Pre-press operators work in the printing industry, getting artwork from a client and supplying the printing plates used on a press.
Salary Range: £16,000 to £30,000
How to become a pre-press operator
You can get into this job through:
- a college course
- an apprenticeship
- applying directly
- specialist courses run by industry bodies
You could do a college course, which would teach you some of the skills and knowledge you need in this job. Relevant courses include:
- Level 2 Award or Level 3 Certificate in Printing and Graphic Communications
- Level 2 or 3 Certificate in Understanding the Print Environment
You’ll usually need:
- 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
You can do an intermediate apprenticeship in print and printed packaging – pre-press, or a print technician advanced apprenticeship.
You’ll usually need:
- some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship
- 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship
You’ll need a good general standard of education to apply directly for pre-press operator jobs. GCSEs in maths, English, art and IT may give you an advantage when looking for work. Some employers may ask for A levels or similar qualifications.
You can do specialist printing, packaging and graphic communications courses through the British Printing Industries Federation.
Some knowledge of desktop publishing software will be useful, like InDesign, Illustrator or QuarkXPress.
You can find out more about careers in print from the British Printing Industries Federation.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- design skills and knowledge
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- knowledge of computer operating systems, hardware and software
- knowledge of manufacturing production and processes
- the ability to work well with others
- the ability to use your initiative
- the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
- to be flexible and open to change
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
What you’ll do
Your day-to-day tasks may include:
- using desktop publishing and graphics software to create artwork
- scanning and retouching images
- checking a whole document for accuracy
- preparing artwork for transfer to film
- transferring the final image from film onto printing plates, using an imagesetter, known as platemaking
You could work in a creative studio or in an office.
You may need to wear protective clothing.
Career path and progression
You could become a pre-press manager or move into print administration jobs like estimator or production controller.
Most employers in the pre-press industry will offer training, either through a local college or short courses offered by the British Printing Industries Federation.