Are you afraid to send your files to the printer? We all want to avoid a negative surprise when printing our products. But with all the necessary requirements your files need to fulfill it can get overwhelming. There are several things you need to do when setting up your files for print.
CMYK is the standard color profile for print. So contrary to the files you save in RGB for web usage, your files need to be set up in CMYK. Otherwise, your file will be converted while printed. This will lead to different, sometimes even shocking results.
For special colors, like your brand colors, which need to look exactly the same in all your designs, you can also save Pantone colors for printing.
Your print shop will, in general, tell you to convert all your text into outlines before you send your file. Out of the simple reason that your file can’t be read on a different computer if this computer doesn’t have the same font installed. If you don’t want to send over the font and avoid complications convert your text to outlines. But before you do this save a copy of your file first. Once a text is converted to outlines you can’t make changes to it anymore.
I am sure you want the best quality possible for your print, so the first thing you need to do when creating your file is to set the file size to the exact output size you need, means 1:1. If you scale your design afterward to fit the output size, you will almost always lose quality.
The optimal resolution for print files is 300dpi. Save your file in the right file size (1:1) and set the resolution to 300dpi will ensure a finished product with high quality and sharp text and images. The smallest resolution you can apply to your file needs to be at least 150dpi.
The problem with images you include in your design is, they’re stocked on your computer. This keeps the file size low while you’re working. But it also means you have to include the images in your file before sending it out. Otherwise, the image will no longer appear when somebody opens your file on a different computer. Photoshop includes images automatically so you can skip this step. But if you’re working with Illustrator you have to embed every image before saving your file for print.
Bleeds are supplementary space you add all around your canvas usually ⅛” or 3mm. You need this space if you have photos or elements in your design which go to the edge of your canvas and print. These elements have to be extended to the bleed line. You basically do this to avoid white slivers around your finished product which can occur when your print gets cut.
Also, make sure to check the box “Use Document Bleed Settings” when saving your file as a PDF. Otherwise, your bleeds get lost. On the same note, printers usually prefer to set other marks like trim marks themselves. Only include them if asked for.
The PDF-format is an allrounder and most print shops work with Acrobat and will ask you for a PDF file. These file format can be opened on any computer without difficulties. They also ensure your print will look exactly like your layout. PDFs include images and fonts automatically. There are different PDF formats you can save. But you should go for “High-Quality Print” and verify the settings of color mode, fonts, and bleeds.
Most print shops also work with Adobe Illustrator (AI), Photoshop (PSD), or InDesign (INDD) files. In case you want to send one of these make sure to embed images and convert text to outlines.
Related post: How to choose the right file format
It’s always best to check in with your print shop. Some shops are very specific on the files they accept. Depending on the print process or the product you want to get printed there can be different requirements for your file. Usually, your print shop will tell you exactly what they need.