How To Design For Print

We will always ensure that your job is print-ready before it goes to press, but the time and effort required depends on the artwork we receive! Whether you’re a seasoned veteran, a casual designer, or not a designer at all, remembering some basic print design standards can save you time and money. Here are a few tips to keep in mind so you and your designers can effectively save time and ensure the quality of your printed work is optimized.

Download our Printing Guidelines:

Resolution

The files that you create need to be high-resolution for print:

  • All image & graphics need a minimum resolution of 300 DPI (Dots Per Inch, though your computer may refer to this as Pixels Per Inch) to be considered “high resolution”. If the file does not meet the minimum, the print quality will suffer in terms of sharpness (this is called “pixelation”). It’s similar to sending a picture from your smartphone; when you send using the small size options, the image quality isn’t as clear or distinct.  And if your image already looks pixelated on-screen, it’s certainly going to print that way.

Color

All print files should use only CMYK colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black), also referred to as four-color process:

  • While your computer monitor displays color in RGB (Red, Green & Blue), printers use different colors that don’t always match up to what you see on your screen. Your artwork may look fantastic on-screen in RGB, but send that design to print and you won’t be satisfied with the result. If your document uses colors that need to be specifically matched, it’s recommended to request a hard-copy proof before we print the entire run.
  • Another great way to ensure color accuracy is to use Pantone (PMS) Spot Colors.  These numbered color collections are based on a set of standards available to all commercial printers, and they give us a great baseline to match colors.  Pantone swatch collections are included with most modern design software, and we have printed versions available for reference at our shop.  Your company may already have specific Pantone colors approved for print use; if they are referenced in your branding guidelines, make sure to include the correct numbers in your artwork files or with your order details.

Bleeds & Margins

Make sure to account for bleed areas and other margins in your print design:

  • If your backgrounds, graphics or images are intended to reach the edge of the page (without any white margin), your file will actually need those graphics to extend beyond the finished size of the page.  It’s not really possible to print to the very edges of a sheet, so a bleed area allows us room to trim through about .125″ of your artwork, leaving no white space at the edge.
  • Similarly, make sure to leave a “safe” margin for all important text, images and graphics.  This allows a margin of error (literally) for all of our production equipment.  We recommend keeping everything important at least .125″ inside the edge of the page, or it could be cut off in the final product.
    More info about margins and bleeds here

Embedding

Embed all aspects of your design into your submitted print file:

  • All fonts, images, and links need to be embedded.  This applies to PDFs, but even more so to native files; for example, when sending us an InDesign file, you can use the “Package” feature to collect all of the document’s fonts, images and colors into one folder before submitting.
  • If you’re having trouble embedding everything using your design program, you can also include all the individual images, fonts, etc. in folders named “Links” and “Fonts” respectively.  Email these to us with your order, or submit them online if the folder is over 10 MB.
  • When designing from a pre-existing template or using a layer with guidelines for folding or trimming, make sure to disable these elements before saving your final PDF.

Bindery Details

Keep in mind any bindery that will be part of the production process:

  • It is helpful to include trim marks so we know the exact finished size of the piece, but registration marks and color bars are not usually necessary.  If you’re having trouble setting up trim marks, don’t fret—we can add them on our end as well.
  • All saddle-stitched booklets (folded and stapled in the spine) must have a total page count divisible by 4, including covers.  This is because each folded sheet effectively becomes 4 pages.  If the page count is not divisible by 4, we will have to add blank pages in your booklet to ensure it prints correctly.
    More info on booklets here
  • When working with tri-folded pieces, the panel sizes will not all be exactly the same. The first fold panel will purposely be about 1/16” short to allow the finish folded edges to meet. If the first fold is the same as the final fold, the final fold will come up short, and look sloppy.