Help me get a commercial print/packaging workflow - .ai or .indd???

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by Sean Dempsey, Jul 9, 2010.

  1. Sean Dempsey macrumors 68000

    Sean Dempsey

    Aug 7, 2006

    I have a new job where I am no longer a web developer, I am now a print developer for a major corporation. I am making new packaging and print design for their entire product line, which is several dozen products, each with a manual, sales sheet, box, all that.

    The problem: I am quite skilled in web development and Photoshop/CSS/HTML and backend PHP/JQuery work, but I have never really had printing as a main responsibility. I am quite familiar with Illustrator and Indesign, they were never just my main tools, I was used to being in Photoshop and a coding program for the last decade.

    Well now, I spend my days laying out product boxes and such and coming up with designs to be sent overseas to be mass produced. So, I am wondering if I should force myself to make all the product boxes in Indesign, and use the dielines on a layer there, and not use Illustrator. I started my rough drafts in illustrator, but have never redone the designs in Indesign, and I want to know if I should force myself to make everything layout/dieline related in Indesign, and only use Illustrator for graphics or logos.

    What is the general consensus on making "single page" documents like a box die or something. Illustrator just for objects and art, but Indesign for the actual layouts and placement?

    Help me rhonda.
  2. irishgrizzly macrumors 65816


    May 15, 2006
    I use both - for printed boxes, posters, flyers etc. I use Illy. If it has more than 4 pages – Indesign.

    As most of the stuff you'll be doing for boxes will be vector it's handy having it all in front of you without linking each logo ai/eps file. Also, unless you've got CS5 you're limited to one page size per file as opposed to Illys multiple artboards.

    Where as Indsign is great for having master pages to deal with pagination and gives smaller size files where you have many images (it creates jpeg previews that can easily be adjusted in quality).

    My major gripe with Illy is how it deals with bitmap images (eg if I pick link instead of embed it still creates a massive file and when images are embedded it's a pain to edit them easily).
  3. citizenzen macrumors 65816

    Mar 22, 2010
    I am all InDesign.

    Sure, I'll use Illustrator to work on a logo, or trace some artwork, but when it comes to laying out the page, it's always in InDesign.

  4. Sean Dempsey thread starter macrumors 68000

    Sean Dempsey

    Aug 7, 2006
    The packaging designs actually have a bunch of hi-res images in each design, so my illustrator files end up being 250-300 megs, and each time I save it, it takes maybe 30-40 seconds to save, which really gets annoying.

    Once I get the images where I want them more or less and the design is coming together, I usually rasterize them to the size they are, which reduces the filesize of the .ai somewhat, but it's still slower than crap, since rasterizing it embeds it at the same time.

    Plus, I am never sure how to do proper preflight for sending the files to the box makers. Since the packaging is mass produced in Korea, I am not sure if it's better to send a PDF with the die lines hidden, or to send an .ai or .indd with the die lines on a layer they can hide themselves.

    I just wish it was Web graphics, where so much if this you don't have to worry about =/
  5. irishgrizzly macrumors 65816


    May 15, 2006
    I always send a PDF (less to go wrong with fonts & cs compatibility) plus nice small files. For die lines I put them in the layer above and give them a spot colour of pure magenta (name this colour "DIE LINE DO NOT PRINT"). I'll write a note about this in the margin and in an email. Rememberer to save in a latter version of Acrobat that supports layers.
  6. mammabear24 macrumors newbie

    Sep 7, 2010
    I actually found your message when I googled -commercial printing jobs being sent overseas- I don't have an answer for the specific question you had but I do have an issue with what you wrote. You stated you send your print job overseas. My husband works for a large commercial printer which does a lot of direct mail and other print stuff. You are hurting a lot of US citizens who work for printing companies. Just think of all the jobs you take away-cleaning people all the way up to US corporate jobs. My husband is lucky and has not lost his jobs but many printing companies have closed during this recession. I think you and the company you work for need to think twice on how to help keep jobs in the US and stop trying to save a buck...come to think about it at some point it could be your job outsourced! Have you heard Walgreens is now outsourcing 150 accounting jobs.
  7. timbos macrumors member

    Jan 2, 2009
    May I suggest that you wind your insular neck in?
  8. crunchbox macrumors newbie

    Feb 5, 2008
    Brisbane, Australia
    Seems to me there are a couple of issues with both posts.

    Firstly mammabear, if you are worried about losing work to overseas, you are obviously not offering an indispensable product and/or service - blame is easy, self analysis and problem-solving is hard (but rewarding).

    As to the initial poster - I agree with the use of InDesign for oh so many reasons - use Illustrator for design/illustration work or one page jobs (even then I'd use InDesign) and then import those into your ID layout.

    As to the ethics of sending jobs overseas for print - often the designer has absolutely no say, especially in a large corporate environment (which was explicitly stated) where the hobKNOBS up higher in the food-chain make the calls.

