Preparing for Print: How to Guide
Designing items for print can be an intimidating experience for some. There are a number of things to be aware of to ensure your print products are successful and design costs stay in budget when providing us with ‘print ready files’.
We support both PC and MAC and our designers are able to work with all files from both systems.
When working with a design file, and when exporting to PDF, ensure the bleed option is selected if your document requires colour right to the edge of the print. The size of the bleed should be no less than ⅛” (0.125 inch). Simply choosing this option does not necessarily ensure graphics will bleed off the document, as the images touching the edge of the document must actually “bleed” over the edge in the layout by a minimum of ⅛”.
If your project will be finished with a pole pocket or grommets, please leave at least 3 inches of bleed between the trim and live areas.
For your document to be produced accurately, the graphics used in your document must be in the correct colour mode and resolution. The required colour mode for printing (digital or conventional) is “4 Colour Process” as designated: “CMYK”. Sending an RGB file will require us to convert the mode of the graphic before printing. This function can change the way the colour looks simply because the two colour modes are not entirely compatible. RGB has the ability to display bright Red Green and Blue values that are simply “out of gamut” or out of range defined by the CMYK colour mode, and vice versa.
Due to this incompatibility, the method used to convert the images to a printable mode may be different then the method used by other printing operations. If you traditionally had your publication printed a certain way at another location, there is no guarantee we would know what the indented colour should be. Also, if your document uses graphics printed on other products (such as catalogs, posters, or business cards), each printing technology will have a different way of interpreting the conversion. But if the graphics are already supplied in CMYK mode, no conversion is needed, and consistent colour can be maintained.
For images to print clearly, a specified resolution is required. The minimum resolution for a colour/grayscale image has traditionally been 300dpi. Line art graphics (images displaying either 100% black or 100% white pixels) should have a resolution of 1200dpi (preferably) but can accept 600dpi as a minimum.
Viewing distance is also an important factor in large format printing, keeping the following in mind:
Very close – 0.5-1 metre – 300dpi (minimum resolution)
Close – 1-3 metres – 200dpi (minimum resolution)
Far – 3-6 metres – 100dpi (minimum resolution)
Very Far – >6 metres – 75dpi (minimum resolution)
When a document must use a specific colour (such as specified by a company logo), PANTONE colours are traditionally referenced. Using a PANTONE colour ensures the appearance will be close to all other instances where the logo is used on other products (letterhead, cards, envelopes…) and will cost you less for items that only require one or two colours. For this to work properly, colours in your document should have common designations. Pantone 301C and Pantone 301U are intended for two types of printing. But if you have all those colours in a single document, chances are it will be printed by the same machine on the same stock on the same page. Choosing which of the two colours are to be used will help your document maintain a consistent appearance.
Also, colours called “Red” are not found in the Pantone system, and is an arbitrary colour. Many times we see colours labeled “Dark Red”, “Strong Green” and sometimes are defined by an RGB colour picker. Although we can map “Dark Red” to assume the role of Pantone 485, we need to know this is your intention. Otherwise, the document will be placed on hold until this determination has been confirmed.
We are serious about colour matching for clients requiring specific PANTONEs when printing. If you have any concerns about matching print colours to existing items, we will ask you to provide your PMS colours or items and will be happy to provide samples to ensure accuracy.
Text Documents vs. Layout/Vector Documents
Sending a MS Word file will still require a press quality PDF to be sent. MS Word and many other writing programs do not allow for consistent layout of the material from one version of the program to another. The 3 main reasons for this are:
- Differences in display features between versions of the software. As more visual options are added to subsequent versions of the program, older versions simply do not know how to accurately interpret these new features. This issue is a greater issue if the file crosses platforms (Mac vs. PC).
- Fonts installed in your system will display your document fine – on your computer only. If we don’t happen to have the specific font you are working with, and you haven’t provided it as part of your print package, we won’t be able to see it properly.
- Another issue common to a writing software is that the flow and positioning of content is based on the printer driver associated with the computer that composed the document. While this was a great idea decades ago, it now becomes a very big problem once we open the document knowing we do not have the same inkjet/laser printer as the customers. Each printer has its own interpretation on margins, line spacing and character spacing. It quickly becomes very clear why PDF is the ideal viable method of supplying files for print.
Vector documents produced in Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign or Adobe Photoshop are your best bet for press quality, easy to transfer files and sharp final prints as they scale seamlessly.
When you are working with large dimensions, bitmapped images and files are going to be enormous (at least 300+ MB) and very difficult for your computer to handle; saves can take several minutes as well.
Saving File for Print
When you are done with your designs, files should be saved in EPS or PDF format. PDF is what we recommend for both image and vector based designs as both vector quality and image compression can be managed better.
We strongly recommend the use of “Collect for Output” or “Package” features within your layout software. Chosing this option ensures the document fonts and linked images are placed into a folder along with the layout file. Many times customers send a folder containing “all” the files while the layout document remains opened. This results in an incomplete copy of the file, as the layout file might not have been recently saved, and an older version of the file is sent instead.