How to design print ready artwork

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

In this guide we will explain how to create print ready artwork for the printed products we sell on our Print Shop.

Bleed

The first thing we are going to cover is bleed. Most of our products need either a 3mm or 5mm bleed (with the exception of double sided banners which need 10mm).

What is bleed?

Bleed is the term used for ink that extends past the edge of the page. When graphics continue to the edge of a sheet of paper bleed is required. This is because a commercial printing press cannot print to the edge of a sheet of paper. Instead multiple products are printed on much larger sheets of paper and then cut down to size. On any press/guillotine, there will always be a small amount of movement when a job is printed and cut. If your artwork is only the exact size of the page, you may see a fine white line at the very edge when the page is trimmed. To prevent this, you should always add bleed to your artwork; that is, make your artwork wider all round than the finished size of the page. Any document that is being professionally printed will require a bleed area and a safe zone providing the print runs to the edge of the document.

The diagram below shows a correctly lined up business card with 3mm of bleed and crop marks.
The crop marks show the line that the guillotines must cut to. The bleed is the area outside of these marks. Please note we do not require you to put crop marks on you design.

Bleed explained

How do i apply bleed?

When creating your artwork in your chosen desktop publishing programme, any graphics or images that go to the very edge of the page (known as bleeding off) should be extended past where the page will be cut or trimmed. Then, when creating your print-ready PDF, make sure you set your bleed margin to the required amount.

Some programmes like Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Word and PowerPoint don’t have the facility to add bleed when creating your PDF. This means that when creating your artwork, you have to make your page or image size larger than the finished job. Make sure that the bleed dimensions are added to each side. For example products that need a 3mm bleed area will need a total of 6mm added to both the width and height to create the 3mm all round.

We have templates for most products so please ask if you would like one for your chosen product.

What is a safe zone?

The safe zone is the 3mm inside of the cutting edge in which no text or important information should be placed. Any graphics in this area risk being clipped when cutting.

In the diagram below you will see that the photograph extends to the edge of the bleed area and there is no text in the safe zone. The correctly lined up flyer is displayed on the right hand side.

Safe Zone

Size Guide

The table below gives the sizes with and without bleed for some of the most common print sizes. Please contact us if you need sizes for anything not listed.

Size Size in mm (without bleed) Size in pixels at 300dpi (without bleed) Size in mm (with bleed) Size in pixels at 300dpi (with bleed)
Business Card 85 x 55 1004 x 650 91 x 61 1075 x 720
DL / Comp Slip 99 x 210 2480 x 1169 105 x 216 2551 x 1240
A6 148 x 105 1748 x 1240 154 x 111 1819 x 1311
A5 210 x 148 2480 x 1748 216 x 154 2551 x 1819
A4 297 x 210 3508 x 2480 303 x 216 3579 x 2251
A3 420 x 297 4961 x 3508 426 x 303 5031 x 3579
A2 594 x 420 7016 x 4961 600 x 426 7087 x 5031
A1 841 x 594 9933 x 7016 847 x 600 10004 x 7087
A0 1189 x 841 14043 x 9933 1195 x 847 14114 x 10004

Colour

What is the difference between CMYK and RGB?

With RGB colours the graphics are made up from Red, Green and Blue, with CMYK the colours are made up from Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.

CMYK RGB
CMYK colours
are subtractive meaning the starting canvas is white and colours are added to block out parts of the spectrum
RGB colours
are additive meaning that the starting point is a black canvas (i.e. a computer screen) and colours are added to create the final image.

RGB is used for viewing colours on a monitor or screen. For example, all the colours on this and any website are in RGB.

CMYK is used for viewing colours in print.

Our presses all use cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks to print your job from the digital artwork you supply. Before uploading your artwork, please make sure it is set up in CMYK. If it isn’t, we’ll convert it for you. However, this can mean your colours look different when printed than they did on your artwork.

Images

All images used in print should be supplied at 300 DPI. DPI stands for ink dots per inch. All images in your artwork should be at 300 DPI and placed at 100% size. Lower resolution images or pics that need to be enlarged in artwork will appear blurry in print. For example, if an image will be 50mm x 50mm on your printed job, it should also be this size on your artwork at 300 DPI.

Image resolution

A lower resolution image that looks fine on your computer screen may appear pixelated in print. To get an idea of how your images will look in print we suggest zooming to 400%. We cannot guarantee this will be exactly as it will look but it will give the best possible idea.

Fonts

For small format work of A3 and under, we recommend you use a minimum font size of 7pt. For larger format you should go no lower than 11pt. It’s hard to keep small text in register and if you do need to print very small text, we recommend you use 100% black ink only however we cannot guarantee how this will print.

Overprint

Always check your overprint settings before supplying your artwork. It’s not always easy for us to spot overprinting errors, especially in larger, multi-page files. Overprint has to be correct on all print ready PDFs, so use the overprint preview facility in Acrobat to check your settings before you order. We will not accept any responsibility for anything that is missed.

Setting a colour to overprint means that it prints over another colour, so do not use this setting for white text (or 0% in CMYK terms). If you leave this as overprint, it will simply disappear.

Overprint
Three overlapping circles without overprinting (left) compared to three overlapping circles with overprinting (right)

We hope this guide has been useful. If you would like further clarification on any part of designing for print please contact us.


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