Print Files and How to Supply Them

Many people are proclaiming the death of print. They couldn’t be more wrong. There’s more print being created than ever before, so the ability to create something that looks fantastic and stands out from the crowd is essential. In this regard, you must make sure that any files you supply to your printer and supplied in the correct format to ensure maximum quality.

Contrary to popular belief, supplying files for commercial print is actually a relatively simple process. There are just a few basic rules that need to be adhered to.

If you’ve ever wondered how to get the very best results from your print media, look no further. Our guide will help you get great results every time.

So, I can just knock something up in Word, yeah?

Good gravy, no. Word, Publisher, Pages etc. are great word processors, but are not suitable for supplying finished digital files for commercial print. Ideally, you should be using a dedicated DTP program, such as Adobe InDesign or QuarkXpress. If you do not have access to those, Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop can be used.

But I only have Word…

Then it’s best to pay a professional designer to put your project together for you. The results will be much better and there will be less stress and frustration for you.

I don’t want to pay a designer though…

Well, unfortunately you’ll have to settle for second best then. The only option left to you will be to send a Print-Ready PDF and accept that your printer will charge you of making any necessary changes to the artwork.

Okay, so I decided to pay a professional. What do they need to know?

Well, there are a few things your designer will need to be aware of. Here are the basics:


Most designs incorporate imagery somewhere – usually logos or photos. It’s crucial that these are supplied correctly to ensure the very best results possible.

  • For websites (or any other digital artwork viewed purely on a screen), images need to be supplied at 72dpi.
  • For any kind of print, all images need to be supplied at a minimum of 300dpi. If you try and print using a lower dpi, the images will come out blurry, fuzzy and pixellated. Which, obviously, you don’t want.
  • The very best way to supply any kind of logo or file is as a vector image. These are completely scalable andean be enlarged infinitely with no loss of quality. Usual formats for these are EPS, AI, CDR or PDF.


Bleed, trim and safe areas are only applicable to artwork that will be printed. It is absolutely vital that it is set up properly though, as the finish of your job could be compromised.

Bleed: If any colour runs up to the edge of your document, you must set up a bleed area. Basically, this means that the colour runs over the edge of the page. The reason for this is that, when the finished print is trimmed to size, even a hairline of white left showing will look ugly. Properly set up bleed areas prevent this. The standard for a bleed area is a minimum of 3mm on all sides if you job is A3 or under. For jobs sized A2 or larger, a minimum of 5mm on all sides is needed. See the diagram below for details.

Crop Marks: These are lines that sit outside of the artwork and bleed areas and show where the document will be trimmed. Usually crop marks start at the edge of the bleed area and extend for 7mm-10mm. See the diagram below for details.

Safe Area: This is an area around all edges of the job that needs to be kept clear of any vital information or artwork. The usual minimum safe area is 3mm on all edges. When the final job is trimmed, no matter how carefully it’s done, there is always a small margin for error. Keeping the safe area clear of anything vital means that no crucial information will be cut-off when the job is trimmed. See the diagram below for details.


This is a really vital part of the the print file set-up process. If you supply files without these features, there’s a very real chance that either your job will not turn out as well as it could have, or your printer will reject the files which will cost you extra time and hassle. It’s much easier to just set-up the files correctly initially.

This sounds like a bit of a faff. Why does it need to be done?

Because paper is an organic material. As such, temperature and moisture can have a strong effect on paper stocks; and some kinds of paper are more affected by environmental factors than others.

High-speed presses run thousands of pages an hour and the paper is subject to chemicals, water, heat, calling and mechanical variations in the machine. As such, very slight expansion or contraction of the paper stock is almost inevitable – and this offsets the registration of the printing press.

Of course, on a professional lithographic press, the effects are minimal, but it’s always best to prepare your files so that any potential issues are minimised and you get the best results possible.

Is there anything else I need to know?

Black isn’t always black. Bear with me on this. As you’ll know from reading our article on colour profiles, all print artwork needs to be supplied as CMYK or PMS.

Unfortunately, depending what paper stock you are printing on, sometimes solid panels of black can look a bit washed out or even dark grey in CMYK. There is a way to prevent this, however, and that is to create a rich black.

For large areas of black, set the colour to the following mix: C30 M30 Y50 K100. This will give you a nice, dense, rich black finish.

For black text or think black lines, always use just K100, as otherwise registration issues can occur when lining up multiple colours over one another on small text. The result would be blurry looking text, and no one wants that.

Okay, got it. I’m off to get the files sorted…

Woah, just a minute. One last thing. You need to know about fonts and file types – two of the biggest headaches that printers have.

Most printers these days prefer high resolution PDF files, which embed all the document’s fonts and allow easy printing but are not editable by the printer.

If you want your printer to be able to tweak things, you may want to supply editable files (such as an Indesign, Illustrator or Photoshop file). In this case, you will need to supply all of the fonts the document uses, as well as any links (images, logos etc.) that are used.

You can also supply an Illustrator document (AI or EPS) as long as all the fonts have been converted to outlines, or a Photoshop document as long as any fonts have been rasterized. If you’re not sure how to do any of this, contact your printer and they’ll be more than happy to talk you through it.

It’s also always a good idea to supply your printer with either a print out or a lo-res JPG of how you expect the file to look. This gives them something accurate to check against for any inconsistencies.

No problem, I can do all of that!

Fantastic! There will always be a need for print, and there’s nothing better to look at and hold than a beautifully finished print job. We hope this guide helps you to understand some of the requirements for getting the best from your printer. Of course, if you like any more information of want to discuss getting your job read for print, just get in contact and we’ll be happy to help!

So, how long until my print job is ready?

Standard (or packaged) print jobs such as flyers and business cards will usually take 5 working days. More bespoke print can take up to 10 working days, depending on the specification and how busy our production schedule it. Signage can take up to 10 days, depending on what you require.