Submitting a new project for print can be intimidating for newcomers. Unless you are a graphic designer, you are probably not familiar with some of the terms used in the print industry. Whether you are new to the industry or just looking for a refresher, here are a few simple tricks to help you prepare your artwork for print like a pro!
If you are new to the print industry, you might think only one size is needed for a document. But there are actually three sizes to keep in mind when setting up a job for print: trim size, live size, and bleed size.
The trim size is the size of the final printed piece after trimming, so it is the same size as the final print measurements. The live size is considered the “safe area” within the document, i.e., the margins in a text document. Usually 0.25” or 0.5” within the trim size, these margins ensure that no content accidentally gets trimmed off, even if there is a misalignment during the printing process. The bleed size extends past the trim size and is meant to be trimmed away. More about bleeds below…
Whenever the artwork touches the edge of the paper a bleed is needed. A bleed is simply a space used to extend the artwork beyond the final trimmed size of the printed piece to allow the art to “bleed” past the edge of the paper. A printed piece with a “full bleed” has the artwork touching all four sides of the paper, whereas something with a “partial bleed” only has the art meet some of the edges. If there is a space between the artwork and the edges of the page, leaving an unprinted space around the whole document, then there are no bleeds.
We always recommend adding a 1/8-inch (0.125”) bleed area to each direction of the document to ensure that no part of the design accidentally gets trimmed away. If the bleed is not set up correctly, a noticeable white border will end up around the print. If you do not know how to set up a bleed yourself, don’t stress! Our on-site Graphics Team can work with the files you send us and add one for you!
To make sure your colors print consistently, set up your color swatches to CYMK. CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black) is the standard color mode for the print industry. Please note that the color on your computer monitor uses the RGB (Red, Green, Blue) color mode, so it is not always an accurate representation of a printed color. If you need your colors to stay consistent across all print media, we suggest using spot colors like that of the Pantone Matching System.
Color is crucial when it comes to designing artwork. To better understand the various color types and what they work best for, check out our article “RGB vs. CMYK vs. PMS – How to Get the Best Colors for Your Print.”
Vector images consist of scalable objects that will stay crisp regardless of scale. But if your artwork contains pixel-based raster images, the print quality will depend on its image resolution. When referring to image resolution, we are referring to the number of Dots Per Inch (dpi) the image has at its unscaled size. Print graphics need to be a minimum of 300dpi. Anything less than that can result in a blurry-looking print. Any graphic designed for web use tend to be 72dpi. Because of this, you can’t just pull an image off the web and use it for print, as it will not be a high enough resolution.
Image resolution can be a lengthy topic. As a general rule, you always want to start using large, high-resolution images for your prints. Check out our other article, “Raster vs. Vector - Art Tips to Get the Best Quality Print,” to learn more about image and file types to see which will work best for you!
Fonts are specific vector files that illustrate a set of alphabetic characters, and there are thousands of different fonts available to download that you can use for your artwork. There are also multiple versions of common font names, all of which are different than others with the same name. However, when you send your art to print, you are counting on us to have the same fonts available in our system, which is not always the case. It is always a good idea to send the font files along with your artwork. Font files will either be a .TTF (True Type Font) or .OTF (Open Type Font) file type.
Can’t find the font files? No worries! You may remember from our previous article, “Raster vs. Vector - Art Tips to Get the Best Quality Print,” that PDF is the only file type that can embed both images and fonts! If you save your artwork as a PDF, all the fonts and images you use will be within the PDF. This is why PDFs are a favorite in the print industry, as print-ready PDFs can also include bleeds and crop marks to indicate the trim area!
Though, we may still need to edit your PDF to make your artwork compatible with our print process. To prevent us from editing your text, try outlining your fonts. This process converts the editable font file to basic vector shapes. Outlined fonts are perfect for print and are the safest way to send your artwork, but you’ll lose the ability to edit your text, so don’t save over the original file that you might want to update in the future!
Summiting print projects can be tricky, but it helps to be prepared! Knowing some of these basic graphics terms can help guide you in preparing artwork for print and help streamline your ordering process. Still have questions about setting up your artwork, or if you would like to take advantage of our graphic design services, contact us! Our on-site Graphics Team can help guide you through the process or handle everything for you, whichever you prefer!
215 S. Pioneer Blvd.
Springboro, OH 45066