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What do print shops typically look for in pre-press tech employees?


Junior Member
I’m hoping some of you can give me some advice here. I’m going to be interviewing for a prepress technician job on Wednesday and the main aspect of the interview will be a photoshop skills test. I am actually not a degreed Graphic Designer but I have done the full range of print materials (including mag ads, postcards, and 2 full catalog layouts in Quark and In Design) and an extensive amount of post color correction at my previous jobs. I am actually an Industrial Designer. But presently I’m unemployed and looking to do something that at least utilizes some of the skills that I have and keeps me a float for awhile. A friend of mine works for a lithographer and they are looking for a prepress person.

So anyway, I’m wondering what skills and experience most print shops would look for in a prepress technician?

As I said I’ve done a lot of Post work with photography and I’ve been pretty hands on with prepping layouts to go to print too. I’ve worked with the printers on many occasions to prep files and make sure that I’m using the right bleed margins etc and evaluate proofs before approving jobs. I’ve done quite a bit of image manipulation with furniture product photos too so I’ve been there done that when it comes to shadows that need to be removed, details that need to be added or subtracted (like changing the arm styles on a sofa for example), correcting color on green chairs that look red or gray on the image file, and matching photographed fabric swatches to actual colors.

What worries me is their expectations of preparing preflight tasks like adding cut marks on proofs, CMYK color separations to make the plates, etc.

Are those types of skills things I may expect them to train me for if I already have a strong enough skill set in photoshop?

Are my image and color editing skills most likely their main concern?

Any advice you can give me is GREATLY appreciated!
"Are my image and color editing skills most likely their main concern?" I would say that is the least of their concern.

I make plates everyday, mostly checking proofs is looking for what has dropped from artwork in the RIP and make sure pagination is right, and you have used the right impositions for whatever finishing needs to be done on the job. Also ganging up similiar jobs to get the most yield out of plates and paper etc.

Most things that go wrong in the RIP are drop shadows and graidents turning to solid colours or dissapearing completly. And images dropping or fonts missing when not embedded in PDF's.

Also if you are making PDF's for plate making, make sure you always select "Press Quality" settings.

Check for pantones in artwork, lots of designers supply CMYK work in pantone.

Cut marks are usually added by your pre-press plate making software, and are added when creating new "impositions" (we use software called TrueFlow)

Knowing what "Work and Turn" Work and Tumble" and "Sheetwork" are helps, you know of these?

How to deal with problematic PDF's that wont Rip. Save as a post script, and run through distiller etc, open in the program that created the PDF and remake etc.

Make sure bleed is there, make sure the image to be printed is in the centre of the PDF.

Theres much more that i cant think of off the top of my head right now......
Alex Printedeasy said:
Most things that go wrong in the RIP are drop shadows and graidents turning to solid colours or dissapearing completly. And images dropping or fonts missing when not embedded in PDF's.

lol bane of my life, our WASATCH RIP can be so picky about gradients. :(

I spend a hell of alot of time EPSing PDFs (the good ones, created in InDesign/Quark) taking them into Illustrator and making them work in our RIP. There's a lot of silly work like that. Some of it can be very specific to the system the company works with. So I'm sure they wouldn't expect you to know everything, but at least knowing where to begin would help. The learning curve will be quick, but so long as you take it all in, it's not awful.
Thanks Alex and Becky for your replies. I went in and did the interview with them and I thought it went fairly well. He didn't really get into any RIP tasks with me or questions about them. He basically had me correct a marked up Ad layout. I changed the contrast, fixed some shadows, cleaned up some other minor stuff, etc. The only thing I really stumbled on was remembering some of the Indesign commands for updating links, but I at least demonstrated that I knew what I was doing in principle. I guess it's just a matter of how "turn key" that want someone to be. I think it would only take minimal training and adjustment period for me to be up and running for them.

I won't find out anything for about 3 more weeks though since he still wants to do more interviews, etc. Which is going to drive me crazy!
Sounds like it went well :)

Sadly it's common place to wait so long for replies now. The jobs I've been for in the recent past have all said (either to scare me or truthfully) how many other people they have to interview.

either way, fingers crossed :)


Active Member
Couldn't offer much advice on this thread as never worked in a print envorinment, but glad to hear the interview went well, hope it works out for you :)