Printing Artwork Guidelines

Printing Artwork Guidelines

Printing artwork guidelines are a set of instructions that help you prepare your digital artwork for printing. They cover a variety of topics, including file formats, colour modes, resolution, and bleed area. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your artwork prints correctly and looks its best.

Here is a brief overview of some of the most important printing artwork guidelines:

  • File format: PDF is the preferred file format for printing, as it is widely supported by most printers and produces high-quality results. Other acceptable file formats include TIFF and EPS.
  • Colour mode: All artwork should be supplied in CMYK colour mode. This is the colour mode used by printers, and it ensures that your colours will print accurately.
  • Resolution: Image resolution should be at least 300 dpi for the final size of the printed piece. This will ensure that your images print sharp and clear.
  • Bleed area: The bleed area is a small margin of extra space around the edge of your artwork that is trimmed off after printing. This helps to ensure that there is no white border around your printed piece.

In addition to these general guidelines, there may also be specific requirements for certain types of printing jobs. It is always a good idea to consult with us before submitting your artwork for printing. We can provide you with specific guidelines for your job and help you to ensure that your artwork is print-ready.

The Basics You Need To Know

The page size of your artwork must be the same (plus bleed) as the page size of your desired product. For large items this may not be possible. When you’re designing, don’t forget the bleed. It’s really important.

  • All colours in CMYK
  • All fonts embedded or converted to curves/outlines
  • Bleed – depends on product – 3mm on all edges, 2mm for small jobs like business cards – 10-20mm for signage
  • Design with 3-4mm safe zone on small items, 25-45mm + on signage
  • Cut marks or colour bars are not required
  • Product in dead centre of the pdf page
  • ALWAYS specify the final size required and bleed included
  • ALWAYS specify the required job specifications including description, quantity, finishes etc

In many cases files are not supplied correctly – be sure to read and understand the requirements. If your file is not ‘print ready’ or you are not sure please let us know when we are quoting. We are more than happy to help you supply a file that is print ready.

Supply your file in pdf format

Please supply your file in pdf format. This is the most reliable type of file for printing purposes. If you can’t please speak to us about it we may be able to accept what you have, the following guidelines will still apply.

Print Ready / Full Colour Process Printing

The following information relates to PRINT READY files being supplied for FULL COLOUR PROCESS printing. Different requirements apply to different types of printing.

When a customer indicates that they will be supplying print ready artwork we leave out artwork, design, file conversion and/or manipulation charges from our quote. This means that if we find any issues with the file supplied, meaning it is not print ready, we may have to add back charges for our time lost in checking your file, reporting back and subsequent reprocessing re-supplied files. Should you require the file to be fixed there will be further charges.

In many cases files are not supplied correctly – be sure to read and understand the requirements. If your file is not ‘print ready’ or you are not sure please let us know when we are quoting. We are more than happy to help you supply a file that is print ready.

Common Design Mistakes

Work in CMYK from the start. Converting to CMYK after design completion may produce incorrect blacks and possibly unwanted/unexpected colour shift.

Images need to be 300 dpi at final size where possible. Higher than this makes pointlessly large file sizes, less than this can result in pixelated or soft focus prints. Up-sampling from a lower resolution rarely helps and only masks the issue. Start with high quality, high resolution images.

Make any images including logos, photos, shadows or glow effects to text and similar objects as a single 300 dpi CMYK bitmap with transparent background. Do not convert text to bitmap unless it is totally unavoidable. If you have to save it at 600 dpi.

Embed all fonts or convert all text to outlines or curves. Where an object needs a well defined edge like fine text or line work it should definitely be left in font/vectorial format. Converting vectorial effects like fountain fills to CMYK 300 dpi bitmap can help eliminates any possible errors.

Supplied artwork needs to comply with our requirements or unsatisfactory or unpredictable outcomes may result. Below information specifies our requirements. If you do not understand any of these please call. Please do not send a print ready file that you are not 100% sure of. Please understand – Checking files is very time consuming. We do not check and report on files for free. We do not proof read your files – we cannot guarantee to find any issues that may cause unwanted errors in the printed product. We do not check supplied files for ALL possible issues before printing. Further charges may apply if we have to respond to issues and go through the preprint checks again. We check files for incorrect colours, missing fonts, obvious errors and poor design choices. We do not guarantee to find ANY errors.

Printing Specifications

For small products like business cards 2mm bleed is required. Anything above A5 to SRA3 should have 3mm. Signage 10-20mm.

Bleed is an extension of the artwork beyond its finished size. ie a business card has a finished size of 90mm x 55mm. File must be supplied at a size of 94mm x 59mm. Any image that touches the edge of the finished size MUST run to the edge of the supplied size.

Its best to avoid using borders that are designed to create an even margin around the document. A trimming tolerance of +/- 1mm must be allowed for. e.g. If you design a border 2mm from every edge the end result may be 1mm on one side and 3mm on the opposite side creating an unbalanced look.

If printing in CMYK then work in CMYK from the beginning. Converting to CMYK at the end of the design process will result in colour shift. Ensure ALL colours are CMYK before submitting your file. PMS and RGB colours in your file may be automatically converted to CMYK and may produce undesirable colour shift. Only use PMS colours if they are intended to be printed as SPOT colours. This service is available at additional cost.

Colour Matching
Colour matching is not offered as part of our default service and will not be quoted for unless specifically requested. Colour critical requirements should be discussed with us prior to placing an order as this will attract different pricing. Our equipment is all current modern technology offering the best standard/level of colour achievable however colour can vary from screen to print, proof to print and job to job. If you have precise colour needs you need to let us know. The majority of orders are grouped together to achieve “economies of scale” and printed using industry standard density settings which may produce a variation in colour from your expected results and between print runs.

Document / Image Size
Your artworks page size must be the finished size plus bleed. So an A4 brochure that has a finished size of 210 x 297mm will have an artwork page size of 216 x 303mm.

Images should be CMYK at 300dpi for the intended final size of the image. Text and fine line work should be converted to curves / outlines.

Ink Coverage
Not as much of a concern these day however its still worth keeping in mind that the coverage can influence print quality and finishing. Heavy coverage over fold lines may cause greater cracking so scoring will be required. Halftones without a coating may scuff easier – laminating is a consideration.

Multiple pages
Create multiple page documents as a single pdf file. For example – Double sided business cards: page 1 = front, page 2 = back. A 12 page booklet will be a 12 page pdf. Do not impose. In some circumstances we may be able to work with imposed files but this will be rare.

No. Up
Always supply artwork 1 up. Imposing your files may make it incompatible with our software. Always check-in with us first if you are unsure.

Rich Black
To ensure a nice rich black use the following values Black 100%, Cyan 40%, Magenta 40%, Yellow 20%. Using 100% black, as in, C0 M0 Y0 K100 will result in something closer to charcoal which is exactly as it is intended to be.

Please embed 100% or convert text to outlines, curves or paths where possible. The use of rich black for text is generally OK but has some risks. For small text and line work use 100% black only.

To ensure a pleasing result we recommend not placing critical objects closer than 3-4mm from any trim line. This is called the ‘safe zone. Non critical images and colour may be placed to bleed beyond this and the trim line.

Watermarks or images used for similar purposes, should not be set at less than 8% total ink coverage.