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How Do I Create a Print-Ready File?

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What is a print-ready file?
Print-Ready is a term used to describe a file that has all the specifications necessary to produce high-resolution printed output, without requiring any additional alteration or intervention. In other words, a commercial printer can use the file “as submitted” to successfully create the desired print materials.

What is bleed?
Bleed is a printing term that is used to describe a document which has images or elements that touch the edge of the page, extending beyond the trim edge and leaving no white margin. When a document has bleed, it must be printed on a larger sheet of paper and then trimmed down.

The file type is also important…
The type of file you submit is also an important factor in determining whether a commercial printer can successfully print your layout. For example, high-resolution Adobe PDF files are universally accepted (and preferred) by commercial printers. Layout files created with other Adobe products – such as InDesign, Illustrator or PhotoShop – also have widespread acceptance, as do QuarkXpress files. EPS and TIF files are also usually good formats for commercial printing.

Examples of file types that do not create print-ready files
Conversely, files created with Microsoft programs – such as Word, Publisher or PowerPoint – often require some intervention and conversion to make them Print-Ready. The same holds true for many other popular software programs, especially “non-professional” versions of desktop publishing packages. The file may output to your desktop printer just fine, but these types of software are rarely well-suited for output on a commercial printing press. When in doubt, check with your printer about acceptable file types beforehand.

Creating a print-ready file for a print shop is fairly easy if you have the right tools. It seems the most popular programs are part of the Adobe® Suite of Products. Common Adobe®programs used for design are Adobe® Illustrator® or Adobe® In-Design®. Here is a pretty good video we found on how to make an Illustrator® file print-ready.

Some traits of a print-ready file include…

  • Document sized properly.
  • Colors set to CMYK instead of RGB.
  • Spot colors properly defined.
  • Ample margins if edges don’t bleed (keep information or borders 1/4” from any trimmed edge).
  • Resolution should be minimum 300 dpi at 100% size.
  • Bleeds set up correctly (artwork should extend at least 1/8” past crop marks).
  • Crop marks included in the art file so the printer knows where to cut the sheet to-size.
  • Include all fonts and images. You can embed fonts in Illustrator. In-Design lets you “package” your file to include the fonts used. Alternately, you can change your fonts to vector by selecting the text and choosing “Outline Fonts” in the Type tab in Illustrator.
  • Make sure there is enough contrast so that it’s readable when printed. A good rule of thumb is to print it off of your desktop printer to see what it looks like before sending it off to the printer.
  • Check and double-check your artwork for spelling and grammar errors.
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