Tips for making your file print ready
Tips for making your file print ready
Starting off – Use the right Software
There's plenty of things you need to check in preparing your artwork, some of them are listed below. We have prepared the following guide to assist you with your electronic file preparation and submission. If you have a specific problem that is not covered in this guide, or have other questions, please feel free to contact us. Improperly prepared files can cause delays in manufacturing.
Use the right software – it matters. Almost as much as your creative ability! To make it easy you will need software that's made to create print files. Sounds obvious, but it is frequently ignored. Just remember that Microsoft Word is called that because it's good with "Words". It's not so good with pictures and logos, otherwise it would be called Microsoft Picture. Same goes with web editing software, it's not great at making things for printing.
The best results come from specific graphic arts software that has font, image, colour and page layout management systems built into them. The popular page layout software packages currently available are Adobe InDesign, Adobe PageMaker (now discontinued), QuarkXPress and CorelDraw (all available for the Mac and the PC), and Microsoft Publisher with CMYK settings (only available for the PC). Drawing and photo manipulation packages such as Corel Photopaint, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe PhotoShop, and Macromedia Freehand can be used, but work created in those packages should be placed into page layout software.
We do not recommend word processing or presentation software such as Microsoft Word or Powerpoint. They are great for office stuff, but are really low quality and your end result will reflect this. We highly recommend you do not use web editing, or online software – they simply are not great at making things for printing. Files created in Canva for example are not suitable, being too low in resolution and based on RGB colours.
The look and impact of the job that you receive will directly reflect the quality of the artwork. Poor quality artwork will give you poor quality look. You have three options though (1) have us design it for you; (2) have us recreate or convert the files for you or (3) create the artwork from scratch using the free BBB online editor. Keep in mind if you upload poor quality images into the editor, you are still creating poor quality artwork.
It might take a little while, but you will be better off using our online editor to create your artwork instead of using Word, Powerpoint or Publisher. It will keep your colours looking good and guarantee the right layout. And it's free!
For offset and wide format printing, make sure all your images are CMYK and convert all RGB images/colours:
CMYK, RGB (heck, what does that even mean????) Here’s the short version.
RGB and CMYK are known as ‘colour spaces’ or 'colour gamuts', and these 'colour spaces' create the colours you see on all printed matter and on your computer screen right now.
•RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue; and RGB is the ‘colour space’ used by computer monitors and digital cameras. Often known as a positive primary colour. If you mix these three colours on a monitor you will get white.
•CMYK stands for (C)yan, (M)agenta, (Y)ellow and Blac(k). or KEY. A correct and more technical term but nowadays, mostly referred to as black. Almost all conventional and digital printing presses use CMYK. Often also called a negative primary colour.
Everything created with an online editor, Microsoft Office software, like Word, Powerpoint, Photo/Draw, Excel, Adobe Photoshop “LE” and Adobe PhotDeluxe work in RGB and GIMP also work in RGB. Check your software settings and capabilities before starting.
What difference does RGB or CMYK make to my job?
There is a major difference in the colours. RGB and CMYK have different colour ‘gamuts’. A colour gamut is the range of colours that a colour space can reproduce. RGB has a wider colour gamut than CMYK. That is, RGB is capable of reproducing more colours than CMYK. RGB tends to be able to reproduce colours at the extremes of red, green and blue that CMYK is incapable of reproducing. In other words, bright reds, greens, oranges and blues will not be quite so bright when converted to CMYK. What seems bright and rich on your monitor may print out a lot "duller". You will, for instance, see this in particular when converting a deep cobalt blue to CMYK. Orange or other "bright" colours will also have this problem. Most monitors are sold these days with the brightness close to 100%. The saturation will more often than not will also be ramped up to give excessive richness to images. People are attracted to rich, bright, almost overstaturated colours.
Monitor manufacturers don't want their monitor to appear dull next to a competitor in a shop, so you normally get a monitor that will not show you the "truth" of what you are seeing. Ever stood in a store looking at television screens and noticing the difference between manufacturers?
If your photos come back from the printer and you have adjusted them on your computer and they appear dark, then often the culprit is your monitor.
A qualified graphic designer used to specifications for offset and wide format printing and using a calibrated colour monitor works in CMYK. However if you are doing your own artwork, it may be that some of the images and background tints you work with whilst preparing your job will use the RGB colour space. At some stage you will need to them converted to CMYK. We recommend this is done before sending the files to us, and it is far better if you do the conversion. You will see the result for yourself, and have the opportunity to make adjustments or experiment with colours to provide the best result.
The raster image processors (RIPs) that all presses use to prepare files for printing have built-in RGB to CMYK conversion ‘algorithms’. This is an essential and unavoidable part of the process , and we don’t have a great deal of control over the automated process. Once sent for printing, it is simply too late and you will get what you get based on the artwork submitted.
Since offset printing and wide format printing uses CMYK there will be a difference. You are preparing files for a printing press or a wide format printer in general, so ensure you submit only CMYK images, otherwise.... you may be disappointed... and sorry, but it will be your part of the job that has let you down.
What colours are used if you are not printing – digital files, websites and online publishing?
Where we are creating digital files for you for social media or online publishing, we will create these in RGB and welcome uploads of images for these formats in RGB.
For websites.... we use the HEX codes, which specifies colours using hexadecimal values. The code itself is a hex triplet, which represents three separate values that specify the levels of the component colours. The code starts with a pound sign (#) and is followed by six hex values or three hex value pairs (for example, #AFD645). The code is generally associated with HTML and websites, viewed on a screen, and as such the hex value pairs refer to the RGB colour space. In the case of RGB, the first value pair refers to red, the second to green and the third to blue, with decimal values ranging from 0 to 255, or in hexadecimal 0 to FF (#RRGGBB). RGB is an additive colour space, meaning that when all three colours are put together the result is white (white light). For example, the colour hex code for white is #FFFFFF or in decimal 255, 255, 255; and at the opposite end is black #000000. Yellow is made up of red and green, so its hex code is #FFFF00. The codes can also be represented in a three-digit code to represent double values in CSS. For example, #FFFFFF can be abbreviated as #FFF and #00AA55 as #0A5. This is defined in the CSS specifications, so it only works under the "<style >" tag when used within HTML. The notation reduces the palette to 4096 colours (12 bits) as opposed to 16,777,216 colors (24 bits) for the six-digit coding.
Use High Resolution Images
You can't make a silk purse out of sow's ear is an old cliche for a reason. We cannot add resolution. Poor low quality images cannot be "enhanced" by converting to PDF.
A very common problem is the supply of images (ie logos or photographs etc). Often they are supplied at very low resolutions such as screen images 72dpi (used for computer screens, and therefore the internet). But have you tried to print it out on your printer? Press printed products require images to be supplied at 300dpi or as close thereto as you can get. (300 rows each of 300 dots, or 90,000 dots in a square inch.) As a rule of thumb stear clear of any images from web sites unless you can obtain a high resolution copy of the image. If you can’t obtain the image... then you need to question if you have are breaching copyright laws in using the image. And when we use the expression '300dpi', we mean 300dpi at the final output size. If you have a 300dpi image that is, say 100x150mm, and blow it up to A4, you have reduced the effective resolution back to 75dpi, and achieved nothing. Keep that in mind if you are wanting printing on a wide format basis (vehicles, signs and buildings). Start with a good quality high resolution image.
►All images and pictures should be dpi.
►Rasterized text or logos should be 1200 dpi.
►Screen values should be between 133 lpi and 150 lpi.
The minimum image size is dpi in resolution is just the starting point. If you are creating artwork to cover a building it will need to be at least 1200dpi. Start with high resolution logo or image and you'll go far (and a professional photographer is always worth the cost if you can afford it).
