Print-Ready Files

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What are print-ready files? It’s one of the most common terms printers use every day, but it can mean different things. Most digital or online printers agree that there are essential elements your file needs to ensure it translates from your computer to the printing press accurately and consistently.

If you’re already an Adobe InDesign or Illustrator user, read on. (If you’re not a designer or are new to graphic design, we recommend our Layout Services team or using Canva for print.)

PDF Format

Whether you’re designing perfect bound marketing booklets, printing your own invitations or creating unique business cards, the first step in creating a file for online printing is knowing what format it’s in. A PDF is the best format for print-ready files because of its universal accessibility – any printer has the ability to edit a PDF.

Other File Formats

Other formats have broader editing capabilities, such as Adobe Photoshop (.psd format), Illustrator (.ai format) or InDesign (.indd). They may not be available for your printer to save as or export to a PDF for your print-ready files or may be incompatible with the press itself.

Formats like Microsoft Document (.docx), PowerPoint (.ppx) or Publisher (.pub) are not optimized for a printing press. And formats like .png and .jpeg. are static images that, if designed correctly, can be printed, but leave your printer with no ability to edit.

The most important thing to remember is that it’s possible for all of these file formats to be saved, exported or converted to a PDF for print-ready files.

Requirements for Print-Ready Files

To ensure your file is ready for press and other online printing services, follow these guidelines for print-ready files:

  • All of your images should be high resolution. We recommend images are 300 PPI for small format projects like booklets, cards or brochures, and 150 PPI for large format projects like custom signs and banners.
  • Make sure your print-ready files use CMYK colors for the most accurate comparison between what you see on your screen and what is produced with the press.
  • Your design files must have the appropriate bleed to ensure any variances in commercial production don’t affect your print. Most commercial printing and cutting has an 1/8″ variance in the event that the machines drift slightly in any direction. Because of this, your finished size should be expanded by 1/4″.

There are other, more advanced options you can explore with your printer, such as flattening transparency objects, utilizing blank pages or spot color and PMS Pantones.

Bottom Line: As long as you have a PDF with high resolution images in the CMYK color space with the appropriate bleed, you’ll be well on your way to creating the proper print-ready file and your own brilliant print!