Some of the same rules apply for all print-ready files, no matter what program you use. Here are 6 steps and recommendations that, if followed correctly, will ensure your files will print with the best quality possible.
It is recommended that you use either Illustrator, InDesign, or Photoshop to create your file for printing. Using these design programs, we can provide you with exact steps and PDF settings to create a high-quality print-ready file. They allow you to create an ad with the most control, if you know how to use them. This is why professional designers use these programs, but anyone can subscribe monthly. Read more about programs that best create crisp text and graphics at this link. /create-crisp-text-and-graphics
OTHER PROGRAMS YOU CAN USE
If these professional design programs are not an option for you, there are many other programs you can use, such as Microsoft Office programs: Publisher or Word.
SIZE IT CORRECTLY
Make your file (or at least the size of your product’s graphics) the exact size you need it to be for the final print product (unless you are using the bleed work-around; see #4).
Business Card 3.5" x 2"
Small Post Card 6" x 4"
EDDM Post Card 8" x 6.5"
Invitations 7" x 5”
Flyer 8.5" x 11"
USE HIGH-QUALITY GRAPHICS
PHOTOS Make sure all photos are 300 dpi. Less will be blurry; more will be over-saturated and can cause darkness.
GRAPHICS Make sure all graphics, like logos or text, are either vector-based or AT LEAST 300 dpi, (600 dpi or more is even better). This will prevent them from looking blurry or pixellated.
*TIP* We recommend using Photoshop for adjusting photos’ resolution and color to CMYK, then placing them into a layout program. Use layout programs such as Illustrator or InDesign for final layouts, and then create a PDF using the final layout file.
Instructions for creating the best print-ready PDF’s are available at: /pdf-steps-and-settings
USE CMYK COLORS, NOT RGB
Photos found on the web are in RGB color mode, and will print differently than what you’re seeing on a computer screen or other device.
Open any photos you are planning to use in Photoshop to change their color mode to CMYK before placing into a layout program.
ILLUSTRATOR Change your document color mode to CMYK, then click on each object and convert to CMYK. Place in photos that are CMYK.
INDESIGN Change your document color mode to CMYK. Place in photos and graphics that are CMYK.
Using CMYK will give a more-accurate rendering on your screen of the printed piece. You can then adjust the color or brightness, etc., to compensate for any changes from RGB that you’ve made, and therefore avoid unexpected color results in the final printed piece (darkness or muddiness).
CREATE A BLEED AREA
If you want a color background or other graphic or photo, etc., to extend to the edge of the page, it must be extended to 1/8” past the edge of the page. This extension of color is called a bleed area.
ILLUSTRATOR AND INDESIGN Set up bleed in “document set-up.” This adds a bleed area line to show you how far to extend the color.
OTHER PROGRAMS (Bleed Work-Around) Extend the page size vertically and horizontally by 1/4”, and extend the bleeding graphic all the way to the edge of the extended area. Be sure to leave other items, such as words or logos that you don’t want cut off, inward from the page edge (cut line) at least 1/8”.
IF YOUR PRINTING DESIGN HAS NO BLEEDING GRAPHICS create a 1/4” margin of white space around all edges.
ADD CROP MARKS
Add crop marks on any printing file that has a bleed. Crop marks are sometimes optional, but can be helpful to ensure your file’s placement is correct.
ILLUSTRATOR OR INDESIGN Crop marks will automatically be added when you make your PDF, as long as you choose the USE CROP MARKS setting, as shown in the PDF instructions. (See #6.)
CREATE A PDF
ILLUSTRATOR, INDESIGN, OR PHOTOSHOP Get complete instructions here: /instructions-best-print-ready-pdf
WORD (Instructions for latest version) File > Save As > Choose PDF from the File Format menu, Choose “Best for Printing” button.
PUBLISHER File > Export > Create PDF/XPS Document, Choose “Commercial Press.”
Once you've made your PDF for printing, OPEN YOUR PDF FILE IN ADOBE ACROBAT, OR ACROBAT READER
Download Acrobat Reader free https://www.get.adobe.com/reader/
Look at your file in Acrobat to ensure that it is the correct size, and to make sure you see the bleed area and crop marks, if they were added.