Tips for sending artwork to print

9 January, 2014

Here are some tips and information for preparing and sending your artwork to a printers. It's by no means a comprehensive list but covers areas that have come up for me over the years that you may find useful.

Bleed & Crop Marks

If your artwork runs to the edge of a page it will need a bleed. This means the artwork will bleed over the edge, usually printers ask for 3mm. When the artwork is printed, it’s printed on a larger oversized sheet then trimmed down to the right size. If you don’t allow for a bleed your artwork might end up not running to edge of the page and have a white gap. Include crop marks when you save you file, this will show the printers where your bleed is and where they should trim the document.



Printers use CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black), whereas on screen we use RGB (Red, Green, Blue). You need to ensure your document is set up in CMYK, otherwise your print could come back not how you expected. When you convert your image from RGB to CMYK it may appear duller, you may have to brighten up the colours to compensate.

Convert fonts to outlines

It’s important that when you send a document to print you convert the fonts to outlines. This basically means that rather that the type being an editable font, you change it into a shape layer. This will stop any font issues occurring at the printer’s side. In Adobe Illustrator it's as simple as selecting all your type and then clicking Type > Create Outlines.

Image Resolutions

On screen we view images at around 72dpi, however printing requires a much larger resolution, usually about 300dpi for things like brochures and flyers. This means you can’t use low resolution images as they will appear pixelated, you will need a larger image file. You can check the image resolution in Photoshop by selecting Image>Image Size.

Supply your file as a PDF

You can create a PDF file from most programs now, and it’s easiest file for the printers to use. When saving your PDF you can select to include crop marks and a bleed, you can also ensure the resolution you want to save the file at. If you are designing a brochure, supply the PDF as separate pages, not spreads, this includes the front and back cover, and don’t try and impose your brochure, your printers will do that using their imposition software.

You can also run a preflight check in Adobe Acrobat, and you can set it up to check for various things, such as image resolution, bleeds, spot colours etc. This is really helpful to check that you haven’t missed anything.

Creep Allowance

Creep is something that affects thicker brochures. It’s where the bulk of the paper causes the inner pages to extend or creep further out that the other pages. It varies depending on the thickness of the paper and number of pages. If you are sending a thick stitched brochure to print, check that your printer will adjust your document for you.

Transparencies & effects

If your file has unusual effects or transparencies, its far better to send flattened transparencies, just incase something goes wrong along the way. If you want to make sure it’s going to look as its supposed to it might be worthwhile sending your printer a flat jpeg of your artwork alongside your PDF or even sending then a printed hard copy that they can check against.

Folders and die cuts

Make sure your template clearly shows where the cutting guide is, I use a colour for the cutting guide that really contrasts against the artwork.

Foil blocking and spot UV

I have found the easiest way is to supply your artwork as a PDF file, and then supply a separate PDF file, with just the area you want foil blocking or gloss varnishing. I put it in a single colour, so there is no confusion.

Printing Glossary

Here are some of the printing terms I have used or though you may find useful:

Accordion fold

Folding paper by bending each fold in the opposite direction of the previous fold creating a pleated or accordion effect.


Various methods of securing folded sections together and or fastening them to a cover, to form single copies of a book. Used on a spine.


Extra ink area that crosses the trim line.

Blind Emboss

Raising of the image on paper using a die and counter die with no ink involved.


Gathering together sheets of paper from a book, magazine or brochure and placing them into the correct order.

Colour Separation

Process by which a continuous tone colour image is separated into the four process colours (CMYK) for print production.

Concertina Fold

A method of folding in which each fold opens in the opposite direction to its neighbour, giving a concertina or pleated effect.

Crop Marks

Lines near the margins of artwork or photos indicating where to trim, perforate or fold.


To trim the edges of a picture or page to make it fit or remove unwanted portions.

Die Cut

Cutting shapes or non-square or rectangular shapes out of paper using die.


A measure of the quality of an image from a scanner or output resolution of a printer. The more dots per inch, the higher the quality will be but the larger the file size the slower it will process.


Implies the inclusion of elements and data into a computer file necessary to maintain or change the elements when used remotely.


A process performed after printing to stamp a raised (or depressed) image into the surface of paper, using engraved metal embossing dies, extreme pressure, and heat. embossing styles include blind, deboss and foil-embossed.


A metallic or pigmented coating on plastic sheets or rolls used in foil stamping and foil embossing/debossing.


Positioning printed pages so they will fold in the proper order.

Offset printing

Printing performed on a traditional printer, where plates mounted onto rollers are used to transfer ink onto paper.

Perfect bind

A type of binding that glues the edge of sheets to a cover.


An object, onto which an image is burned using light, which is placed onto a press for the use of printing ink onto paper.

Process Color

The process of using cyan, magenta, yellow and black to build/create any and all colors. The price of printing in process is generally equal to that of printing three spot colors.


A print out or mock-up of a job.

Saddle Stitch

Binding a booklet or magazine with staples in the seam where it folds.

Spot Color

Ink which has been mixed before printing, creating a solid flood of color more easily matchable from printing to printing.

Spot Varnish

Varnish used to highlight a specific part of the printed sheet.


The material to be printed (usually paper).


An area where two colors overlap minutely. Trap is used to make sure any shift in printing does not result in areas where paper is seen where there should be ink.

Paper Sizes


Image courtesy of wikipedia


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