Print Ready Artwork

Every print job must start with a piece of artwork and the quality of the finished print job is only ever as good as the original artwork. The term “print Ready Artwork” refers to a piece of art that has been prepared with the printing process in mind and will include things like crop marks, bleed and will be in a pdf format.

When we quote a print job, we quote the print job ONLY. The artwork is quite a separate job to printing and our print price works on the basis that the art you will supply us is ‘print-ready’.

So what constitutes ‘print ready’ artwork?

In the old days, print ready artwork usually consisted of black and white separations pasted up on a sheet, with crop marks drawn in with an Indian ink pen and all held together with wax. Fortunately technology has come a long way.

A Print Ready file is always going to be a PDF (portable document file). It’s a file format developed specifically for the print industry and has been the backbone of the digital print revolution. There are, however, many ways of creating a pdf, and how you create it is extremely important.

Let’s take a look at the wrong way first. Many people will present us with MS Word files, publisher files, jpeg’s, tif’s, Publisher files, powerpoint files and excel files. These are definitely not suitable for printing from. Sure, you could technically print from any of these file types, but you won’t get a good result. Even if you save these file types to a pdf, they will still carry with them all the issues that come with these file types and you’ll end up with a fairly average result. If you don’t care too much for the quality of your job, then you can certainly use these file types, but we take a great deal of pride in our work and we cringe everytime we’re asked to print a file from one of these sources.

Photoshop files also aren’t suitable for printing from either. Photoshop is fantastic for manipulating and adjusting photos but it certainly isn’t the right place to make your print ready artwork. It just doesn’t have the necessary functionality to create crops and allow for bleed and it is very clumsy with file size management.

The right place, however, is Indesign. It’s the industry standard and is a fantastic piece of software that enables you to manage all parts of the process around preparing a print ready file. Nevertheless, it’s still possible to create rubbish from Indesign if you haven’t been taught some of the basics. For example, we had a case recently where a client supplied a jpeg for us to print. It was a really low resolution image with pixelated text, had no crop marks and no bleed. We explained that it wasn’t suitable and that we needed a pdf, so they created a layout in Indesign, imported their low res Jpeg into the lay and then exported as a high res pdf. Of course, all that happened was that we had a wonderfully detailed file of a low quality image – It’s a bit like taking a photo on a really rubbish camera, then printing that photo out, and then photographing that rubbish photograph on a really high resolution state of the art camera – it wouldn’t matter how good that second camera is, it isn’t going to make the image look any better.

The key, is to start with high resolution in the first place. Sometimes your base photographs may not be the best quality that you’d like them to be, but so long as you’re putting sharp, clean text over the top, and ensuring that any other components that are placed over them are vector objects and high resolution, then your result is likely to be fine. Most importantly, observing the basics like having bleed where appropriate and putting crop marks on your file, and ensuring dielines are made from spot colours will all ensure your file is fit for purpose. These are all things you can do within Indesign, but unfortunately you just won’t be able to do these things within MS Word or Photoshop or Publisher.

If you’re in any doubt about your file formatting, call in and see us. We’re always happy to check over your files and to offer any advice where we can.