Print File Prep Made Easy

Preparing files for print can seem daunting, but don't worry! We've got you covered with these friendly guidelines to help you get it right every time.

A Little Wiggle Room for Trimming

Even with the most precise cutting equipment, there's always a tiny bit of variation when trimming printed materials down to their final size. It's kind of like trying to cut a perfectly straight line freehand – no matter how steady your hand, there's going to be some slight wavering.

That's why we have to allow for a small tolerance, or wiggle room, of up to 1/16 of an inch during the trimming process. It might not seem like much, but that tiny variance can make a big difference, especially on smaller items like business cards.

Think of it this way: if your card design has a border or other design element that goes all the way to the very edge, even the slightest trimming shift of 1/16 of an inch could cause that element to look lopsided or uneven.

To avoid any unsightly cutting mishaps, we recommend keeping any critical text, graphics, or design elements safely inside the trim line – that way, you'll have a little breathing room, and your final product will look crisp, polished, and perfect every time.

For more details on preparing files and allowing for that 1/16-inch tolerance, be sure to check out the "Preparing Files" section on our website. We've got all the insider tips and tricks to help you nail your design files and ensure a flawless final print! reserves a 1/16 cut shift tolerance which is industry standard.

What's a Bleed, and Why Do I Need It?

You might have heard the term "bleed" thrown around, but what does it actually mean? In printing lingo, a bleed is a little extra area around the edges of your design that gets trimmed off. This ensures that your colors and graphics look seamless all the way to the very edge of your printed piece, with no unsightly white borders.

For example, if you're printing business cards, we'll actually print your design on a larger sheet of paper and then trim it down to the final size. The bleed area makes sure that even if the trimming is slightly off, your design will still look perfect and polished.

Crop Marks: Your Trusty Trimming Guides

Crop marks are those little lines that appear in the corners of your design file – they act as guides to show where your printed piece will be trimmed. Think of them as the road maps that help our printing team cut along the right path.

To add crop marks in Photoshop, it's simple: go to File > Print, select "Output" from the dropdown menu, check the "Corner Crop Marks" box, and click "Print". Easy peasy!

Just make sure those crop marks stay outside the design area – we wouldn't want any stray lines messing up your beautiful artwork.

Guidelines: Keeping Your Design Safe and Sound

Guidelines are like those friendly lane markers on the road – they help keep all the important elements of your design safely within the boundaries. There are a few key guidelines to keep in mind:

The Safe Zone: This is the area where you'll want to keep all your critical text, images, and logos. Anything outside this zone risks getting trimmed off, and we wouldn't want that!

The Trim Line: This line shows the final size of your printed piece after trimming. Consider it the edge of the road – you'll want to keep your most important elements comfortably inside.

The Bleed Zone: Remember that bleed we talked about earlier? The bleed zone is where that extra little margin extends past the trim line, ensuring your colors and graphics look seamless all the way to the edge.

Borders? Better Play It Safe

While borders can look sleek and sophisticated, they're a bit risky in the printing world. Even the slightest trimming mishap could make your borders look uneven and, well, just not quite right.

So unless you're going for that intentionally imperfect look, it's generally best to avoid borders, especially on smaller items like business cards. Trust us; your design will look much sharper and more professional without them.

Matching Colors: A Precise Art

Have you ever noticed how sometimes the colors in your design look just a tiny bit "off" when printed? That's because getting the colors to match perfectly is a delicate art.

To help us nail those hues, please provide the CMYK percentages for any specific colors you need to match. For example, if you have a logo with a black background that needs to blend seamlessly with a black business card background, just give us the CMYK values for that particular black, and we'll make sure they're an exact match.

It's like giving us the secret code to unlock the perfect color every time.

The Color Trio: CMYK, RGB, and Grayscale

When it comes to color modes, there are three main players: CMYK, RGB, and grayscale.

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black) is the preferred color mode for printing. It's like the superhero team that combines their powers to create beautiful, vibrant colors on paper.

