How to Properly Set Up a Print File

After designers create their pieces, they have to submit them to be printed. This process is not as easy as emailing the printer their documents. There is a proper way to prepare documents for the printing process. Here are a few things to make note of when setting up files to be printed:

Embed Fonts
You will want to be sure you embed your fonts when outputting a print-ready file, as this will ensure that the recipient of the file will see the same font displayed as your design intends, even if the fonts are not installed on the viewer’s computer. It is very common to have font issues in documents that have been sent to a printer which can lead to mistakes in the printed product.

Make Sure Your Document Has Bleed
Bleed is a selected amount of extra space around the border of your layout. If your printed piece is designed with ink going right to the trim line, then bleeds are needed in the print file. This extra space extends past the edges of the trim line and helps eliminate white edges that can appear during the trimming process due to variations in bindery equipment. A general minimum bleed size is 1/8 inch on each edge of the document.

Use Reader’s Spreads Instead of Printer’s Spreads
Reader’s spreads lay out the pages the way the reader would view the document. For example, page 1 would be the cover page, then page 2, 3, 4, etc. You would use this setting for a book, booklet, or pamphlet that gets bound. Printer’s spreads are different and technically get printed out of order, as signatures are created once the file to be printed has been imposed. This process puts the pages in a certain order so that when the pages are trimmed, folded, and collated together, the pages are then in proper 1, 2, 3, 4 (etc.) order. Always use reader’s spreads when sending a print-ready file to the printer, as the printer will use their imposition software to properly set up the file to their specifications.

Check Your Fold Lines
If your document needs fold lines—say you’re creating a brochure—be sure to use guidelines and mark where the folds will be. Also, be sure to set gutters for the fold lines so that the panels of the brochure don’t become cramped or uneven. Ask the printer ahead of time if there are any specifications to keep in mind, as different folding techniques require different set ups. For example, a trifold brochure is not as simple as dividing your document size into thirds, since the first folded panel needs to be shorter than the other two panels.

Use the Correct Colors
It’s best if your document is set up in CMYK color mode. Although some printers will accept RGB documents and automatically convert them, CMYK is best practice.

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and “Key” or Black.These are the colors used in a 4-color print job. All colors used in your document will be created using a mix of these four colors.

Spot colors, also known as solid colors, are created by either a pure or mixed ink, then printed on a single print run. If you choose to include a spot color—a Pantone color or metallic ink—the printer will have to prepare a separate plate for the spot color. Know that spot colors are a bit more pricey, so make sure you get a quote from your printer before you include spot colors in your design.

If using black for small/average size text in your document, be sure to use 100% black only as the color for the type. Using a built black (black mixed with any other color) can lead to blurry or fuzzy text when printed. This is due to an imperfection in color alignment during the printing process.

Avoid using a mix of 100% CMYK (100% of all four colors), otherwise known as “registration”, at all times when designing for print. This mix causes issues for the printers and can lead to problems when printing and finishing your product.

Perfect Photos
If you’re using photos in your design, make sure they are high quality. The resolution of images to be printed at high quality is 300 ppi.

Finally, when you send your file to be printed, be sure you send a PDF or packaged file. If you only send the original file, the printer will not have the images and fonts used in your design. These are a few things that are needed to have a smooth print job and ensure that your designs will come out looking their best. When in doubt, contact your printer before designing your piece as they can help avoid many common issues before they occur!

Great customer service, friendly, easy to work with. The quality of the work is excellent. I recommend EBA Printing all the time.

Moshe R., Mequon, WI

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