Tips for Successful print-ready files

pasteupThere was a term used decades ago in print called “camera ready art”, which meant that a graphic artist had created art boards complete with type pasted in place, keylines indicated for screens and photos, and even rubylith layers for what was to be color, or specific graphic elements.  That art, then, could be placed into a process camera, exposed to litho film, and then assembled in place to create “flats” that were used to image printing plates. No one does this anymore.  But the term has carried over and been altered to “print-ready files”, which mean files that are ready to be output for proofs and plates, or in many cases, directly into a print workflow for digital printing.  With the digital workflows that online print sources now have, it’s even more relevant to make sure your print files are “print-ready”.   So, let’s look at some tips on how to make sure your files are ready to go to your print services provider.

  • LINK GRAPHICS AND IMAGES – This is one thing that can really slow down the process, if you do not have your images or graphics linked when you export your file from the source file.  Simply double-check before exporting your file to make sure that all links are set up.LInk
  • EMBED FONTS – Most print service providers will have a vast library of fonts at their disposal.  However, some of the specialized fonts that you have selected may NOT be in the printer’s library, so when exporting the file to a PDF, make sure you select the “embed fonts” option.embed
  • IMAGE RESOLUTION – As always, I like to advise that you check with your print services provider on the image resolution that they require, but industry standard is a minimum of 300 dpi (dots per inch).image resolution
  • BLEEDS AND MARKS – There have been many posts on the print blogosphere about bleeds, and I cannot emphasize enough that this is a crucial element, especially if you have image running off the edge of the sheet.  Standard bleed is 1/8″ all around.  When setting up your document, set the bleed settings for .125″ on all four sides.  When exporting, make sure you select the “use document bleed settings”, rather than selecting the default.  Marks are important to the print service provider, particularly if you have bleed, since they need to know where to trim the piece. Again, as you export, select “Printer’s Marks” only.  Do not select “bleed marks” – that actually is just superfluous information.  Naturally, if your file is 8.5 x 11″ or 11 x 17″, or any size, and there IS no bleed, marks are not necessary.bleed
  • PROVIDE THE SOURCE FILES – This applies only if you are submitting a job through an FTP or transportable media, such as a thumb drive or DVD.  Most print service providers will use the PDF first, if it is supplied and it is set up correctly. However, if you wish to have minor corrections made, or if the PDF supplied is missing fonts or linked graphics, the print service provider can go into the source file and make sure fonts are there, or that the links are there, and then they can fix the problems and export the file to a PDF themselves.  Some clients I work with supply ONLY source files, and therefore, we can export them to PDFs that are set up with our workflow

Making sure that your print-ready file truly is print-ready is vital to the success and timing of your print project.  Print service providers are also dedicated to making sure that your print project comes off without any issues, so please contact them as a means of learning what you need to do to make it all go smoothly.

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About John Prothero

John Prothero is a print professional with over 30 years experience in the print industry. Starting out as a driver delivering jobs, he worked in bindery, proofing, plating, traditional prepress (camera and stripping), scheduling, job planning, job management, account management and digital job production. His skills also run in the area of blog authorship, social media management, and lead generation and qualification of prospective clients. John is also a contributor to Rhode Island Creative Magazine, a digital publication that highlights the creative spirit of the state of Rhode Island. You can read their online issues at
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