It’s 4:50 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, and you have spent all week going through edits with marketing, sales, product and legal departments to get your new sales collateral to the printers in time to meet the deadline. Senior management and the sales team are due at the tradeshow next week; they need these new brochures and price lists to be ready, and it’s on your shoulders to get the materials to them.

You send the file to your printer before the deadline, ready to enjoy your weekend. All is good with the world – until 10 minutes later, and the phone rings. It’s your printer.

“Err, we got the file, but we can’t print it; there’s no bleed and the fonts are not embedded,” your printer says.

You have no idea what your printer is talking about and ask if they can just fix it on their end.

“No, we can’t; you’ll need to correct it and resend it to us.”

Panic sets in as you recall waving goodbye to your in-house designers as they headed out the door for a well-earned 3 day weekend. What now?

For many people tasked with the design and production of print materials, this scenario is nothing new.

Have no fear, though — our prepress and printing experts have outlined key, simple steps that can ensure trouble-free print production of your design jobs so that you can avoid delays, missed deadlines, and costly rush charges or overtime penalties — not to mention never having to experience that sick, sinking feeling when a tight deadline is in jeopardy.

What kind of print ready artwork files will my printer accept?

This really can vary quite a bit, but most printers will accept files from any of the major artwork programs, such as Adobe InDesign (for page layout), Adobe Photoshop (for photos), and Adobe Illustrator (for vector artwork, such as logos). QuarkXPress is an older layout program still used by some printers.

Try to avoid, where possible, the Microsoft suite of applications. Microsoft Word is okay if you are simply providing basic text to be flowed into a print layout document, such as InDesign. Microsoft Excel is perfectly fine for supplying a database for a mail-out, but you should try and avoid these programs to create art for high-quality print output.

Most printers will also accept a print-ready PDF file, but be sure to check with your printer to see if they have a PDF preset that they require you to use when creating your PDF. You can find our PDF preset here. Commonly used software to create graphics in which we accept files from.

What resolution will ensure a high-quality printed product?

Making sure that your images have a high enough resolution is vital for quality print results. This is often referred to as dots per inch (dpi); a general rule of thumb is that the photographic artwork and elements should be provided to the printer at 300dpi and at 100% actual size (the physical dimensions of your printed document, plus bleeds — more on that later).

What are bleeds, and why is this important?

Bleeds in printing occur when the printed image needs to go all the way to the edge of your document with no white areas appearing or borders. If bleeds are required in your design, then it’s vital that you extend the image area beyond the edge of your document by 0.125”. This can be best shown graphically in the example below. PrePress_Bleed Inset Image

Fonts and typefaces

There are literally thousands of different fonts and typefaces that can be requested for a print project. Your selected fonts should be included with your print file. If you cannot include your fonts, you may convert your fonts to outlines. If you’re going to send the file to your printer as a PDF file, then there is normally no reason to outline the fonts, as long as they are embedded – look for this option when making your PDF or just use our PDF preset and let it do the work for you. To make sure that your fonts are included with your print file, speak to your printer and they will help guide you through.

Select your colors correctly

If you know that the job will be printing in 4 color process (CMYK), then all colors in your art file should be CMYK, unless you are trying to match a PMS color with CMYK — then leave the file in PMS (Pantone Matching System). PMS colors are most commonly used when you need to match your company’s brand guidelines, so always check these to make sure your art files support the company brand guidelines.

Pantone SwatchesIf your design calls for PMS colors only (or a combination of CMYK and PMS colors), then you will need to make sure that those colors are correctly called out in the art file. It is also important to make sure that you do not send your files to your printer in RGB color. RGB is best for designs for the web or other documents designed to be viewed on a computer. Technically speaking, most printers can handle an RGB image and convert it to CMYK, though the color will likely shift so it is best to avoid this entirely.

Proofreading and final OK’s

It is always preferable to get your artwork design file approved in writing (such as an email) or a signed off hardcopy proof. If something goes wrong, you don’t want to be relying purely on verbal information. Give the file a final read through yourself prior to sending off to the printer to make sure that all of the final edits and requests have been accommodated. Keep in mind that you, the customer, are responsible for signing off on the content as being OK to go to print.

If you have any concerns with how your file needs to be set up for printing, we encourage you to reach out to your printer. They will be glad to help you and advise the optimum way to supply your artwork to ensure an outstanding print result. Our passion is making sure you are happy with your products, and we are more than happy to help you make your project a success!