Prepress technicians and workers prepare print jobs. They do a variety of tasks to help turn text and pictures into finished pages and prepare the pages for print. Some prepress technicians, known as “preflight technicians,” take images from graphic designers or customers and check them for completeness. They review job specifications and designs from submitted sketches or clients’ electronic files to ensure that everything is correct and all files and photos are included. Some prepress workers use a photographic process to make offset printing plates (sheets of metal that carry the final image to be printed). This is a complex process involving ultraviolet light and chemical exposure through which the text and images of a print job harden on a metal plate and become water repellent. These hard, water-repellent portions of the metal plate are in the form of the text and images that will be printed.
More recently, however, the printing industry has moved to technology known as “direct-to-plate.” Many prepress technicians now send the data directly to a plating system, bypassing the need for the photographic technique. The direct-to-plate technique is an example of how digital imaging technology has largely replaced cold-type print technology.
Prepress technicians usually work in quiet areas. Most printing workers work full time. Weekend and holiday hours may be necessary to meet production schedules. For example, newspaper printing may need to take place at night.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of prepress technicians and workers is expected to decline 16 percent between 2010 and 2020. Computer software now allows office workers to specify text typeface and style and to format pages. This development shifts traditional prepress functions away from printing plants and toward advertising and public relations agencies, graphic design firms, and large corporations. In addition, new technologies are increasing the amount of automation in printing companies, so that it takes fewer prepress technicians to accomplish the same amount of work.
Career information courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook.