Going to a printer without having your files properly prepared is like gambling at a casino: you don’t know what quality the finished product will be. While it is easier than ever to get files ready, knowing some basic guidelines will ensure professionalism and optimum efficiency from the outset of your print project.
Check color consistency.
Use the CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, K where K is black) color space option rather than the RGB format (the one you see on your computer screen); this is the format used by computers and is the most accurate. Use 100% black with no additional CMY to guarantee true black.
Keep resolution at its highest.
Most printers consider 300 dpi resolution to be the minimum resolution standard. Create your design projects using whatever resolution you will be printing in so that quality of the finished product is sharp and consistent.
Don’t compress files if possible.
If you can save a file in TIFF format, you can keep the color and pixel data from the original design from varying. JPG and GIF image files can distort images by eliminating some of the color information from the file, or even some of the images themselves.
Leave enough trim and bleed room.
It’s good to have ¼ of an inch of room from the edge of a document so that it will not affect text or the images you are printing. Be sure to include trim marks to allow exact cutting; marks can be added with most design programs.
Include a descriptive file name and specifications.
This makes it easy for the printer to know what your file is, and its purpose. For example, “medical brochure back” instead of “brochure.”
It’s also helpful to specify things like:
- type of job and quantity needed (i.e. business card)
- the finished flat size and finished size
- type of paper stock
- number of ink colors
- whether it prints one side or two
- perfect bind, emboss or other finishing parameters
Save your files in a standardized format.
Be sure to “lock” your graphic design and text files in a format like Adobe Acrobat PDF files because they are compatible across a variety of platforms. “Locking” protects files from the possibility of any changes or edits to the camera ready image.
Thinking ahead will give you the best printing results and reduce the possibility of costly errors. It’s worth a few extra minutes to make files suitable for print.