An indie magazine publication by Subsail

As a magazine reader and not a maker, I'm in the dark about some of the things that go into producing a printed publication. One such thing that you will see—but only sometimes—if you look at a magazine's colophon is prepress. The fact that it's sometimes used and sometimes not makes it all the more mysterious.

Over in the south west of England, PH Media have been perfecting prepress (alongside a slew of other services) since 1998 and have worked with a long list of brilliant magazines (including Creative Review, Good Sport, 10+, Crepe City, Wonderland, The Riba Journal and TANK). To find out more, I spoke with PH Media owner, Ralph Wills.

Hi Ralph. So what is prepress?

Whilst the definition of prepress has without doubt changed over the last decade, I think an accurate description would involve the profiling and colour management of imagery to reflect press and paper considerations.

Prepress sits between the publisher and the printer to enhance and enable imagery and files prior to printing. We check resolution, colour space and ink coverage whilst profiling for paper and press to optimise the finished product. Our client base is quality conscious and have high expectations and value of their product. At PH, we ensure that files are well received at print with a guaranteed superior result when compared to titles bypassing our process workflow.

One of PH Media's clients, More or Less

What does prepress look like in practice?

Our current workflow for clients utilises either bespoke FTP / Dropbox or Bespoke WeTransfer via our website upload facility. Clients have the option to deliver hi-res imagery for the team to return lo-res for placement or as packaged InDesign files along with localised retouching instructions and requests.

Colour Management at PH accepts all file formats and conversion spaces. Imagery is profiled predictably and accurately as individual images (we do not batch process images). Consideration is given to press and paper limitations whilst maximising the output value to give consistency across devices.

Files are processed to Operam, our online approval/annotation system, enabling transparency of progress and the ability for customers to request corrections.

Fogra Proofs [an international standard for colour management and printing], created to 39L/51L Coated or 47L/52L Uncoated, are provided to customers for consideration and approval. Colour alteration requests are undertaken in a timely fashion upon return, leading to file approval online and dispatch, along with finalised signed-off proofs to press.

What does prepress bring to the production of a magazine? Can you go without it?

Numerous magazines bi-pass the prepress process for different reasons from budget to quality expectation. For this reason, PH target high end publications in Fashion and the Arts where generally the end result is paramount.

Chaos 69 Disney Poster Book

What have been your favourite recent projects and why?

My personal recent favourites include 10+ , Chaos Disney Supplement and More or Less. They typify the exceptional production values achieved when producing an exemplary finished result that the buying public are willing to pay a premium for.