Ever wondered what printers are talking about when they mention ‘bleed’ or ‘crops’? Well don’t worry, we’ve assembled a short list of some of the most frequently asked questions with regards to getting your artwork ready for print.
What is ‘print ready artwork’?
Lots of printers throw this term around without giving too much of an explanation of what makes artwork ‘print ready’. With that, the basic checklist to make sure your artwork is print ready would be to make sure your artwork:
- Has a resolution of 300dpi
- Is set to CMYK colour space
- Has all fonts embedded (if supplied file is not a PDF)
- Has a 3mm bleed on all edges that need cut
- Includes crop and cutting marks
- Is supplied in a universally accepted file format (PDF is best!)
What does resolution and dpi mean?
Resolution (in the case of printing) basically means how many dots of ink there are per inch. That’s where we get DPI from, Dots Per Inch. You’ll also probably recognise resolution from specs on computer or phone screens. The concept is pretty much the same but with pixels (or pixels per inch) instead of dots.
In printing, you ideally want to have a document’s resolution at 300dpi or higher for a nice crisp print. If you’re really struggling to get a resolution that high, 150dpi is the absolute minimum we can print with before things start printing fuzzy.
Please note: Most images saved directly from the web (Google images, Facebook photos etc.) will be compressed for web viewing and will typically have a resolution of 72dpi, which really won’t print well.
RGB or CMYK colour space?
RGB and CMYK are two of the most common colour spaces that a document will be set to. For accurate colour representation in print (from what you see on screen to what you see in print), we recommend you use the CMYK colourspace.
This is because RGB colours are created using a blend of red, green and blue light and are best suited for digital artwork/documents that will only be viewed on screen. They allow for vivid and vibrant colours that computer and phone screens are capable of displaying. CMYK on the other hand represents the blend of colours that printers use; cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Due to the physical limitations of printing, printers can’t fully replicate every colour on the RGB spectrum and some fluorescent and vivid colours will come out looking duller. This is why we recommend using a CMYK colour space to create your artwork. This will ensure that your finished prints will be the closest possible match to what you originally designed.
Please note: Pantone colours are not CMYK colours but a separate colour system again. That means if you’ve designed artwork that makes use of Pantone colours, please convert them to the closest possible CMYK colours/values using an online converting tool like this one from Pantone.
Why should my fonts and text be embedded?
Fonts only need to be embedded (also known as outlined) if you’re supplying your artwork or document in a file format that is not a PDF. Embedding or outlining fonts converts the text characters to shapes so that the characters and glyphs can’t be interpreted differently on a different computer. This helps to guarantee that what is printed is exactly as the artwork supplied. The downside to this though, is that you won’t be able to edit the embedded text as it’s technically a shape.
Luckily, this is something you don’t have to worry about if you’re supplying your artwork in a PDF file format as PDF files automatically embed text when the file is generated. This leaves the text as it is on your original artwork and you can continue to edit at a later date.
What are margins and safe zone?
You’ll sometimes hear printers talking about ‘margins’ or ‘safe zone’ when talking about artwork set up. These terms essentially describe the space between the important content on the document and the edge of the page. Usually (though not always) depicted as a purple line on the inside of your document canvas, you’ll want to keep key text and images within these purple lines. How much of a margin you put on your artwork really depends on your personal design preference. The only thing we ask is that it is set to a minimum of 10mm. This allows us to trim the documents after printing and keeping a nice little bit of space from the edge to help make things easier to read, and to ensure no important content gets accidentally chopped off!
You can usually find the settings for margins and safe zone when setting up your document, or in a ‘Margins and Columns’ section usually listed under a ‘Layout’ menu bar.
What is bleed?
Bleed is a term used when referring to full colour or edge to edge printing. It’s an additional space (usually 3mm wide) around the edges of a document that the artwork is pulled out to. This is so that the artwork can overlap the original document size.
We request bleed on artwork as printers can’t actually print right to the very edge of a sheet of paper or card. To combat that and provide a professional looking full colour edge to edge print we print the document with the artwork pulled out to the bleed and trim it down to the original document size, resulting in printed colour right up to the very edges!
Please note: We usually request a minimum of 3mm bleed on artwork and documents, though 5mm is also acceptable. You can usually set the bleed on your document when setting up or adjusting the document/page size and margins in your design software. Don’t forget to tick the ‘Use Document Bleed Settings’ option in the ‘Marks and Bleed’ section when exporting your artwork for print.
What are crop and trim marks?
Crops and trim marks are handy little dash lines that help to tell us printers where to the edges of the document are and where to trim the artwork. These work hand in hand with bleed as the crop marks help to highlight the original document size and tell us where to trim. You can enable crop marks when exporting your artwork or document for printing, just tick the ‘Crop Marks’ box in the ‘Marks and Bleed’ section when exporting your file.