Helpful Hint: if you are using Photoshop, change your resolution to at least 600dpi before you flatten it. It will make the fonts clearer.
Caution Low Resolution Images
Images you take off someone websites will usually be 72 dpi - or about one fifth of what they should be – and they may be subject to copyright. Also be careful in resizing your image. You might start with a you-beaut image at 300dpi, but if you stretch it to fit your page it won't end at 300dpi.
Try to avoid them. The same reason you need bleed (see below) is why we don't recommend borders. It's unavoidable for the guillotining to vary by just a fraction of a millimetre or so. If your border is only 2mm from the edge it will end up looking pretty ordinary. If you really, really want a border, make sure it's at least 4mm in from the edge of your printed page.
Pick "Blue" in RGB (ie in Word or Powerpoint) and it will print purple. If you can measure the CMYK values of your blue make sure it doesn't have any more than 65% magenta, and as much Cyan as you can squeeze in. "Blue" in RGB will almost always convert to 100% magenta and 100% cyan - and this will always become purple (hence why we don’t want you to use RGB colours).
An RGB Yellow does a similar thing. It will look great on screen but usually does not print as the vibrant yellow you expected.
The use of Black
Not all blacks are composed equal. Please avoid 4 colour blacks when using for text or line work and use 100% K (black) only. This will ensure that you do not get any small dots of any other colours on the edges of your text making it appear less crisp. If you are looking for a deeper shade of black in a solid fill object use “rich black”, 40% cyan, 40% magenta, 40% yellow and 100% black. The extra cyan helps deepen the black without too much ink coverage to affect the drying or having scuffing problems. Please try to avoid using Rich Black on small / thin / or reversed out type and Key lines.
IMPORTANT : Do avoid the use of RGB black and then converting to CMYK or leaving the RGB black in your file. RGB black is often made up with colour around the 70-80%Cyan, 65-75% Magenta, 65-75% Yellow and 85-95% black. This leads to a muddy black as you are saturating the printed product with around 325% ink. The yellow and magenta mixing to create a muddy brown black, not to mention that the high ink coverage will have an effect on adjacent thin fonts and also be prone to scuffing or marking. This normally occurs when you use a raster program such as Adobe Photoshop, Elements, Microsoft Paint etc, as opposed to a vector program such as Adobe Illustrator, Adobe In-Design and Corel.
So in order to reduce the over-saturation and muddy brown effect, start in the CMYK colour space and use no more ink coverage that the rich blacks stated above. If you are using an RGB picture or effect that is in RGB and is very dark or black, you will have to lighten it up considerably and double check the effects by printing out the CMYK print ready PDF on a digital cmyk printer, not an inkjet printer.
Then Add Bleed
Bleed is where the printed image on a page extends beyond the edge of the printed area. During the printing and trimming process, it is common for each sheet of paper to vary or move ever so slightly. The use of bleed on artwork, ensures that even where this variance occurs it will not be noticeable, as the printed piece will always be trimmed somewhere on the coloured printed image. If bleed is absent, it’s possible to find unsightly white lines bordering your printed item where there should be colour extending to the edge. These white strips will appear worse if on more than one edge. A lack of an allowance for bleed on supplied artwork is one of the most common problems faced by printers yet it’s one of the most important pieces of information that should be included.
Our templates allow for a bleed on your job, and are set up to show and include the bleed area.
Whether or not you have bleed, you still need to prepare your artwork to the template size including this allowance. For example, if you are ordering a business card with a finished size of 90mm x 55mm, our templates require a further 2mm bleed area all around, and you will prepare your artwork and PDF file to 94mm x 59mm. If you don’t have any bleeds, easy peasy, but you still need to prepare your artwork to this size.
