Prepress Technician

Job Duties

Prepress technicians prepare material for printing presses. They are responsible for transforming text and images into pages on printing plates that are ready to be published. Most prepress work these days is done using digital imaging. Technicians receive information on computer disks from their clients and format it using electronic layout systems. They use digital color page-makeup systems to create proofs when working with color pages. These proofs are checked with the client and then laser imagesetters are used to transfer the images to printing plates. Some prepress technicians still use the old method of cold type setting, which utilizes photography to create printing plates without molten lead.

Prepress technicians specialize in different types of the prepress printing phase. Camera operators photograph and develop film of the material to be printed. Scanner operators us computerized equipment to capture photographs or art as digital data. Film strippers cut the film of text and images to the required size and arrange and tape the negatives onto layout sheets that are then used to make press plates. Prepress technicians typically work in air-conditioned spaces that are clean and quite.

Job Skills

Prepress technicians should have good communication skills because they are often called on to communicate in written and oral form with customers. They also need to have well-developed manual dexterity. They should be detail-oriented and able to work on an independent basis with little or no supervision. They need to have good eyesight, depth perception, field of view, and color vision. And they should have a good artistic sensibility.


In 2002, prepress technicians earned a median hourly wage of $14.98. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $8.68, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $24.36. Wages differ based on factors such as experience, training, and the location and size of the company.

Training and Education

In the past, many prepress technicians started their careers as untrained assistants, were trained on the job, and gradually moved up the ladder. This has changed because the occupation today requires computer software skills. The result is new educational and training requirements for entry into the field. Employers usually require some type of formal graphic communications training. This training can be found in 2-year associate degree programs through community and junior colleges and technical schools.

4-year programs are offered at universities and lead to a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. Bachelor’s degrees are not typically required for entry-level positions but are often necessary to advance to management positions. The most desirable employees have a combination of experience in the printing industry and training in cutting edge digital technology. Visit this page about trade schools for more information on related careers.


In 2002, prepress technicians held about 92,000 jobs. Most were employed in the printing industry, while a significant number are employed in newspaper publishing.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, employment of prepress technicians is expected to decline. While demand for printed material will grow at a healthy rate, the advances in technology, especially desktop publishing, will greatly inhibit growth in employment. Opportunities will vary from industry to industry. Some new opportunities will arise in commercial printing establishments. Employers usually prefer to hire workers with a broad range of experience in the printing industry.