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‘Print Ready Artwork’ is a term you will hear 99% of the time when you are using any commercial printer. As I said in a previous post it’s not a case of saving your artwork and sending off to print. The truth is, if you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t understand the print process and the requirements of setting up a piece of Print Ready Artwork then it’s likely you will be disappointed with the finished product.

In the case that your artwork is not print ready, I would be surprised if you weren’t informed prior to your supplier printing it, although some printers will go with whatever you give them and blame you for supplying incorrect artwork. Online printers in particular will take your artwork and make you tick a box to say it’s okay, they may even ask you to check it over first but if you don’t know what you’re doing in the first place how would you know if it’s correct when they show you the exact file you just uploaded anyway?

The most common and sometimes obvious issues that prevent a file from being technically ‘Print Ready’ include:

The colour profile is RGB

If you have gone down the DIY design route then your artwork has probably been made in Word or Powerpoint, maybe Publisher. The default colour setting for Microsoft Office is RGB, sure this software is designed to create documents, but they are documents which are more than likely going to be printed on a desktop printer or big photocopier machine, they aren’t really used to produce layered print files. The correct colour profile for most commercial printers is CMYK, which you can actually convert your colours to in Word etc but in my experience when I’ve tried to help people with this the colour will always revert back to RGB anyway. There are multiple reasons you shouldn’t print RGB but it’s a big subject for another day!

File size

I go on about designing in Microsoft Office a lot but believe it or not even the professional software can be used incorrectly. For example, Adobe Photoshop… the clue is in the name, ‘Photo’, Photoshop is more of a photo manipulation and image editing software than a publishing software. Of course, I have seen people successfully create leaflets and posters in Photoshop but the files can be huge in size – I’ve seen them over 1 Gigabyte before when ideally a leaflet file should be around 1-2 Megabytes maximum… if you don’t understand bytes let me make it clearer for you, 1 Gigabyte = 1000 Megabytes, so for Dave’s 1GB leaflet Jimmy could have 500 different 2MB leaflets. In most cases a print technician will just reject it because it will take too long to render and probably crash the print system before it even begins to process it.

Information too close to the trim line

I always use a 3mm safe zone inside my artwork files and make sure I don’t have any text entering that zone, if it does then it will be cut off, simple as that really. Let’s use leaflets as an example as they are probably the most commonly printed item. When leaflets are printed they are generally on oversized sheets with multiple copies on, once the correct number has come off the printer they go into a large guillotine which makes cuts along each edge. Because the sheets of paper are piled up before cutting they can occasionally move just before or just after the guillotine drops, not by much but it could occasionally be 1mm or even 2mm so if you’re artwork has been designed with text too close to the edge there is a high chance you will lose some of it!

Image resolution is too low

If you are using low quality images or images you have just taken from google (tut tut) then they won’t look any better printed than they do on screen, they would probably look worse actually. Artwork should be 300dpi at actual size, images grabbed from the internet are more than likely going to be 72dpi and when you make them bigger they will lose even more quality, all you’re doing is making the square pixels bigger. I would always recommend buying a stock image or taking your own high quality images.

Missing links

If you are using a professional software like InDesign to create your artwork then any images will need to be linked from a file on your hard drive or computer, if you change the location of that file then the link will break and you will need to re-link it. It’s an easy mistake to make and is very easily resolved but if you don’t notice it then the missing image will appear as a pixelated blur or even worse a grey box on your print.

File type

PDFs are accepted by all printers and are the preferred file type for print. TIFF, EPS, PSD and a few other files are also commonly accepted. In my experience Word docs and Powerpoint files are not accepted, if they are they would more than likely require some adjustment and conversion.

Artwork size

If you have designed a leaflet that you want printed at DL size 99mm x 210mm but supply artwork at A4 it obviously can’t be printed… because DL is one third of an A4. Equally if you’re ordering a roller banner and the size is 850mm x 2100 you couldn’t supply the artwork of an A5 leaflet, you could stretch it to fit to the edges but you would be left with a huge white space at the bottom. It’s always best to check the size you need to make your artwork before starting!

And finally… the most common reason – No bleed or crop marks

If you’re making your own artwork using something like Word then the chances are you don’t know what a bleed is or what crop marks are, or how to add them! Well, I hate to admit it but you actually can add crop marks in Word… don’t ask me how though, I have no idea. I can tell you what they are though. Crop marks are lines or markers that sit in the corners of your artwork to help guide the guillotine when trimming the print, without them you will most likely end up with inconsistent white edges on your print because the print finisher will be trying to line the edge of your design up by eye. A bleed is an area the extends past the crop marks to ensure you DON’T get those white edges. I always use a 3mm bleed on each side of a print file so if the paper shifts slightly when it’s being trimmed it’s ok because if the paper moves 1mm in any direction there is still another 2mm of colour beyond it.

If you need any help creating artwork please feel free to contact me and we can discuss your project.