File Prep Guidelines

Need help with setting up your files for printing?

Follow our simple guidelines and step-by-step instructions to avoid delay in production due to file issues.


Trim Marks

Safe Area


CMYK Process vs. Spot Colours

Heavy Black Ink Coverage (Rich Black)

Keep Track of Your Colours

Small/Reversed Type

Rule Lines

Fonts and Linked Graphics

Image Resolution and Quality


Make Image Changes before Importing Them

The area beyond the trim edge of your page document is considered the bleed area.

When butting a colour or image up to the edge of your page, it’s required that the colour or image “bleed” 1/8” beyond the edge to prevent an unwanted white border from showing when the document is trimmed.

For the bleed to show up in your PDF, you must indicate 1/8” bleed in your PDF print or export setup.

The trim area indicates the finished size of the document.

Files should include trim marks set back .167” from the edge of the document. Do not manually draw in the trim marks. Allow the software to add the trim marks when you create your PDF.

You must indicate that you want trim marks in your PDF print or export setup for them to show up.

Remember to keep important information, like names, addresses, phone numbers or logos, within the safe margin (at least 1/8” – 1/4” from the edge) to ensure that they aren’t cut off when your document is trimmed.

CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) are the ink colours used in the printing process, whereas RGB (red, green, blue) are the colours used by screen displays such as your monitor.

Your document should be created in CMYK mode so that the colours you see on the screen most closely match the final printed product.

Many of the bright values produced by our monitors’ RGB displays cannot be reproduced in print.

Process and Pantone match colours may look identical on screen, but they will separate differently.

If you need to convert a spot colour to process, use a conversion guide or ask us for a recommendation.

When your project has heavy, solid black ink coverage please convert to Rich Black.

For best registration on press, do not use rich black on fonts. The rich black combination we prefer is C = 40, M = 0, Y = 0, K = 100.

Delete unused colours from your swatch palette before submitting your file.

If the piece is printing entirely in CMYK, convert any spot colours you may have used (see Figure 5). This eliminates any question as to whether you want the piece printed as CMYK or spot.

Having said that, it’s still best to indicate the ink specs when you upload your file, especially if you want it to print CMYK plus spot.

Reversed type should be no less than 6 pt., and if possible, a sans-serif (i.e. Helvetica or Arial) and bolded.

Fine lettering (thin lines, serifs) should be restricted to one colour for best registration. Small black type should be 100% black rather than rich black for best registration.

For digital art files not supplied same as print size, the effect of scaling reduction should be considered for small text and for thin rules or lines.

All lines and line art images should be a minimum 0.5 pt. thickness (including reversed lines/line art) at final size to reproduce effectively on press.

All fonts and graphics must be included with your files. Take advantage of the “Collect For Output” feature in QuarkXpress, or the “Package” feature in InDesign (here’s a quick tutorial from Adobe). It will help you collect all the fonts and images used, and search for missing items. (Your document may show the placed image, but the actual file may have become unlinked when saved in a folder that differed from its original location. Missing links can cause graphics to print out low-res or not at all.)

Please remove any unnecessary or non-printing elements from your document or pasteboard.

If working in Adobe Illustrator, graphics should be embedded within the file, and fonts should be converted to paths. If you do not convert your fonts, be sure to include them with your document when you upload your files.

Images must conform to the specifications for minimum image resolution – 300 dpi for offset printing and 150 dpi for digital printing. Photoshop provides tremendous pixel control; however, raster software cannot enlarge images without a loss in quality.

It’s better to start out big when producing a digital image, as you can scale down with impunity.

If you need to make an image larger, it is best to rescan or reshoot it at a higher resolution. Vector graphics, however, retain high image quality at any size.

Try to flatten all transparency effects (soft drop shadows, etc.) to eliminate possible ripping/printing issues.

Most transparency issues can be resolved before saving your file.

Placed images should not be scaled, cropped/masked or rotated within the page layout application. Instead they should be manipulated in a proper image editing program (e.g. Photoshop) and then imported into the page layout program at proper size and position.

If done in a page layout program, these steps consume a lot of computer memory.

Let us prep, print and finish your project...

Request A Quote