Direct Mail Tips & Insights

A 3 Step Guide to Print Production for Direct Mail



The print produciton process is crucial for any direct mail campaign because without it you wouldn't have anything to mail. However, there are a few areas in the very beginning stages of the print production process that can be easy to overlook. If overlooked they can negatively impact the output or the effectiveness of the direct mail campaign.

3 step guide to take you through the print production process. Including proofing, FTP, and preflight:

The Proofing Process:

Let’s start with the proofing process. When receiving print ready PDFs for print and mail production it is assumed the client has proofed the document for typographical and content accuracy. In today's fast-paced production process, direct mail companies have become accustomed to working without supplied hard copies and trust the integrity of the supplied native files and/or PDF files. However it is still up to the art and prepress teams to verify that the print files meet print production standards.

When proofing any file, the main points to be on the lookout for, include:

  • The designated space for the mailing address, which should be a minimum of 4.5” x 2”
  • Postage indicia and mail piece dimensions need
     to qualify for letter rate postage
  • Any bleeds should meet minimum specifications of 1/8 of and inch
  • All fonts should be properly embedded.

Want a complete breakdown of the direct mail printing process? Click here!

FTP Process:

In order to seamlessly exchange files back and forth with clients, will direct mail vendor will typically set up an FTP site that allows for the transfer of high-res files, which are typically too large to send via email. Clients are provided with the appropriate login credentials in order to access files.

Preflight Process:

The preflight process is a very important step before print production can begin. Although the proofing process is over by this point, there are still some things to check for before going to the printer. These checkpoints include:

  • The layout files match the appropriate trim-size dimensions of the finished product.
  • All fonts are properly embedded in the PDF. If fonts aren’t properly embedded, then this can cause numbers, letters or other symbols to transpose or change their shapes when the file is opened on another machine that does not have the chosen font available.
  • Must be at least 240 DPI to print. The images visible in the file are at least 240 DPI (dots per inch). Any files, images or graphics that are below 240 DPI may print with undesirable results. 
  • All full color projects should be set up as CMYK. RGB graphics are not acceptable for printed material. Black and white files should be set up as grayscale. Pantone colors should only be used if a specific Pantone spot color is required.
  • Transparency effects should only be created with Photoshop. InDesign and Illustrator can create very poor results with print files if not created properly. Especially when designed for large variable color projects.

Direct mail projects are often sent to a direct mail vendor in a rush. This can cause some concerns in quality and organization, which can lead to the failure of a direct mail project. And in an effort to keep up with a client’s schedule, many direct mail providers will also rush the process, which increases the risk in missing one of these crucial steps.

However, by using this print production guide, direct mail providers know what to look for and how to mitigate risks and ensure that a client’s project deliverables are to the best possible quality.


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