    One issue that wasn't touched on is the sustainability of such a process in relation to shipping and carbon footprints. If the goal of the company is to work towards environmental sustainability (often as a marketing ploy) then the additional costs of printing locally can actually be incorporated in the marketing budget to attract "sustainability" or "green" minded audiences.

    Flaming people doesn't solve anything Mammabear except make you lose credibility. Try proposing an actual solution and stop ya bloody whinging! Hilarious!!
  9. chaosbunny macrumors 68000


    Mar 11, 2005
    down to earth, far away from any clouds
    This is hardly the fault of the op. I'm pretty sure he is not in the process of deciding who prints what for how much money. If you want to blame someone for globalization, blame the US and EU governments of the past decades and the multinational corporations behind them. It's not us, the average people, who make the world worse for you and me. Blaming the victims doesn't help.

    To the op, use whatever works best for specific job/layout requirements. For packages with many mutations (let's say 20 different flavours of product X in different colors with different pictures but with the same layout for example) use InDesign and work with master pages/styles. Oh, the Logo should be bigger? Do it once instead of 20 times. Oh that font should be bigger? Do it once instead of 20 times. :)
  10. supabooma macrumors newbie

    Feb 19, 2006
    For whatever reason, it seems that when it comes to package design work + printing overseas, Illustrator is still the preferred format (globally). I personally like InDesign's workflow better for this type of project, but I can't tell you how many times I've had printers in China coming back asking for an Illustrator version. It just seems to be more ingrained in the package printing world.
  11. citizenzen macrumors 65816

    Mar 22, 2010
    Export the InDesign file as a PDF.

    Open the PDF in Illustrator.

    Problem solved.
  12. Ray Manorak macrumors newbie

    Jul 29, 2010
    That can cause headaches too though. For example splitting images up into sections to facilitate compression. Nudging text around. Putting everything within layer upon layer of clipping paths making it a nightmare to edit. Splitting text up into one-letter-at-a-time text paths...
    I/we do practically all our packaging in illustrator with the cutter guides on a seperate layer with the 'DO NOT PRINT' spot colour. This is so that if a printer did try and print it that spot colour would flash up on the rip. Also illustrator is better for drawing the complex cutter guide to start with, packaging can get pretty complex with tabs n flaps etc.
    Agreed anything with heavy photographic images in would benefit from a bit of indesign.
    Bear in mind that since CS4 illustrator has multiple past boards meaning you can do multipage documents too though.
  13. daver11 macrumors regular

    Feb 11, 2005
    Phoenix, AZ
    You don't want to use Illustrator to build your final pages. You are better off using Illustrator to create placed vector images, then assembling everything in a page layout program like InDesign or Quark.
  14. Andrew K. macrumors 65816

    Jul 9, 2008
    Sounds like whoever promoted you didn't know the difference between Graphic Designer and Web Designer :confused: Best of luck though.
  15. covisio macrumors 6502


    Aug 22, 2007
    If you want to provide your next user in the chain (the printer?) with final PDF files, that means of course they must be final - colour-corrected, hi-res, correctly separated and so on and so forth. If this is the case, you want to be doing Illustrator (twiddly bits of artwork) + Photoshop (TIFF, PSD, etc) > Assembled in InDesign > Output to PDF 1.4 or above, give to printer, bish-bash-bosh job gets printed. Can you handle the RESPONSIBILITY that this workflow demands?

    If the printer (or next user in the chain) needs to modify your provided files, you will need to find out what file formats they will accept and provide them with that. It depends how flexible they are.

    I did this 'next user in the chain' job for 11 years in the packaging industry, and we accepted anything and everything - Freehand, Illustrator, Quark, InDesign and I'm sure we probably handled CorelDraw at some point. Believe me, I saw the high and low points of artwork files, some utter crap and some very professional and accurate files. It was my job to sort them out and get them into a fit state for printing.

    InDesign is a highly capable tool for final artwork assembly. Its output and separation capabilities are unparalleled outside of very high-end software. If you know what you're doing in Illustrator, though, you don't need it, certainly for single page documents such as done in the packaging industry.

    As the last poster said, good luck. I went from mostly print to mostly web, which has it's own difficulties. Going from mostly web to mostly print will present some very real challenges. Accuracy is the name of the game.:)
  16. Sean Dempsey thread starter macrumors 68000

    Sean Dempsey

    Aug 7, 2006
    I was actually a new hire, and I never claimed to be a offset print guru at the time of hiring. So no one knows about my learning curve but me.

    But to address a few pointless issues:

    1) I have no say in where the stuff gets printed. The boxes are printed, cut, and packaged in South Korea.

    2) I figured it all out and am now a InDesign pro :D It wasn't that hard once I read the right documentation. I export everything now as PDF from Indesign, flat and ready to be printed, with knockouts on all the blacks that overprint anything. I've got my Rich Black all set, my separations set, my PDF export settings all dialed in. I actually love working in InDesign now, it's such a slick program. They thought of everything.

    So, yeah, thanks for the thread necro :D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D
  17. april.djt macrumors newbie

    Dec 28, 2013
    workflow of packaging design

    this is the workflow of packaging design

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