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Hello, I’m Alec from Fineline Print, and I’m back again to talk to you about how to prepare a High Res Print Ready PDF for sending to your print provider. 

On the face of it, saving your work as a PDF within programs such as Word or Publisher looks deceptively easy. Sometimes, it’s little more than clicking on the File menu, selecting Export and then choosing the PDF option.

But there are a number of things you need to be aware of if you are to avoid trouble ahead and it’s those which I’d like to talk about here.

For those of you who just want a very quick run-down of what to look out for here’s your quick checklist. And for those of you who’d like a deeper look then we’ll go over each item in a little more detail.

 

  • Ensure that the page size of your PDF is the size of the printed item
  • Check that you are have specified a standard ISO “A” page size – e.g. A4
  • Ensure that all colours have been converted to CMYK
  • All images should be 300 dpi or more
  • Ensure you have included 3mm bleed all round.
  • Ensure that all fonts have been embedded.
  • Ensure that all graphics have been embedded.
  • For folded items please ensure you have set the correct panel widths for your chosen fold type.
  • Ensure everything has been thoroughly proof checked!
  • If you password-protect your PDF don’t forget to keep note of the details.

 

Ok, so that’s your quick list now let’s have a look at them in a little more detail.

 

 

1: Ensure that the page size of your PDF is the size of the printed item

One of the issue we see frequently is a mismatch between the page size indicated in the PDF and the size we’ve been asked to print.

With a default page size of A4 in Word, and many other programs too, it’s very easy to see why this happens. This mismatch occurs most frequently with things like A5 flyers and Booklets where the designer has worked in A4 size without realising the error. So, it’s important to check the page size before you start designing.

There are instances where this mismatch is intentional, however. If you are designing large format graphics, it is common practice to work on a scale down page size – even down to a quarter scale.

This is done for two reasons:

  • Many design applications have a maximum canvas size which may prevent you creating the size of document you want.
  • To reduce file size.

If you do work on a scaled down just make sure that your page proportions remain the same. 

For example, a 5m × 1m vinyl banner design could be created like this:

25% (Quarter) Scale:  1250mm × 250mm

See Learning Centre Guide – What is Bleed for more on paper and envelope sizes.

 

Top Tip 1: To ensure that your print provider knows what you are looking for it’s a good idea to put the finished size of the document in the file name.

In this example, the file name could look something like this:

5m x 1m Vinyl Banner.pdf


Top Tip 2: Don’t forget to scale things like bleed andquiet area too.

 

 

2: Check that you have specified a standard ISO “A” page size – e.g. A4.

This is another trip wire – especially if your device hasn’t been set up correctly when you purchased it. 

The most common problem is seen when we receive an order for an A4 document but the page size in the PDF is US Letter (216mm wide x 279mm tall). This happens when someone is working on a device with American rather than UK settings. 

Top Tip: Check your page size before you start designing.

 

 

3: Ensure that all colours have been converted to CMYK.

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) are the four process colours used in commercial print and a mixture of these four make up the full colour images we see on the page. Problems arise when web-based graphics (using a colour system known as RGB or Red, Green, Blue) are imported in to the design.

If left as RGB the commercial printer’s software converts the colours to CMYK and the colours you’ll see in the printed document could be very different to what you saw on screen.

You can find out more about the two colour systems in our Learning Centre Guide No. 4: Why don’t print colours match what I see on screen?

 

 

4: All images should be 300 dpi or more

DPI stands for Dots Per Inch which technically means printer dots per inch and is a measure of its Resolution. Pictures and Graphics which are less than 300 dpi are usually classed as low-res images which are likely to appear pixelated when printed. 

Printed images are made up of lots of dots called pixels. If the dots are very large and far apart the image is pixelated and looks blurred. Not something you want in a piece of high quality print.

You can find out lots more about image resolution in our Learning Centre Guide: Why can’t I use images from the web in my print document?

 

 

5: Ensure you have included 3mm bleed all round.

Bleed is the edge of the document which is trimmed off after printing to ensure that any background colours or graphics extend to the very edge of the page.

You can find out more in our Learning Centre Guide No. 8: What is bleed. It’s an important element to get right because many commercial printers won’t accept documents without bleed.

 

 

6: Ensure that all fonts have been embedded.

Many print providers won’t accept PDFs if the fonts haven’t been outlined but, in truth, if the fonts have been embedded in the document there’s very little need.

This interesting “InDesign Secrets” article offers more information on this subject:

https://indesignsecrets.com/outlining-fonts-is-it-necessary.php 

 

7: Ensure that all graphics have been embedded.

The modern way to handle graphics files within a document is to link graphics with the document. InDesign does this by including a low-res proxy in the design file with the original held within another folder. The process of embedding graphics stores the individual graphics within the design file itself.

 

 

8: For folded items please ensure you have set the correct panel widths for your chosen fold type.

One of the most popular folded documents is an A4 sheet folded down to 1/3rd A4. 

If you design your document as a “Z” or Concertina fold, all the panels should measure 99mm wide. 

However, if you design your document as a Roll Fold like this: 

The last panel needs to tuck neatly inside. If all the panels are set at 99mm, the edge of the inside panel will distort as it hits the centre fold. 

To get around this you should set the two outside panel widths at 100mm and 97mm for the inside panel.

This is just one example and in Learning Centre Guide No. 7: Folding types explained ... we delve into this subject in more detail. 

 

 

9: Ensure everything has been thoroughly proof checked!

In nearly 30 years in the print industry it’s my belief that almost as many errors are spotted after printing than at the proofing stage. Quite why this should be I’m not sure but it’s a timely reminder to check everything and check it again before you send that Print Ready PDF off to print!

Top Tip 1: If it’s your design work, get someone else to check it.

Top Tip 2: Print off a paper copy to check – you’ll spot far more errors than checking on-screen.

Top Tip 3: Run spell-checker and triple check things like your telephone number, email and web addresses. 

Top Tip 4: Many print providers will supply you one proof free of charge and even if they charge for additional proofs it’s a whole lot cheaper than a reprint so don’t skimp on the checking process. 

 

 

10: If you password-protect your PDF don’t forget to keep note of the details.

Occasionally, a file might be password protected as it’s sent to third parties for review so don’t forget to retain the password details – without which your PDF cannot be printed. 

 

It’s been a bit of long one so thank you for staying with me right to the end and I hope you found it useful.

 

But before you go …

I’m on a mission this year to help You make Your Print more Profitable.

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