Why commercial printers aren’t too fond of Microsoft Word

If there’s one thing in the world we dislike more than anything else (okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration) – it’s receiving a file with that “.doc” or “.docx” extension. Microsoft Word, while convenient for those using it to design marketing collateral, is a commercial printer’s worst nightmare.

Why, you may ask? Because as printers, we work with the subtractive color model – Cyan, Magenta and Yellow (more commonly referred to as CMYK, where K represents black – the key register). Microsoft Word doesn’t tend to play well with us CMYK folk because when you export your artwork to a PDF for production, it uses the additive color model – Red, Green, Blue (or RGB for short).


Granted, sometimes we can take your file, produce it and you’d never know the difference. But more often – it’s not so pleasant at all.

Say for instance, you drop in your logo to create a letterhead. If you received your file from a graphic designer (assuming they’ve provided you with print ready files), chances are the blue in your logo is a very specific Pantone Matching System (PMS) color. Once you drop that image into Word and save the file as a PDF, that blue will never match its desired hue because its been converted to RGB color values.

While there are ways for us to convert your files into the CMYK color mode – we unfortunately, cannot grab a hold of the specified blue in your file to match the appropriate color values. What’s worse is if the file is being used to produce a large volume of copies. In commercial printing, we create separate plates for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. If our client also wants us to use the PMS spot color – we create a separate plate for it as well. If a file comes to us in Word – we have no way of separating the PMS image area from the other colors.

What could this mean for you?

Extra time and money down the drain! More often than not, we are recreating artwork to ensure color consistency across their brand. That means extra time in our prepress department, longer turn times to receive your project, and an additional line item on your invoice. Who wants that?

Don’t compromise your brand’s image for convenience.  Work with your printer before you work up that next project to learn what your options are. You might just be putting money in your pocket, if you do!


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