Manufacturing and File Setup Tips

1. Tip: Avoid a border or rule line close to the trim edge.

Including a border in your file makes any trim variation much more noticeable. Per the File Creation Guide, for cover art, we recommend at least .25” from the trim mark for perfect bound books. For Case Laminate books, we recommend at least .25” from edge of board. For interior pages, we recommend at least .50” from trim marks.

2. Tip: Avoid a background or images stopping exactly at the spine.

Any variation in the horizontal binding position of the cover is much less noticeable on a cover design than has an image or same color that wraps from the front cover, across the spine and onto the back cover. To avoid emphasizing the allowed variance of .0625” when binding a cover, we recommend that there be no ‘hard’ breaks of images or background color at the spine fold. Having color or image breaks at the spine highlight any variance, even those within the stated tolerance.

3. Tip: Understand that there are pros and cons to inkjet black and white printing.

Black and white halftone quality is more consistent and visually pleasing on the inkjet platform. It’s an affordable alternative to other color products. If image quality is vital to the title, we would recommend Premium Color. But if color in a book is merely a contributing feature, Standard Color is a perfect solution, and is only a little more cost than black and white.


4. Tip: Inkjet jet-outs will have occasional voids.

Due to the nature of inkjet technology, voids – lines 1/660 of an inch in width – will occur from time to time. These voids should not exceed one or more of the following criteria: a void consisting of two adjacent lines that result in a void of 1/300 of an inch or greater or more than three voids on any given page.

5. Tip: Always use the default setting PDF/X-1a:2001.

If black type looks light this is often due to RGB or CMYK ‘black’ text. Most often black type looks light due to the presence of an ICC color profile. Using the default PDF/X-1a:2001 setting will address this issue.

6. Tip: Sometimes there is a difference in cover production between manufacturing sites.

We use inkjet printers and laser printers at our facilities that are both high-quality; however, due to the nature of these printers, the different products may have some variation.

7. Tip: Book/cover mismatches are decreasing because of our automated case binding equipment.

Our new automated case binding equipment employs the same barcode matching system that’s used on our perfect bound binders. The cover barcode gets scanned first and when the book block is loaded, its barcode gets scanned. An electronic match allows the bind to take place. We still employ the manual barcode matching process in our shops as well, a process that requires an associate to read the barcodes to confirm the match.

8. Tip: There are ways to minimize “popping” matte laminate at the spine.

Laminate popping usually happens on dark covers (dark blues, dark reds) and is sometimes caused by the cover file being above 240 TAC (density).

9. Tip: Use adequate bleed dimensions.

Lightning Source requires an interior file be submitted with 1/8” bleed on the three trim edges. We do not accept files with bleed on the bind side of the page. When a file is stored, it is cropped down to the bleed dimensions. ‘Extra’ bleed would merely be cropped out of the file before it gets to the printer.

10. Tip: Check more than one carton if you spot a mistake.

Sometimes customers assume all of their books were produced incorrectly. We recommend that you spot check more than one carton if you suspect a manufacturing error.

11. Tip: Books manufactured using print on demand may differ slightly from books manufactured by an offset printer.

POD and offset printing processes are not identical so the final products may not be exactly alike. There may be slight variances in areas like color or binding.

12. Tip: Come on a tour!

Lightning Source wants you to visit our manufacturing facilities and get to know our pre-media team. You’ll gain a better perspective of how books are made at Lightning Source, the incredibly advantageous speed of production, and the issues that can occur in the process.

For more information about file creation and manufacturing standards, please refer to the Lightning Source Operations Manual and User Guide.

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