“Print ready file” is a term used by printers to signify a digital file which is trouble free and does not need any modifications in order to print properly. Providing files free of trouble can reduce the print production time as well as save you additional costs. In this short article, we will review some of the more important aspects of getting your files ready for print production. By definition, print ready files are files which will produce the intended design without error. It is important to note that your digital files are similar to a set of computerized instructions to our printers as to what to produce. Only the correct instructions will result in the intended outcome.
Using a page layout program specifically designed
for printing, such as QuarkXPress or Adobe InDesign,
can significantly improve the efficiency and reduce the
likelihood of errors. Start by creating a file to the exact
trimmed size of your final printed piece. For example,
if you are printing a single rack card, set your document
size to 4” x 9”. If you are creating a magazine, set your
document up for the actual page size, i.e. 8 1/2” x 11”.
For folded brochures, set your document to the flat size
of your brochure. See the tools section of our website
to create a template for your brochure with the correct
panel sizes for folding.
One of the most talked about terms in file preparation
is bleed. Bleed is when any of the printing touches the
edge of the sheet. In order to set the bleed properly,
you should extend the image 1/8” past the edge of the
page. This will allow for a margin of error, or variation in
the folding or trimming of your document. You should
keep important items, such as type, 1/4” away from the
trim. This is the “safety” zone. The safety zone ensures
that your design will look centered and does not get cut
Borders that continue around the page should be at
least 1/4” thick. Again, this will allow for some variation in
the binding. Borders that are less than 1/4” in width may
result in an uneven look, due to mechanical tolerances in
the trimming process. This only applies to borders that
are right on the edge of the page or very close to the
edge, it does not effect borders that are more than 1/4”
away for the edge of the page. An experienced designer
creates files that take into account the tolerance which
is required to make the final piece look good.
Avoid “printer spreads” as we use computerized
imposition software to layout the pages to fit the press
sheet. Design multiple page documents as facing pages
or single pages. Always include a hard copy or mock up
so the prepress technicians have a visual understanding
of your design. If you are sending files electronically,
without hard copy proof, include an approved PDF file
so we can make sure elements don’t shift and fonts print
correctly. This allows us to know what the file “should”
look like. If we open your layout file, and it doesn’t look
like your PDF, then we know right away that something
is wrong. Make sure to include all fonts, and images (in
EPS of TIFF format), with your document. The easier
you make it for your printer, the less time will be needed
to produce it, and will result in a lower price at the end.
Another common term in printing is DPI. DPI
stands for dots per inch, which is the resolution of
your image. The higher the DPI, the better quality
the image will reproduce. Internet (computer screen)
images only need a resolution of 72 DPI to look good,
while images that are to be printed need a much higher
resolution. Images should have a minimum of 300 DPI
for continuous tone (photographs), and a minimum of
600 DPI for line-art graphics (drawings).
A hairline rule is defined as the thinnest line an
output device can create. While it looks fine on-screen
and on a laser printer, our platesetter can print a line
so fine it can barely be seen. If you want a hairline rule
(defined as .25 point), specify a rule of .25 points in your
layout program instead of using “hairline.”
A good way to speed the printing of your project,
and avoid confusion, is to delete all unused colors in the
color palette of your document. This way, our prepress
technicians won’t have to wonder which colors should
print, and which ones shouldn’t.
AA’s are short for Author’s Alterations. AA is a term
that shows up in your invoice stating that you requested
changes to the original graphic you provided. The AA
is the cost of making modifications per your request.
To avoid AA charges, make sure your files are fully
approved before sending to the printer. If you need to
make corrections after the proof is provided, it is best to
mark the corrections on your proof and let the printer
make the changes. Alternatively, you can submit just the
page with the changes instead of the entire document.
Providing a whole new file would result in a new set of
proofs and additional prepress time to redo the work
When you are done with your design/layout and
are ready to send it to us, use “Save As...” in your
layout program, as it creates a new, “clean” version
of your file and tends to process better. If you have
any questions along the way, feel free to contact us
at 413-224-2100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tiger Team will be glad to help!
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