The Ultimate Checklist for Marketing Materials

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

Catch your breath. Stop before you click send to the printer. There’s some things to check first. These are all part of quality control.

  1. CheckboxProofread.  Have another set of eyes review all the content.  Sometimes the most glaring errors are the  most obvious and the hardest to catch. It is best to have an outsider who has never seen the content check it over with a fresh perspective.
  2. Client approval. We always make sure that our clients have signed-off on the final artwork before it goes to the printer.  NEVER skip this step. Too much finger pointing can occur later without proper sign-off from the client.  Also, it is good idea to save all e-mails and time sheets so that you have a paper trail of documentation.  Just in case…
  3. Preflight the final files.  Be sure to properly prepare the artwork for the printer.  Here’s some things to do:

    • Check all fonts. Make sure that all font sets are included.
    • Check bleeds.  Make sure that there is at least a 1/4″ of bleed all around..
    • Check separations. This is especially important on spot color jobs. Make sure that only the proper printing plates print out. If not, go into the artwork and delete the extra colors or adjust the incorrect color call-outs.
    • Check photo quality. Make sure all photos are at least 300 dpi for files that are to be printed using offset lithography or conventional printing.  Make sure that photos are not too dark or muddy. Adjust density for dot gain on press. Print an ink-jet proof on photo quality paper to get an approximation of how the final piece will appear when it is printed.
    • Check “live” area.  Make sure that type or critical artwork such as diagrams or charts are not too close to the trim.
    • Check that images are setup as CMYK for print jobs.  All artwork must be set up as CMYK, then a job is to be printed in 4-color process.  Spot color jobs require Pantone color call-outs (PMS colors) and should only contain those colors plates that are to be printed. RGB images will not print properly but will work fine or online pieces.
    • Check fonts for size consistency.  Ideally, all headers should be the same size headers throughout the publication.  Body text should also be the same size throughout.
    • Check all text wraps.  Make sure that no type is being covered by an image and that all type is wrapping properly around photos.
    • Check all knockouts. Make sure all knockouts and outlined photos have clean edges without stray pixels or white hazy edges from the knocked out background.
    • Check color of text. Some colors such as yellows or light greens are just too hard to read. Make sure that all text is legible.
    • Check folds. Make sure that the piece is folding correctly and that none of the folds are running though people’s heads. Make sure that crossovers (art that is crossing over a fold) properly aligns across the fold.
    • Check for proper logo usage and proper adherence to client brand standards. Make sure that the client’s corporate design integrity is maintained and that all requirements are properly followed.
  4. Review proofs from the printer.  Be sure to check folds, density of photos, bleeds and the positioning of all artwork. Make sure to request a high-resolution sherpa or ink jet proof as well as a low-resolution folded laser print. Have the client review and sign-off at this stage as well.
  5. Request a folded paper “dummy.”  This is a folded sample of the actual paper stock. The client always should sign-off on the paper stock. If you have the time and budget, you may also want to request draw downs of color for a spot color job and/or a press proof. (These can be quite pricey and can range in cost from $400 to $700).
  6. Communicate any potential issue or concerns with the printer. Contact your printer with any questions.  it is better to ask now rather than when the job is on press. If possible, attend a press check to make sure that photos and color do not “gain” too much on press.
  7. Check over the final product.  Spot check the printed pieces to make sure that none of the make-ready sheets have been accidentally packed in the boxes. Make-ready consists of pre-run sheets that were used in preparatory stage before the printing press was at optimum speed and readiness for the final printing. You should also check to make sure that none of the ink has offset (rubbed-off onto other pages) and that all pieces have been properly folded.

Now you can sigh and take a deep breath.

Go ahead and check it off.  It might ensure your own success.


If your company needs an innovative newsletter, e-publication, or promotion, please contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.netWe make beautiful things happen. To find out more please visit

Harlan West is the author of and has been working as a creative director and design professional for more than 25 years and has designed and art directed hundred of publications for both print and online purposes.

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