This guide is here to help with getting your artwork ready for printing
Table Of Contents
- We want your work to look amazing
- File Formats
- Page Sizing
- Common Design Pitfalls For Printing
- Image Checklist
- Printing With Text
- File Supply Check list
A common goal we both share is that we want your work to look great. In order for us to do that we need graphic files to print without fuss like you meant them to, without delays or additional expenses.
Good quality printing requires good quality graphics, so in order for you to supply us with good quality graphics you need to read this guide to understand what exactly constitutes “good quality”.
This guide is aimed at everyone submitting work to us, including both amateur designers and seasoned professional print designers, because our process could be different to that which you are used to.
The best file formats for us to work with are as follows::
If using Microsoft Word or Publisher then you need to create a high resolution PDF file to send to us in order to ensure all formatting is preserved exactly as you want it. This is because there are variations in software versions which will affect the presentation of your work, such as for example spacing, sizing, positioning and functionality.
To find out more information on PDF printing you can visit the Microsoft help website here https://office.microsoft.com
To ensure your artwork will not look off centre, have areas of undesired white space or that no important objects such as text or logos are cut off, you need the size of your artwork to be set correctly.
Tip: To ensure important elements such as text or logos do not become cut off, we recommend they be no closer than 4MM next to the trim edge, fold or crease.
Here is what you need to do to ensure your worked is sized appropriately and proportionately:
- Choose a size that’s right for your desired product. (See our print size guide to help you pick a size.) Set the size of your document according to the required page size.
- Check the trim size provided in our print size guide to ensure your artwork will be within the trim size. You will notice that it is 3MM smaller in both width and height. This is where our automated guillotines will cut your product to size - known as the “bleed” which is a 3MM space to allow for any small variations in cutting. So for example, a 91x61mm business card will be trimmed down to 85x55mm.
- To remind yourself where the cuts will be made, we suggest adding some guidelines 3mm in from each edge of your document.
- To ensure a more professional looking product and one where objects don’t look like they're about to fall off the page, it is good idea to have a “quiet zone” of 4mm (8mm for posters) from the trim edge to keep any important elements such as your text or logosafe from the edge.
As the bleed and quite zone are really important to the design and printing of your product we will explain a little more on the importance of the correct bleed and quiet zone, here are some common examples of the right and wrong way to do it:
We strongly recommend not using borders in your design where possible, particularly on small items such as business cards or postcards. This is because a movement as small as half a millimetre when cutting on the guillotine could make your border look uneven and extremely unprofessional. This can be made much worse by having an identical border on both sides.
Using gradients fills or vignettes is best avoided. This is because they are difficult to print with the same smoothness you see on screen, since they have a tendency to show “banding” (a visible step between colours) which looks unprofessional. If using a software application by Adobe then we suggest checking their help section for more information.
Care must be taken in how watermarks are used, because if they’re too heavy they can be difficult to read the text printed over them and too light may mean it doesn't show at all. Watermarks can work effectively when used carefully, so for best results we recommend using a tint between 7%-12%. Please note however that we cannot guarantee it will print below 7%.
See advice page on Care With Colour for more information.
Care should be taken with overprint settings, particularly if you use Quark. This is because what you see on screen or proof will look very different to the printed product, since objects will knock out the background.
The problem with RGB images is that they can either print in black and white or the colours might appear to look washed out. To fix this issue, always convert to CMYK before sending the files so you get a better idea of the colours once printed.
Images created by digital imaging equipment such as your computer or camera are created by mixing just three colours: Red, Green and Blue (RGB). This is different from our printing presses which use 4 colours in the CMYK printing process: Cyan (light blue), Magenta (dark pink), Yellow and Black.
During production of print artwork, the colours on screen using RGB colours must be converted to CMYK.
The best way to convert an image from RGB to CMYK before sending an image file to us is to use software such as Photoshop. If we have to apply an industry standard profile RGB to CMYK conversion ourselves then it’s possible the colours might not print as expected.
- For a true good solid black use rich black instead of four colour black.
- Keep all elements under 220% total ink limit.
- Make any potential colour issues less noticeable by not using large areas of the same colour. Instead, we suggest you use alternate elements or add a background image to break up large areas of colour. This will help reduce any discrepancy within the colour.
- Banding of artwork is most common when using gradients. See the Adobe website for more advice on gradients if you wish to use them.
