Make Files Print-Ready
Print-ready is a term commonly used in the printing industry to refer to a file that has all of the specifications necessary to produce a high resolution, quality printed piece without requiring additional alteration by our design staff. Designing and providing your own print-ready files is one way to save on costs, and if done correctly, can speed up turn-around times as well.
Common issues that will prevent a file from being print-ready include:
Document is sized incorrectly
Crop marks are missing or incorrectly placed
Resolution is not high enough (Recommended 300dpi at 100% size)
Bleeds are not set-up correctly (artwork should extend 1/8” past crop marks)
File type is not ideal or document was made using a propriety file type (We recommend using PDF files)
Spelling and grammar errors
Make Files Print-Ready
Ensure your document is set-up to print at the correct size with necessary margins. Select your document size based on your preference. We use sheetfed digital and offset presses that are flexible on page sizes, this makes it easier for us to still print efficient with odd sized pieces. Obviously there are some sizes that are more economical to print such as 5.5 x 4.25, 4 x 6, 4.25 x 6 (Standard Postcard Size), 5.5 x 8.5, 6 x 9, 8.5 x 11..
Printers use crop marks to determine where to cut the finished print product. Without proper crop marks, your piece may be cut incorrectly or to the wrong size. Most software programs such as InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop and Publisher will have the option to add crop marks to your document.
The print quality of digital print files is determined by the actual resolution of the files used to create the design. If a low resolution image is used while designing a brochure, the print quality will be affected and may look poor. The ideal resolution for images to be used within a design is 300dpi. As a general rule, if the file size is really small, the print quality most likely will be poor.
The part of the design that runs off the edge of the printed piece is considered a “bleed”. Having proper bleed in your design will ensure your final cut piece is the size it was supposed to be and that you have a quality finished edge on your piece. If a bleed margin is not set in your file and the artwork goes to the edge then we may be forced to cut your piece to a smaller size. Files should be set up with a bleed margin of .125” (1/8”). For example, if you are setting up an 8.5 x 11 document that has bleeds, the final print ready file size should be 8.75 x 11.25 since there will be .125” on each side of extra artwork. Learn more about improving print quality with bleed.
The file type used to submit a piece for print is one of the most important factors in whether a printer can successfully print your piece. For example, high resolution .PDF files are universally accepted and are the ideal format for digital files. .PDF preserves the formatting options of the text and the fonts ensuring an accurate print nearly every time. PDF also makes it easier for us to identify color problems as well as image resolution issues before we print a job.
Files made using Microsoft products such as Word, Publisher, Powerpoint, etc. as well as proprietary or “consumer” design software often require assistance from our in-house designers for font matching and formatting issues. If using one of these software programs, make sure you “Save As” or “Export” as a .PDF file when saving your design to submit for print to avoid additional design costs.
Spelling and Grammar Errors
When supplying files for print, it’s important to double and triple check your designs for spelling and grammar. Once we have received the files for print and the job is in production, you may incur additional fees if a re-run is necessary because of an error in the spelling or grammar. It can be helpful to have another person read over your piece to catch anything you may have missed. Often, phone numbers and addresses get entered incorrectly or numbers are transposed, pay special attention to these items when included in your file.
PRO TIP: Read your document backwards. This allows you to read each word or piece of information independently and each element gets your full focus.
It is our goal to give our customers the resources they need to have a great print experience. As part of this mission, we are continuing to put together helpful resources, such as this. In addition to this post, we have created a free, printable print-ready file checklist for you to keep handy while creating documents for print.