Please keep in mind that color accuracy of what you see on your monitor versus what is printed can be different because every monitor brand and manufacturer displays differently. Also personal preferences in monitor settings can affect the color accuracy to cause display anomalies.
Print Ready Checklist:
- Artwork submitted for print must be in CMYK color mode.
- All images must be minimum 300 DPI resolution.
- Minimum 1/16 inch bleeds on all sides.
- Keep 1/4 inch safety margin from edges.
- All Pantone® colors converted to CMYK
- Flatten transparencies and layers before saving as the final copy.
- Save/Export your file as a print ready PDF for best printing results.
Download PDF "Print Ready Checklist"
Artwork submitted for print must be in CMYK color mode -
What you are seeing now as you read this on your computer monitor, tablet or phone, is all projected in RGB color format (Red, Green, Blue). However, in commercial printing, we use a 4 color process called CMYK (Cyan, Magenta,Yellow, Black). Chances are, if you have no experience configuring color for commercial printing, you may have an RGB drafted artwork.
To make the change to CMYK, you have to go back to your native design file, be it Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, etc., and set the document color mode as CMYK. Be sure to save the file to finalize the conversion.
If you do not have access to the native file to make any changes, you still need to convert your artwork to CMYK. There are many free online RGB to CMYK converting tools available. Google "RGB to CMYK Converter" and use the one that you like. It's important that you review carefully the generated CMYK file to ensure all the colors and graphics are ok with you. You may or may not see a major change. Some files you may hardly notice any difference while certain artwork shows dramatically different colors. This review is a critical job that you must undertake. We cannot review files for you because it's your color schemes and you know what works and doesn't.
Important to note you should always try to begin and end every design project for print in CMYK color mode. This way you will be working with a color palette that is better in tune with commercial printing process to avoid confusion as you work on the project.
All images must be minimum 300 DPI resolution -
Simply put…higher the resolution of an image, the better it will print with more definition and clarity. While we encourage vector based artwork for anything print, a good high resolution image can print with beautiful results. 300 DPI is the minimum resolution but we recommend 600 DPI if you can keep it under 50mb.
Minimum 1/16 inch (0.0625) bleeds on all sides -
A bleed is essentially an expendable section added to the edges to be trimmed off for a clean cut edge. Think of this space as painters tape to do edging. You place this tape along the edge of your painted section so you can paint over it, then peel off the tape to create a clean edge. A “bleed” is basically the same thing. Think of this 1/16 inch added space as the strip of tape you will remove.
1/16 inch (0.0625) bleed to all sides is the minimum and 1/8 inch is the maximum recommended.
Keep 1/4 inch safety margin from edges -
Keep anything you do not want intentionally trimmed off 1/4 inch away from the edges (trim line). This is a general practice to allow for minor variations of the cuts.
All Pantone® colors converted to CMYK –
If you used any Pantone® or Spot colors, they need to be converted to CMYK. You can find the CMYK values on Pantone® swatches. We highly suggest working with a hard copy of a certified Pantone swatch book for the most accurate color end results.
Flatten transparencies and layers before saving as the final copy –
Vector programs such as Adobe Illustrator must have all transparencies flattened before saving or exporting to final print ready file. When flattening, make sure to “Check Mark” the Convert Fonts to Outlines option.
For Photoshop, we recommend flattening all layers before saving or exporting to final print ready file.
Save/Export your file as a print ready PDF for best printing results –
A properly configured vector PDF has proven to print with the greatest results for commercial printing time and time again. In any platform you have designed your artwork, you will most likely find either a “Save” or “Export” feature where you can output as a PDF file.
Follow 2 basic rules for the PDF output setting when saving. 1- Use the Adobe PDF preset “High Quality Print” from the dropdown. 2 – Set “Compatibility” to ACROBAT 7 or lowest version available.
Lastly, remember to always review your PDF files to check if everything looks ok. PDF’s can be sensitive and output a corrupt image.
Tips For Good Printing Results:
- Vector based artwork has proven to print with best results for commercial printing over a high resolution Photoshop JPG image. For crisp clean text vector outshines every other format. If vector is not a solution for you, just remember to save your artwork in the highest resolution possible without exceeding 50mb in size. A good high quality 300 DPI letter size flyer file averages around 5mb per JPG.
- Always do a print test on your home or office Inkjet or Laser printer to check legibility, sizing, balance, and anything else out of the ordinary. Print tests are a great way to determine how folding works and how to setup the panels so that your folds work with the correct positioning.
- As general practice, do not use fonts smaller than 7 pts for key text information.
- Use “empty space” wisely and spaciously. Think balance.
- Stick to no more than maximum 3 different font styles working within a design. 2 styles is better but 1 style is best.
A typical template for a 2” x 3.5” business card would use this layout above to comply with commercial printing bleed setup. You can apply the same bleed rules for all sizes for the various products.
The pink space is the finished size of the business card. The black border surrounding the pink is the “bleed” space. The industry minimum standard 1/16th inch rule applies to most jobs but practicing an 1/8" general rule would be ideal for multi-purpose use.
For this example we will use 1/16th inch bleeds. Simply add 1/16th inch (0.0625) to all sides of the actual finished size of the product.
If we add 1/16th inch (0.0625) bleed to all sides of a business card we would have a document or art board size of 2.125“ x 3.625”.
If we add 1/16th inch (0.0625) bleed to all sides of a 5” x 7” postcard we would have a document or art board size of 5.125” x 7.125”.
If we add 1/16th inch (0.0625) bleed to all sides of a 8.5” x 11” letterhead we would have a document or art board size of 8.625” x 11.125”.
The orange box is your safety margin. The general practice for safety margins for any print design document is 1/4" away from the trim line or edge.
Below you will see examples of a business card setup with and without bleeds. Notice the empty space along the edges of the example without bleeds.
The example below illustrates how artwork without a proper bleed could be cut. Notice the slivers of white along the left and bottom edge. Without bleeds, there is absolute zero margin of error to get a perfect cut along the border of the artwork to get a clean edge of ink "bleeding" off. All cuts are performed on large stacks of hundreds of sheets at a time. There is a minor shift of the paper stack as the blade of the cutting machine compresses down to make a cut.
Painter Tape Analogy:
Think of bleeds in commercial printing as a painter's tape. Tape is used anytime a clean straight line is required. With the tape placed on the surface, the painter can paint over it then peel it away to create a perfect straight line. The bleed space for commercial printing works exactly the same in principal. The bleed space is expendable artwork in essence.
How to setup for SPOT UV or any specialty printing requiring separate mask files -
Spot UV requires 2 separate files for each side of the print product. We need the standard full color CMYK layer file and Spot UV mask layer file. The Spot UV mask layer determines where you want us to designate the Spot UV to be placed.
Spot UV mask layer is created using a solid black (100% K). For example, if you want to highlight your logo in Spot UV; you would eliminate all graphic elements EXCEPT for your logo in solid black.
Spot UV placements that extend to the very edge of the print product require the same bleed setup similar to standard jobs with bleeds. In other words, the solid black Spot UV elements must be extended outside of the trim line.
The following page has a visual guide to assist in your setup for Spot UV jobs.