7 Steps to Ensure your Files are Print Ready

2 Mar 2015 6:00 AMFirst Print
7 Steps to Ensure your Files are Print Ready

At First Print, we have our own in-house graphic design studio allowing us to offer a competitive price for design services. We also work closely with our clients to ensure their supplied artwork will be printed to the highest quality and expectations.

When we receive an artwork file to be printed, it must meet certain requirements in order to achieve the best outcome. There are a number of checks we complete and often changes / corrections are required to be made in order to ensure the file is print ready. However we are limited to the amount of changes we can make to supplied artwork, and extensive changes may result in charges to the client.  

Whilst you’re being a creative genius and designing your document for print, ensuring that you follow these steps will cause less headaches for you further down the track – it may well even save you a few cents too!

These suggestions are based on the document being built in Adobe InDesign, however whichever software you are using, you will need to consider the following:

1. Create your file at the required print size

One of the most common mistakes we see when we receive a file to be printed is that it is supplied at the wrong size. When building your masterpiece, ensure you build it to the exact size of how it will be printed. For example, if your final trim size is 210mm x 297mm, then ensure your document is set up at 210 x 297mm. When creating a piece that consists of spreads, create each spread as 2 individual pages, for example an A3 (420 x 297mm) brochure folded to A4 (210 x 297mm) would need to be built as 4 A4 pages. There is no need to impose your artwork – we take care of that for you!

2. Add bleed and crop marks to your document

The term bleed is used for all objects overlapping the edge of your document. Any photo, graphic or background colour that goes right up to the edge of the page, must be built to extend the edge of the page by at least 3mm (30mm for large format documents). Otherwise you run the risk of having a white border printed around the edge of your document – which could be a fatal error after spending hours over your design! Crop marks are guide lines included on artwork to ensure printed sheets are cropped/trimmed to the correct finished size.

You must specify the amount of bleed required when you set up your document. If you output your file from Adobe InDesign as a PDF, crop marks and bleed can be specified under the “Marks and Bleeds” section.

3. Set your margins

There are several variables that can affect your final printed document such as paper shrinkage, paper quality and alignment, therefore we have a trimming variance of +/- 1mm. Whilst we try our very best, certain variables are out of our control and steps must be taken to allow for a margin of error during the printing process. For this reason we specify you add bleed to your document (above) and keep your text and any other critical design aspects within a “safe-zone” called a margin. It is advisable to have at least 4mm margin (10mm for large format documents) from the edge of the document page to your work area. Margins can be specified when you set up your document, and are a guide for you.

4. Colour Modes and Assigning your Colours

The colour presented on your computer screen can look completely different to colours within the final printed product. Computer monitors emit colour as RGB (red, green and blue) light. Colour on a printer is produced based on properties of ink in a process that combines CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). We require all files to be supplied in CMYK format, unless you are using PMS colours (Pantone Matching System). If files are supplied in RGB we cannot guarantee colours will print the same.

CMYK/PMS - Process colours (CMYK) and PMS colours may look identical on your computer screen but will print very differently on your final product. When building your document, be sure to build using the correct Colour Type and Colour Mode preferences available in the colour palette in Adobe InDesign. For example, CMYK colour documents should be defined as “process” Colour Type with a “CMYK” Colour Mode. If you plan on using a particular PMS colour, ensure you select the correct PMS colour code from the “PANTONE+ Solid Coated” Colour Mode.

Avoid using 4 colour black which is 100% of cyan, maganta, yellow and black ink. For a rich black we recommend using C30, M30, Y0, K100. Avoid using tints lighter than 7%. If you are concerned about the colour of you document, it is recommended to request a hard copy proof prior to going to print (charge may apply).

5. Image Resolution and Linking

Ensure any images used in your design are at least 300dpi (dots per inch). You may think your images look ok on your computer screen, but when printed the difference in resolution will be very visible. If the resolution is lower (72dpi for example) your images will appear blurry or pixelated when printed. Also, ensure that your images are at the correct physical size for the page, but still at 300dpi. Bear in mind, if you enlarge an image it will lower it’s resolution.

Missing images can be a common problem when building a document for print. Your page layout may show the image but the actual file is missing. This can occur when the image is moved from its original location. If this happens, Adobe InDesign may output your file with a low resolution version of the image, or no image at all. Make sure you link your images before you output your file.

6. Fonts

Missing fonts can create a problem when your file is being set up for printing. There are so many different versions of the same fonts that it would be impossible for us to substitute any font that may be missing from your document. If you are supplying files in their original format, please make sure to also supply all fonts used in the document. If you are using bold or italic fonts in your document make sure they are the actual styled version of the font from the font list.

If you are supplying a PDF of your artwork, ensure the font is correctly embedded in the file, or that all text is converted to outlines.

7. Output and Check your File

PDF is the preferred file format for printing. When saving your document as a PDF always remember to embed your fonts and choose the highest available quality setting which is often referred to as “High Quality Print” or “Press Quality”.

To output your document to a PDF from Adobe InDesign select File and Export and then Adobe PDF from the ‘Format’ drop down menu and click save. A dialog box will then appear, select “High Quality Print” in the Adobe PDF Preset drop down menu. Select Marks and Bleeds from the section on the left hand side of the dialog box, check the Crop Marks box and the Registration Marks box in the Marks section. Ensure there is at least 3mm bleed on the top, bottom, left and right boxes of the Bleed and Slug section, then click Export.

Open your PDF and double check that your file looks as it should and that all fonts are embedded by selecting File and then Properties and then Fonts. Also check the Output Preview, select View then Tools then Print Production from the menu. Under the Print Production window select Output Preview. Ensure “Simulate Overprinting” is checked and under preview select “Seperations”. This is where you will see the colour breakdown of your document, including any PMS colours used.


Please note, these tips are intended as a guide only and are based on First Print printing specifications.

Upload your print ready file to us today via our website.