How to Prepare Print-Ready Files: A Checklist

a checklist for easy printing

Print management is one of the many services we offer at JP Enterprises. We can’t stress enough how important it is to supply printers with print-ready files that require no additional edits. It keeps costs low and makes lives easier. Here’s a quick checklist you can follow the next time you’re ready to submit a project for printing.

Color: CMYK — a.k.a. four-color process

For all printed materials, files should be submitted in CYMK (cyan, yellow, magenta, and black). Files can also be set up with PMS colors, another acceptable format that will print with spot colors, but this is typically a more expensive option. However, RGB is not acceptable for print, and should only be used for web/screen viewing.

Resolution: 300 dpi (dots per inch)

Creating files with the proper resolution and bleeds ensures the overall quality of the printed piece. You should submit files at 300 dpi whenever possible (there are exceptions to this rule, like large files for tradeshow banners or panels, but we won’t get into that now).

The dpi of your file is the number of pixels in the image. A dpi between 200-300 is generally accepted as “photographic quality at an arm’s length”. But if it’s crisp, clean printed imagery that you desire, 300 dpi is the way to go.

Bleeds or no bleeds?

A Guide to Bleeds

When it comes to trimming the printed piece, having applied bleeds to your print-ready files is very important. If there are images that you want to meet the edge of the paper, you want bleeds. If all your content is in a box surrounded by white space, bleeds aren’t necessary.

However, if your text is too close to the edge of the trim line without a bleed, you run the risk of losing content when your printed file is trimmed down. A good rule of thumb is to add a 1/8″ bleed around each edge of the page and make sure all text is inside the “live area”, thus guaranteeing that content will be safe from the trimming blade.

Format: make sure it’s acceptable

The PDF is the most common format used when submitting print-ready files. All your elements are locked into the file and it’s ready for printing.

Other acceptable file formats are InDesign (INDD), Illustrator (AI), Photoshop (PSD), and EPS. If you’re submitting an Illustrator or InDesign file, it must be packaged with all links and fonts that were used to create the design.

Submitting Files

Most files can be submitted via email (depending on file size…and definitely depending on the max file size your printer’s email service will accept). Some vendors prefer that you instead use their FTP server or Dropbox for submission. Make sure you check the printer’s website to determine the best method of delivery.

Creating and submitting print-ready artwork can be a breeze if you keep these key elements in mind. Run through the checklist before you submit your files and you should be in good shape. If you have any questions along the way, you can always call your printer, the company you partnered with to make and/or send the file, or someone here at JP for extra support. We would be more than happy to walk you through it.

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