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Prepress 101: Your Best Guide for Creating Print-Ready Files

By , September 7, 2016

Setting up your documents for the print might seem confusing, but it's actually pretty simple. There are three important factors that go into creating a good print-ready file. They are:

  1. Margins & bleeds
  2. Image resolution
  3. Packaging your files

Margins & Bleeds

A common mistake in setting up documents for print is not building your margins or bleed into the design. As an example, lets say you are creating a poster that's 8.5" by 11". Many people would submit a .PDF document that is exactly 8.5" by 11". The truth is, your document should actually output to a slightly larger size. To determine appropriate document setup, you'll need to ask yourself the question will this project have a bleed? A bleed is when the ink goes to the edge of the printed area.

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If you're designing with a bleed, then you'll want to be sure to set up a proper bleed in your document. A good guideline is 0.125" (or 1/8 of an inch). This setup will ensure that your finished product doesn't end up with a tiny white border. If you are using InDesign, you can edit this by visiting File > Document Setup. You'll find the bleed settings at the bottom of the dialogue box that appears.

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For designs without a bleed, it is good practice to leave at least a 0.5" - 1" margin between the border and your design space. Keeping your design properly spaced from the border is not only attractive, but ensures that important information will not be trimmed off during the finishing process. In InDesign, you can edit this by selecting Layout > Margins and Columns.

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Image Resolution

As a rule of thumb, all images should be at least 300 dpi or higher in CMYK.

RELATED: Prepress 101: How to Prepare Images for Print

Packaging Your Files

When sending your files out for production, make sure you send “packaged files”. This type of bundle includes your document, any necessary fonts, linked graphics, and a package report.

Creating a packaged file is easy! Just select File > Package. In the dialogue box that appears, click Package (no need to alter any of the settings). The resulting folder should look something like this:

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If you don't know how to export your font files, you can always save your text to "outlines". Go to Edit > Select All (or click CTRL + A) to select everything on your art board. Then select Type > Create Outlines. This will convert your text to an object, ensuring that your fonts stay true to your design, even if the printer doesn't have your font files.

psst...find the printable version of this tutorial in our resource library

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