Preparing Printing Files


For dazzling printing results, follow these tips for preparing printing files:

File Format

We only accept PDF files for printing, which will embed graphics and fonts. With a PDF file, you only need to send us one file. With other formats, you will typically also have to include all fonts and graphics. PDF files also ensure that the document will print as you see it on your screen. If you use a Macintosh computer, you can save your file as a PDF file from within the print dialog box. More advanced layout programs will have options for exporting your file as a PDF file. If you use a PC computer, please check out our creating a PDF page for information on programs that can assist you with that process.

Bleeds and Safety Zones

preparing-printing-filesWhen preparing printing files, if you have graphics that extend to the edge of the page, you need to ensure that your document has bleeds. Because we cannot cut exactly at the edge of the page, the graphics need to extend past the edge of the page. Thus, you should design your page so it is larger than the final size of your document. All pages should be designed so that they are 1/8 of an inch larger on each of the four sides of the page. For example, an 8 1/2 x 11 document should be set up as 8 3/4 x 11 1/4 inches.

You should also make sure that you allow a safety area between the edge of the page and any text. If text is too close to the edge of the page, there is a chance that it will be cut off when the paper is trimmed to size. Thus, you should make sure that there is at least 1/8 of an inch between text and the edge of your page.

Colors — CMYK vs. RGB

Before submitting your files for printing, graphics and colors should be converted to CMYK. All graphics and colors used in your document should be converted to CMYK. Often, photos are in RGB and will need to be converted. Many people also design using Pantone colors, which should be converted to CMYK. If you do not convert to CMYK, there may be some color shifts when we convert before printing. These color shifts are more noticeable in background colors and less noticeable with photographs. We do not match Pantone or PMS colors. Our prices are low because we using digital presses based on a pleasing color standard.

When working with colors, please be aware of two issues:

Blues — Often, a color that looks blue on your computer screen will have a purple tint when printed. To deal with this potential issue, set up the cyan and magenta values in that color so that there is at least a 30% difference.

Black — If your document contains large areas of black, please consider using a rich black (if your document is being printed in full color). Using 100% black for large areas tends to result in a muddy gray color when printed. Rich black contains values for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, so it is really a full color process.  Our recommendations for values to use in rich black are:

Cyan 60, Magenta 40, Yellow 40, Black 100

Make sure that the black used in graphics and background colors use the same values. You may not see any difference on your computer, but often the blacks will look different when printed, unless the same values are used.

Image Resolution

In order to print well, all graphics should be at least 300 dots per inch (dpi). Viewing images on a computer screen can be misleading, since the maximum resolution of a computer screen is 72 dpi. A 72 dpi image will look fuzzy when printed. Increasing the size of a graphic will reduce the resolution, while reducing the size of the graphic will increase the resolution.

It is typically not a good idea to get graphics for print from a website. Most websites use 72 dpi photos so that everything will load faster.

Following these tips will help ensure that you are dazzled with your printed document.  We will check your files for some things, like proper bleeds, proper safety zones, and image resolution.  We will notify you if there are problems, but that will likely delay your printing project while you correct your files.  Other items we can’t check, such as whether you used the color you intended.

Spines for Perfect Binding

When you are preparing printing files, we recommend submitting perfect bound covers as three files — the front cover, the back cover, and the spine. The size of your front and back cover should equal the size of your document plus 1/8 inch bleed on all four sides.

To calculate the size of the spine for perfect bound books, use this the following formula:

For 60# uncoated text and 80# matte and gloss text stock:

Number of pages divided by 440 = spine in inches

For 70# uncoated text and 100# matte and gloss text stock:

Number of pages divided by 370 = spine in inches

Pages should be counted like pages in a book, not sheets of paper. The cover should be included in the number of pages.

For example, if your book is 100 pages and you are using 80# matte stock, your spine would be 100 pages divided by 440, or .23 inches. If you were using 70# uncoated stock, the spine would be 100 pages divided by 370, or .27 inches.

If you have any questions or need help, please call us at 1-800-338-4329 or e-mail us at [email protected].