FAQ- File Preparation

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 you can use to see if your files look good is simply to view the PDF file at 400% to 600% on your screen.  What your eye can now see at this zoom level is what you will see on a printed sheet.  Viewing an image on your monitor at 100% (or smaller) won’t give you the information you need to determine the quality of your file.  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.


If your artwork goes to the edge of the paper, you must add a bleed area. Increase the page size by 1/8” 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 (Image) Area:

Keep any critical text or graphics 1/8” away from any edge. This is the “safe” area where the paper is trimmed off.


The best practice to use with fonts is to outline them if your program allows. Call our prepress staff if you need help 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 cases, when you save a file as an 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):

The first rule with resolution is NEVER try to increase it! Resolution (using dpi) is a mathematical formula that calculates how much file information is just right to display or print your image. 72 dpi is what your computer monitor needs to display an image cleanly with sharp detail. However, this is not enough file information needed to print a high quality image on a digital press.

This is where the math part comes in. For example:  you’ve just taken a great picture with your digital camera, and you go to Photoshop and load the image – you see the resolution is only 72 dpi, but it’s 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 press.  Trying to reproduce that image at the original 14” x 20” will most likely be bitmapped 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 halftones or gradients in your images. Use Bitmap for your line art images that don’t contain any shades of gray.

Adobe PDF files:

You need Adobe Distiller standard or professional in order to create high quality pdf files suitable for digital printing. When distilling PDF files, use the “Press Quality” setting.   The method used to get to this setting varies from one program to another, but once you are at the “Acrobat Distiller” window, in the Adobe PDF Settings – Default Settings dropdown 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.


Native/Other File Formats: 

Native files (such as InDesign) are acceptable; however, they must include fonts and images (linked, not embedded). PowerPoint, Publisher, Word and Excel files are created from programs not intended for high-end printing and are, therefore, limited in their reproduction capabilities and results are unpredictable.  Native/other files may require file manipulation to convert to printable PDFs, thereby incurring additional file prep costs.


AA’s (Author’s Alterations)/Revisions:

Prep time, beyond initial set up, will be charged at $65.00/hour.  This additional prep includes, but is not limited to:  correcting poor or low resolution images, color correcting, adding bleed when none is provided in supplied files, typesetting/type corrections, spot color/PMS matching, reformatting/ resizing, etc. and will be discussed and approved prior to proceeding with any project.




While “soft proofing” (PDF proofing) is the most common proofing method, it is not 100% reliable. What looks light on one person’s computer monitor may look dark on another. We will request that you acknowledge, in writing (via e-mail) that, if you do not request a hard copy proof, we will not be held responsible for any color mismatches after a print run.  Since digital printing is made out of four color process, we are able to come close to matching PMS colors – and we can “tweak” various settings on our equipment – but cannot match PMS colors exactly.  We will request, if time allows, that a one-off proof is output for your review before a print run commences – especially a large print run.  It is always our goal to “do it right the first time.”  It is also advisable to re-proof exact reprints.  Our equipment is routinely upgraded, calibrated and modified, which can produce even the slightest difference from one printing to the next whether it’s three weeks or three months after the original print run.