You can achieve fantastic results with the full colour printing process by following our examples provided to give you an idea of how your chosen colour might actually look when printed.
In any print process ensuring a perfect match for a chosen colour is impossible due the many variables involved and a perfect match should not be expected. Colours can vary from various stocks and also the actual printing presses used. If you require an exact colour match then you would need to consider Pantone colour matching which can involve considerably more cost.
We would be happy to further expand on this if required, just drop us an email or pick up the phone.
As strange as it might sound, printing black is not as straightforward as it might sound. This is because black can be produced in one of two ways:
- Plain black which is best for small areas less than 2cm2 such as text or logos.
- Rich black which contains 100% black and 10% cyan and better for larger areas to ensure an even, dark coverage because any inconsistencies will be disguised by the second colour.
Don’t use rich black for small text, because small deviance in registration can lead to a blurred effect.
Uncoated stocks may make black appear to be duller due to absorbency of the paper. This means fine detail reversed out of black may disappear, so for this reason when printing on uncoated stock we recommend for example using text at least 6pt.
Please be aware that colours within a photograph as a background may have a different CMYK composition compared to other parts of your design which becomes noticeable when printed, even if it doesn’t appear to be so on on screen.
If for example you place a photograph with a black background over a black area in Adobe Illustrator, you may not notice a difference on screen but will notice a difference between the two shades of black once it has been printed.
A work around would be to take a sample of the black that is required to match in an application such as Photoshop using the colour picker tool, then mix the matched colour in for for example Illustrator while paying careful attention to the overall ink coverage.
Think about the final size you would like your image to be used at. Photographs for example should be 300-350dpi at the size you intend to use them.
For example, there is no point taking a postage stamp at 300dpi then expanding it to an A4 size because the outcome would be very poor quality. On the other hand, photographs at more then 300dpi will have little to no effect on the print quality and will also increase the the processing time required.
- EPS and TIFF files are saved without any image compression (not LZQ, ASCII or JPEG encoded)
- The total ink coverage is below our recommended limit
- Line-art images are scanned at 100% at 800 to 1200dpi
- TIFF and JPEG files are provided which have been converted to CMYK
- All images flattened
- Photos scanned 100% at 300dpi
Using coloured text for larger fonts above for example 10 - 12pt works perfectly fine. For smaller text however it is a bad idea to use colour, because there will always be tiny variations in how the print is laid down in a printing press and positioned, so below that 10pt threshold means blurring may become noticeable and so will look bad. You can however use any percentage of the 4 colours for a nice sharp finish (CMYK)
The same thing will happen with reversed text with a coloured background made from more than one ink.
If you wish to use text over a photographic background then we suggest lightening or darkening the image using a image editing application such as Photoshop. This is because text can potentially become difficult to read when ove a colour varying busy photo. The inventive use of drop shadows or strokes can also help with making the text stand out and be read easily.
The most important thing to keep in mind is priorities - is the image so important it should be seen perfectly or is it more important to be able to read the text? It might even make sense not to put it over the image at all if the text should take priority.
We would recommend the following minimum sizes for our products:
|A6 to ⅓ A4||7PT|
|A5 to A4||8PT|
|Page bleed correct||See Checking Your Quiet Zone And Bleed|
|Page size correct||See Common Sizes|
|Objects do not extend beyond page edge||See Page Sizing|
|Pronounced borders are not used||See Borders|
|The important page elements at least 5.5MM from the page edge||See Checking Your Quiet Zone And Bleed|
|TIFF and JPEG files saved without compression||See Image Checklist|
|Images are provided as TIFF and JPEG files and converted to CMYK||See CMYK Colour Conversion|
|Scanned photos are at 300dpi at 100%||See Image Checklist|
|All images are flattened||See Unflattened Images|
|Large areas made up of black are “Rich Black”||See How To Achieve The Best Black|
|Colours are converted to CMYK, including spots colours or pantone||See CMYK Colour Conversion|
|Tints contain less than 5% Cyan, Magenta, Yellow or Black||See Care With Colour|
|Font size above 5pt(litho)/14pt(large format)||See Small Text|
|Text used is vector based rather then bitmap||See No Bitmap Text In Photoshop|
|No effects applied using the “text effect” menu in Quark or Freehand are used||See Printing With Text|
|Text under 12pt doesn’t use tertiary colours||See Coloured Text|