Exploring this Job
A summer job or internship doing basic word processing or desktop publishing is one way to get a feel for what prepress work involves. Such an opportunity could even be found through a temporary agency. Of course, you will need knowledge of computers and certain software.
You also can volunteer to do desktop publishing or design work for your school newspaper or yearbook. This would have the added benefit of exposing you to the actual printing process.
Prepress work involves a variety of tasks, most of which are now computer-based. In commercial printing plants, jobs tend to come from customers on CD or flash drive, or via e-mail or a file transfer protocol Web site.
The electronic file is reviewed by the preflight technician (also known as an electronic prepress technician) to ensure that all of its elements are properly formatted and set up. At small print shops—which account for the majority of the printing industry—a job printer is often the person in charge of proofing the file, fixing any problems that emerge, and taking the job to the printing stage.
Once a file is ready, the technician transmits it through an imagesetter onto paper, film, or directly to the printing plate. The latter method is called digital imaging, and it bypasses the film stage altogether. Direct-to-plate technology has been adopted by many printing companies nationwide. When direct-to-plate technology is used, the prepress technician creates an electronic image of the printed pages. The image is then converted into a proof that is e-mailed or mailed to the customer for review, corrections, and eventual approval for printing. Once the job is approved, prepress workers use laser technology to transfer the images directly to the metal plates or directly to a digital press that will be used to print the job.