Check your spelling and punctuation
Don't forget to check your spelling, punctuation and grammar. Run your spell checker! Make sure your spell check is preferably set to Australian English and not US English. It is also a good idea to have someone else look at your work. Another set of eyes often sees something you've been looking at and missing. Often the longer you have been working on a project, the less likely you are to spot the obvious. Ever played with one of those puzzles that have letters missing out of words but you can still read it quickly? Pay particular attention to headlines when checking, as they eye can interpret their intention rather than their spelling.
Avoid common grammatical and usage errors
Avoid some of the more common mistakes, and make your work read more professionally. Here are some examples. When referring to a decade, don't use an apostrophe as in 90's, use 90s. Don't use ampersands ('&') in text, use the word 'and'. This avoids putting a 7 there instead. Don't Make Excessive Use Of Capitals — keep them to a minimum.
Programs often have both a spell check and a grammar check. Check out the settings behind your program to see if you can turn them this function on.
Print out your job and check, check and check again
It's easy to miss mistakes in your document when you have only ever seen it displayed on the screen. It is an important part of proofing your job to print the document out and look at it. Check for spelling errors, spacing problems, inconsistencies, and design problems. Try to get someone else to check for typo mistakes.
If you want a folded or multiple page document check your proof to make sure it lines up correctly.
Remember the colours on your home printer (and your screen) will differ from what we print using digital, offset and wide format printers.
Make a PDF
We prefer you submit a high resolution CMYK PDF file of your artwork. A PDF locks the fonts in and your images won’t move.
First – make sure your artwork is to the template size and includes bleed where stated. Follow the instructions above the specifications for creating a print-ready file. Remember, poor low quality images cannot be "enhanced" by converting to PDF.
Second – don’t forget to double check the PDF - that is what we will print, so don't rely on the original file you created, double check the PDF you are about to send us. Sometimes, just sometimes, a PDF does not capture everything you think it will (there are many reasons), so check the final PDF file before uploading.
Yes! Tick! I made a PDF! Caution on Using PDF makers
A word of caution. There are many PDF makers available built into software, or available online. If you are using Word and creating a PDF – this is suitable for creating a document for easy transmission/sending to someone else. PDF means “portable document format”. It means if the person you are sending it to does not have the software you created the file in, they will still be able to read the file. PDF makers have a wide range of quality levels in the ‘output’ that they create (ie the final PDF file being created).
Further, if you create a file in Word (or similar non graphic art programs), use a PDF maker to create the PDF – it is still very poor quality quality. We cannot add resolution or quality to your file. If you have an image in your Word document you grabbed off the internet that is 15kb and RGB based, it is still very poor quality even when you create a PDF file. The creation of the PDF is not the solution. The creation of a quality artwork suitable for the offset printing or wide format printing is the solution.
It is not just PDF that is needed, as you can see the quality can vary widely. It is a PDF of a high quality artwork based on the principles set out here.
During the ordering process and uploading your PDF
You will be asked to upload this during the ordering process, or you can provide these files via alternative means. If you wish to get us to quick-check your files or to make your file print ready, please select these options at the ordering process.
Then wait for your printed job to come back to you. Don't panic, everything will be alright.
You are doing the artwork, how do I give you my files?
Even if you need us to design your artwork for you, you will also be provided the option of uploading images that you want us to incorporate within a design we make for you (you company logo for example) at the ordering process. If you can, please do supply artwork in an editable high resolution PDF or EPS file format. If you are unable to supply this format don't panic! Please supply you art in your own format and we will convert it for you for a nominal charge.
Don't supply any unnecessary files
Ensure you are loading or sending only the files relevant to the job. We sometimes receive a whole lot of additional files that are unrelated to the job in hand. This can make it difficult and time consuming to find exactly what it is we are to work with or the meaning of the other files.
Please refer to the FAQ'S for further information and additional specifications if you are wanting 'extras' on your job like embossing, UV spot printing-matt/gloss cello printing, die-cutting or shape cutting (cut-contour) settings.