Preparing your InDesign documents for sending to print or exporting as digital files shouldn't take up hours of your time. Ensure your documents are error-free with this short guide to proofing your work, and have more time left over for fun!
What Is Proofing and Why Should I Do It?
If you're more used to design software with a solely visual emphasis, like Illustrator or Photoshop, you may not be used to proofing your work at the end of the design process.
Proofing ensures your InDesign documents are error-free, both in terms of content (e.g. overset text) and technical quality (e.g. color suitability [CMYK or RGB] and image resolution).
If you take just a few minutes to proof your work, you're more likely to have a better-quality, error-free final result, so it's always worth doing. The good news is that InDesign helps you with the proofing process by providing tools and panels that do some of the hard work for you.
Follow the two-step process below every time you finish an InDesign document, and you'll have no need to be worried when your printed items get delivered...
Step 1: Get Friendly With the Preflight Panel
InDesign has an all-in-one tool for helping you identify and resolve technical errors in your document. You might go to export your InDesign file and find that a warning message pops up. This indicates that there are errors in your document.
Before you do anything else, click Cancel and either head up to the Window menu and choose Preflight, or double-click on the green or red circle at the bottom-left of the workspace (the circle will have either 'No errors' or '[Number of] errors' in text next to it).
This opens up the Preflight panel. First things first, make sure Preflight is active by checking the box at the top-left of the panel to On. Preflight is usually 'Live' by default, but it's worth checking.
If Preflight is showing a green light and 'No errors' then you're good to move on to Step 2, below. If it is showing a red light, this means that Preflight has detected errors in your document.
Here, for example, Preflight has flagged up two errors in my document. Both errors are categorised under LINKS, and classified as Missing Links.
If I click on the arrow to the left of Missing Links, a drop-down menu appears showing the specific links which are missing.
To the right of each link is a number, which indicates the page of the document on which the error occurs. If I click the number, I'm taken directly to the relevant page, and the missing item is highlighted.
Preflight not only identifies the error, but also helps you to find a solution via the Info window on the bottom half of the panel. Click on the arrow next to 'Info' to expand it. With any error selected, the Info panel will spell out the Problem, and suggest a Fix. In this example, I'm instructed to go to the Links panel and Relink the missing image file.
Go to Window > Links, and choose the chain icon at the bottom of the top-half of the panel to relocate the file on your computer and Open.
Preflight will also flag up other errors which may have gone unnoticed on your design; such as Overset Text (Preflight will also tell you how many words are overset), Missing Fonts or Color Errors, and suggest appropriate fixes for each.
Once the Preflight light turns green and reads 'No errors', you've fixed all the basic errors highlighted by Preflight. Move on to Step 2 for the next part of the proofing process.
Step 2: Adjust Your Preflight Profile
The Preflight proofing you performed in the previous step is based on the (Basic) [Working] Preflight profile. You can, however, tailor your Preflight profile to adapt to your specific proofing needs.
Say, for example, you always have issues with color when you go to print, or you have a tendency to use low-resolution images. You can adjust your Preflight profile to pick up on these specific errors.
To create a new customised profile, go to the Preflight panel's menu and select Define Profiles.
In the window that opens, you can see a list of existing Preflight profiles running down the left-hand side, and an expandable menu of options for customising the profiles to the right.
Currently we have just two profiles: [Basic] and Digital Publishing. Click the '+' icon at the bottom-left of the window to create a new profile.
Give the profile a suitable name. Here, I want to create a profile that picks up on some of my more common errors, so I type 'Grace's Common Errors' into the Profile Name box at the top of the window.
Then I can customise my options. I can keep the existing default options, and simply add to them. Under IMAGES and OBJECTS I increase the minimum resolution of all color images in my documents to 300 px.
I also check the box next to [Registration] applied under COLOR so Preflight will tell me when I've used the [Registration] swatch instead of [Black] (hey, it happens!).
Finally, I also hop back up to IMAGES and OBJECTS and tick the box next to Check for Objects Near Spine. This is a really useful little feature, which is great if you're often putting together items which are going to be bound (e.g. books, magazines, etc.).
When you've finished customising your options, click Save, and then OK to return to the Preflight panel.
You can now select your new profile from the drop-down menu at the top-right of the Preflight panel.
And unsurprisingly, Preflight has flagged up two errors straight away, notifying me that the images I'm using on my document have a resolution lower than 300 px.
Once I've replaced the images with higher-resolution versions, the error messages disappear.
The Preflight panel is your ticket to a quick and simple proofing process, and by tailoring your Preflight profile you can tell InDesign to act as a proof-reader, spotting errors which you may not have noticed yourself.
It really is super simple and quick. Once you have created a customised Preflight profile, InDesign will preserve it for you, ready for whenever you create a new document in InDesign. Get in the routine of using your Preflight profile and you won't have to be disappointed with your final result ever again!