. The colour ‘registration’ is 100% of all 4 colours so 400% TAC. Nightmare. Impossible to print at standard ink weights.

Our TAC is 280%. If your halftone images exceed this, our software may ‘open out’ the darker areas slightly using a subtle curve to limit the potential problems of over-saturation. In general, we will not alter ‘graphic’ content such as logos, text and boxes, so you will need to consider this if you are matching graphic content to pictures.

Acrobat Professional can check for TAC. Go to Advanced> Print Production> Output Preview. Set your TAC limit near the foot of the box and switch on so that your overweight areas are highlighted. You can even select your preferred warning colour.


It’s far better if you manage your content so that it’s below our limits when you upload. That way, we don’t have to tweak anything and your screen image is more realistic. In general though, you’ll find that the ‘opening out’ process involves UCR, or the conversion of C, Y and M to K only, so the colour hues should not change.