10 tips for submitting print files


You’ve made an incredible design for a competition, and the client chose you as a winner. The next step is of course sending your client the print files so that he or she can print it or send it to a printing company. It’s important to follow a few rules so that your file conforms to the printer’s standards. We’ve written down some of these rules below.

Tip 1: Always check the printer’s guidelines and standards.

There are printing companies that have different standards for a file than usual, because each company is unique and has different printing policies. This could mean that your file could be rejected, even though you might think you’ve handed it over correctly. We advise you to contact the client and/or printing company with questions you might have about guidelines for the file. This way you’ll know for sure how to set up your print file correctly.

Tip 2: Colours

As a designer, you can work with two different kinds of colours: You can work with RGB colours and CYMK colours. For files specifically designed to be printed, it’s safe to assume you’ll need to use CYMK colours. For this reason, a printing company will ask you to hand over all files in CYMK colours. If you didn’t use CYMK in your file, don’t panic. Colours in a document can be easily changed. This does, however, mean you will probably experience a colour difference between your original coloured artwork and the CYMK re-colour. This is why you should always try to start off using CYMK colours in a print file.

Tip 3: Resolution of images

If you made a flyer or folder design, you might have used a couple of images your client wanted you to use. It’s important that these images have a high enough resolution to be printed correctly. If the resolution of an image isn’t high enough, the image will look grainy and pixel-y. You can prevent this by always checking the resolution of the images you are using beforehand. A clear, sharp image should have a resolution of at least 300 PPI.

Tip 4: Bleed

A printing company will often cut your print file to be the correct size. This is why you should think about the bleed in your document. If you don’t account for the bleed of a print file, it could mean your final printed result will have important information cut off. Always leave a little room for bleed in your document. In Adobe products, you can make a new print file where you can fill in the amount of bleed yourself. It’s also best to not place images or coloured objects close to the edge of your design. The minimum bleed is often 1mm, but certain companies or printers only accept bleed between 3 or 4mm. If you’re not sure how much bleed should be in your document, contact your client and/or the printing company.

Tip 5: Text

Want to use a certain font in your design? Be aware that your printing company might see a completely different font. A company or printer can see this change in font the moment the company opens the document or- if you’re really unlucky- you can see it in the printed result of your design. All of the sudden, the font you picked out is an entirely different font. Fortunately, you can prevent this by converting all the fonts in your design to “contours”. This basically changes the font to an image, so that nobody has to worry about a certain font. This way the printing company won’t have to have that particular font installed.

Tip 6: Transparency

A print file can be rejected if you use transparency in your document. Transparency can be used to make a gradient in a file or to create a shadow effect behind text. If you use a program like Adobe Illustrator, you can choose to flatten the transparency. It’s also possible with InDesign, but the option won’t show up until you export the print file to a PDF.

Tip 7: Using black in your print file

If you use the colour black in your file, it could turn out different during the printing process. This is because there are two ways you can print black. You can put CYMK on 0% and put black on 100%. Unfortunately, when this gets printed it won’t turn out black, it’ll turn out dark grey. Are you looking for a rich black colour? Use 40% Cyan, 30% Magenta, and 20% Yellow for 100% rich, black colours in your print file.

Tip 8: Safe space

Aside from bleed in a print file, you also need to keep “safe space” in mind. This means images, text, and logos need to be within a certain space in order for them to not accidentally get cut off. This safe space is calculated by using the inside of a print file. A printing company will often have guidelines in place regarding this “safe space”. Most companies go with a safe space of around 5mm.

Tip 9: Use a vector file

Are you using a logo in your design? Always make sure that logo is based on a vector format. You can change the size of a vector file without it affecting the quality of the logo or image. This way, you can blow up a logo without having to worry about the quality of the file. If your client wants their logo used in a design you’re making, always ask them for the logo in a vector format.

Tip 10: PDF

If you’ve followed all of the rules and guidelines for your print files, it’s finally time to save your file as a PDF file. Always ask your client and/or printing company how they want the PDF file saved. Most companies would like a PDF to be saved as a PDF/X-3:2002.