File Preparation:
Once your files are completed, please save them as PDF files with “Press Quality” or “PDF-x1A” as your default settings with .125” bleed and cut marks turned on. If you do not have a full version of Acrobat Professional or Acrobat Distiller, this may not be possible. If you simply try to make a pdf using a built-in application, your files may not print well. A quick test that you can use to see if your files look good is simply to view the PDF file at 400% to 600% zoom on your screen. What your eye can now see at this zoom on your monitor is what you will see on a printed sheet with your naked eye. Viewing an image on your monitor at 100% or smaller will not give you the information you need to determine the quality of your file. This is because your monitor only needs a small amount of detail to “trick” your eyes into thinking you have a good looking image. There is more information below on file preparation. If you find yourself struggling with file preparation, give us a call and ask for a quote on helping you with your files.

* Here are some more guidelines to follow for file preparation:

If your artwork runs to the edge of the paper, you’ll need to add a “bleed” area. Increase your page size by .125” on all 4 sides and do the same to any image that runs to the edge of the paper.

Click to view instructional videos about creating files with bleeds

Safety Area:
Keep any critical text or graphics .125” away from any edge. This is the “safe” area where we cut the paper.

Contour Cutting for Labels:
This requires a non-printing die line to be added to your press ready file. Download our Contour Cutting Instructions for Labels.

Clear Dry Toner file set up:
Call or email our office for the instruction guide on using Clear Dry Toner for your next project

The best practice to use with fonts is to outline them if your program allows. Call our customer service staff at 310-558-4752 if you need assistance with outlining fonts. We have the basic fonts that come with programs such as Adobe products or other MS products. If you know that you are using a special font, the font will either need to be embedded, outlined or provided with the file. Keep in mind, fonts can have different creation dates, even some of the most basic fonts can be revised. So if in doubt, either outline the font, embed it or supply it with your file.

Always reduce your final file to a single flattened layer. You can review “flattening layers” in all the major software programs help files. In most instances, when you go to save a file as in eps format, an option to flatten layers will be on the screen. Be sure to select this option.

Resolution (the key to a good looking image):
Number one rule with resolution is, NEVER try to increase it! This is called “interpolation”. What interpolation does is allow your computer to fill in the gaps that are created when enlarging with a color that the computer, not you, chooses. Resolution (using dpi) is basically a mathematical formula that calculates how much file information is just right to display or print your image. 72 dpi is what you computer monitor needs to display an image cleanly with sharp detail. However, this is far from enough file information needed to print a high-quality image using a press, digital color copier or wide format inkjet printer. But…here’s where the math part comes in. Let’s say you’ve just taken a great picture with your digital camera, you go to Photoshop and load the image and see it’s resolution is only 72 dpi, but its image size is 14” x 20”. If you leave the file alone, you can expect good press results at a reduced reproduction size of 3.5” x 5” but poor results at 14” x 20”. This happens because of the math. A 72 dpi image, placed into a document at ¼ of the original size has an effective resolution of 4 times the original resolution. So take your 72 dpi and multiply it by 4 and you get 288 dpi effective resolution. This is plenty of file size to reproduce with on a digital or offset press. But trying to reproduce that image at the original 14” x 20” will most likely be rough and show jagged edges.

Illustrator file preparation:
Set the Color Mode in the New Document window to CMYK (even if you’ll be using Pantone spot colors). Outline all your fonts when your design is finished. When placing raster images, please be sure to embed the file (deselect the “link” option). Flatten all your layers and save your file in eps format. For spot colors, use the Pantone SOLID Uncoated pallet found in the window menu, under Swatch Libraries. For full-color CMYK files, you can use the standard CMYK color pallet to choose your colors. Be sure to stay away from the RGB color pallet.

Photoshop file preparation:
ALWAYS use the CMYK mode from the image drop down menu for your color files. Do not use any images copied from the internet. Use Gray Scale mode for 1 color artwork that contains 1/2 tones or gradients in your images. Use Bitmap for your line art images that don’t contain any shades of gray.

Quark file preparation:
Quark is no longer an acceptable format for us. These projects need to be exported to PDF and should be submitted in CMYK format with fonts outlined, images embedded and layers flattened.

Adobe PDF files:
You must own a copy of Adobe Distiller standard or professional in order to create press ready, high-quality pdf files suitable for offset printing. When distilling PDF files, use the “Press Quality” setting. The method used to get to this setting varies from one program to the next, but once you are at the “Acrobat Distiller” window, in the Adobe PDF Settings – Default Settings drop-down window, change the default setting to “Press Quality” and close the Distiller window. Make sure the fonts are embedded and any spot colors are specified properly. PDF files made with the native MAC OSX print as pdf option will NOT work for commercial color printing purposes.