5 Top Tips for creating print-ready PDF files

1: Use bleed! Bleed is an extra bit of print OUTSIDE the area of the finished job. Printers almost always print jobs on bigger sheets and cut them down to size, so any tiny variations in the position of the paper as it moves through the press can make the precise edge of the finished job move (by as much as 1.5mm according to the manufacturers spec on some digital presses, believe it or not). Creating some extra “spare” print outside the finished job area allows for this variation and means that your job will still look nice and neat when trimmed to its finished size.

2: Keep important stuff away from the very edge. Don’t put crucial text or vital images in the areas near the very edge of the paper (for the reasons outline above) or too near the rea where the job will be bound. There’s nothing more infuriating that creating a document that looks beautiful on screen but has a staple or a punch-hole through an important word – or someone’s face! We recommend 5mm clearance from the edges and 12mm if your job is going to be wire-o bound or drilled.

3: Colour on screen isn’t the same as colour on paper. For a start, screens use the RGB (red/green/blue) system and are lit from behind, so when you saturate an image with all three colours you get white. Most presses use CMYK (cyan/magenta/yellow/black) and when you add all of those together you get black. There are colours available in the RGB range (known as the ‘gamut’) that aren’t obtainable in the CMYK range. So converting your RGB image that looks lovely and bright on your screen to CMYK on the press often makes it darker and can change the colours. If you have an image editing program such as Photoshop you should always convert your images to CMYK and review them before using them so you don’t get any nasty surprises.

4: ‘Spot’ colours or Pantone colours often can’t be printed on digital presses. For example Pantone Orange and Reflex Blue are notoriously impossible to obtain using the CMYK process, although digital press companies such as Canon and Xerox spend millions on software trying to get as close as possible. And of course metallic colours don’t print at all well! If you’re creating some artwork for a corporate user and are given a corporate colour to use, be aware that sometimes the CMYK version of that colour can be quite different to the Pantone version. The only way to get ‘Spot’ colours perfect is to use a tin of specifically mixed ink on a litho press!

5: We’d ideally like a PDF file. This is because PDF files are designed so that text and images don’t move when they are opened on a different computer. If you send a file in something like Microsoft Word, be aware that different printer driver can cause things to move on the page. If you send us something in Adobe InDesign and you have different plugins to us, we may have trouble opening your document or it may open with things in the wrong place – we may also have different fonts to you. If you are a bit of a whizz at overprint settings and have used them to create special effects please TELL US when you send us your file – because most people don’t use or understand overprint our presses are set to correct it and knockout behind any overlapping colours except black.

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