RGB (Red, Green, and Blue), on the other hand, is the color mode of choice for digital displays like your computer monitor or smartphone. It's great for on-screen work, but those colors might not translate perfectly to print.

And then there's grayscale – the classic black-and-white mode. It's simple, elegant, and perfect for reproducing those timeless monochromatic images and designs.

For the best results, please provide your files in CMYK mode (or grayscale for black-and-white designs). That way, we can make sure your colors look as vibrant and accurate as possible when they make the jump from screen to paper.

Rich Black: The Deeper, Darker Side

Speaking of black, did you know there's more than one type? Regular black is great and all, but for a deeper, more luxurious look, you'll want to go with "rich black."

Rich black is like the goth cousin of regular black – it's created by combining percentages of all four CMYK inks, resulting in a darker, more intense shade that really pops off the page.

If you're going for that ultra-deep, ultra-sleek look (maybe for a fancy invitation or a high-end brochure), just let us know, and we'll hook you up with some deliciously rich black.

Vector vs. Bitmap: The Image Resolution Showdown

When it comes to images, there are two main players: vector and bitmap. And just like in any good showdown, they each have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Vector images are like those cool, infinitely scalable graphics made up of mathematical lines and curves. You can resize them as much as you want, and they'll always look crisp and sharp – perfect for logos and illustrations.

Bitmaps, on the other hand, are made up of tiny pixels, kind of like a digital mosaic. While they can look amazing at their original size, if you try to resize them too much, they can start to look a bit pixelated and blurry.

So, for the best quality, it's always a good idea to provide vector graphics whenever possible, especially for things like logos and text. And for photographs or other complex imagery, high-resolution bitmaps are the way to go.

File Formats: The Printing Playground

When it comes to file formats, we're pretty easygoing – we accept all the usual suspects like JPG, PNG, PDF, AI, and PSD. It's like a big printing playground, and we're happy to play with whatever you've got!

That said, there are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • For smaller file sizes, JPGs are usually the way to go.
  • PDFs are awesome because they preserve all your formatting and fonts, so everything looks just as intended.
  • And if you're working with layered files like PSDs, just make sure to flatten those layers before sending them our way.

Oh, and one more thing: if you're using any fancy fonts, be sure to embed them or outline the text. That way, we can make sure your words look just as beautiful as you intended, no matter what computer we're working on.

Resolution: The Sharper, the Better

You know that slightly blurry look you sometimes get with low-res images? Yeah, we want to avoid that at all costs. That's why we ask for a minimum resolution of 350 dpi (that's dots per inch) for all your images and graphics.

The higher the resolution, the crisper and more detailed your prints will look. It's like having a gazillion tiny pixels working together to create a masterpiece!

For larger pieces like banners and signage, we'll accept a slightly lower resolution of 150 dpi. But for smaller items like business cards and brochures, that 350 dpi is the way to go for maximum sharpness and clarity.

And remember, trying to artificially increase the resolution of a low-res image won't actually make it higher quality – it'll just make the pixels bigger, not add new ones. So, it's always best to start with a high-res file from the get-go.

Fonts: The Personality of Your Design

Fonts are like the wardrobe of your design – they set the tone and give your words a distinct personality. From classic serif fonts perfect for long reads to modern sans-serifs that pop off the page, the right typography can make or break your piece.

And then there are those fancy decorative fonts – the divas of the font world. They're bold, they're beautiful, and they're perfect for making a statement on things like headings and logos (just maybe not the best choice for paragraphs of text).

Whichever fonts you choose, just make sure to embed them or outline the text before sending us your files. That way, we can make sure your words look exactly as you intended, with no unsightly substitutions or font mishaps.

Flatten Those Layers for a Smooth Print

Layers are great for giving you flexibility while you're designing, but once your masterpiece is complete, it's time to flatten them down into one cohesive file.

Think of it like baking a delicious layer cake – you want to keep those layers separate while you're assembling and decorating, but once it's ready to serve, you'll want to slice through them all for a beautiful, seamless final product.