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Designing graphics for your company’s signage and print needs is fun for some and a chore for others. Either way, high-quality printing is a must to make sure your brand stands out from the crowd. To make sure the process moves smoothly and stays within budget, you need to create a print-ready file for your printer. 

At DRSi, we offer printing services to meet the needs of fast-moving businesses in the greater Seattle area. By taking the time to listen to your needs and goals, our team can craft solutions that work for you. We serve our clients with confidence and courtesy. Reach out today to learn more. 

What Is a Print-Ready File? 

Print-ready files do just what the name suggests. They are digital files that are 100% ready for high-resolution printing. A file that is print-ready will not require any alterations or enhancements for the printer to create your signs, documents and other marketing collateral.  

If a file isn’t print-ready, the resulting prints will not look professional and high-quality. Because of this problem, expert printers will not use the file. When they have to fix the problem or ask you to do it, your print job takes longer and could cost more. 

A print-ready file will pay attention to the following crucial components: 

Bleed area

In the design and print world, a bleed refers to the background color, graphic or image that extends past the edge of the finished paper size. That is, it’s additional space past where the printer will trim the final image to size.  

This extra margin allows the color or image to “bleed off” the page so that you don’t lose any of the desired work in the final product. The bleed should be .125” (3mm). For example, a letterhead sheet that incorporates bleed in its design will be 8.75″ x 11.25″ before trimming brings it down to a finished size of 8.5″ x 11″. 

Crop Marks

A sheet with bleed is larger than its finished size. The crop marks show the “trim edge” which is the edge of the sheet after the printer cuts it to the correct size. You will lose any printed elements that extend beyond the crop marks or trim edge. Depending on the software you use to design your materials, they may use either “crop mark” or “trim edge” in their terminology.  

How do you make sure you’re sending a print-ready file? Here are our tips and tricks for creating the correct file in Canva, Photoshop, and Illustrator. 

Creating a Print-Ready File in Photoshop 

This popular product from Adobe is so prevalent that it has turned into a verb. As in, “Did someone Photoshop that picture?” Photoshop is a powerful tool, and if you use it to design your files, here are the steps to make it print-ready. 

1. Create the Right-Sized Document 

When you open a window for your new document, you need to choose a size that allows a margin of ¼” (.25 inch) around the final product. For example, for something that will be 5.5” x 8.5” you will select a 6” x 9” document. 

2. Choose Your Resolution 

For photos, 300ppi is often a high enough resolution. However, when you need to print text, it’s best to choose 600ppi or even 1200ppi. If possible, check with your contact at DRSi to determine how high a resolution you should use. 

3. Choose the Color Profile 

Be sure to select CMYK for any designs that you plan to print. This color profile offers much better quality for printed materials. 

4. Set Trim Guides 

By setting your document with the ¼” edge, the bleed is set. Now, you need to use the ruler setting by selecting View and then Ruler. Drag the ruler from the top of the document down ⅛” to establish the trim edge and then do the same from the bottom up ⅛”. Similarly, adjust the left and right sides the same amount. 

5. Create and Save the File 

Now you can make your design in the document, paying attention to the trim edges. Those lines indicate where the printer will trim the final product. Save your file as a PDF, clicking off any dialog boxes about colors before saving. 

6. Use Acrobat To Set Crop Marks 

Open your PDF in Acrobat, being sure to use the full version rather than Acrobat Reader.  

Select Tools and then Print Production and then Set Page Boxes. Under Apply To, choose Trim Box and enter .25 in all four fields: top, bottom, left and right. After clicking OK, you should see a guidelines box pop up with the right dimensions.  

If it doesn’t appear, select Tools, then Print Production, and finally Output Preview. Under Show, choose the Show Art, Trim and Bleed boxes. Now select Add Printer Marks and click the box next to Trim Marks, choose Default as the style, and .25 for Line Weight before clicking OK.  

Most likely an error box will pop up warning that the crop marks might overlap the artwork, but you’re ok to proceed. The crop marks should appear outside the guideline for the Trim Box at this point, and you can save your print-ready file.  

Creating a Print-Ready File in Illustrator 

Illustrator is another popular product in the Adobe suite. By following these steps and tips, you will be able to give your printer a print-ready file. 

1. “Save As” Correctly 

When your design is ready to save, go to File and select Save As. From your options, choose Adobe PDF. When you click Save, a new screen will open, prompting you to pick the Adobe PDF Preset. Choose Press Quality for the best results.  

You will have the option to Preserve Editing Capabilities. This is generally unnecessary if the file is set up properly, so check with your contact at DRSi to see what they prefer. Choosing that option can make the file more difficult to send by email. 

2. Set Marks and Bleed 

On the left side of the screen, select Marks and Bleeds. Check the following boxes: 

  • Trim Marks 
  • Use Document Bleed Settings 

If you already set the bleed in your original design, this step preserves that. If not, you can set it on the current screen. Set each section to 3mm or ¼”. 

3. Save and Review 

Click Save PDF in the bottom right corner and then open your document to review it. You should see some white space around the outside of your design, along with trim marks in the corners. Verify that no necessary parts of your design are outside the trim marks before sending your print-ready file to the printer. 

Creating a Print-Ready File in Canva 

Canva is a highly popular design platform used by businesses of every size. But what looks great as a social media graphic doesn’t always work well in print. Here are the steps to create a file that is print-ready from Canva. 

1. Set a Bleed 

When you have a design open in Canva, you can click on File up in the toolbar and select Show Print Bleed. The broken line close to the edge will appear. If there is white space around that margin, the bleed is not set far enough.  

You will need to stretch your background or drag the edge of your element boxes outside the edge of the actual design to ensure a proper bleed for printing. 

2. Download or Export Your Design with Crop Marks 

Once your bleed is set and you are happy with the design, you can click the Download button. From the drop-down menu, select PDF Print and then check the box for crop marks and bleed before downloading. 

3. Tell us that You Designed in Canva 

Canva uses an RGB color profile, not CMYK. These acronyms refer to the colors used in the design: Red-Green-Blue vs. Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black. The RGB profile is excellent for digital designs on websites and social media, but it’s not suitable for printing. The hues generally don’t print true-to-color. 

The team at DRSi will need to convert the file from RGB to CMYK, so be sure they know that you created the design in Canva. 

Our Team Is Ready to Serve Your Team 

At DRSi, we understand how vital high-quality printing is to your marketing, growth, and brand awareness. With more than 30 years of experience, the DRSi team utilizes its industry-leading technology to create beautiful, professional signage and documentation for your business. Connect with us today to get your project started. 

What is a bleed?

Bleed refers to a background color, graphic or image that extends to the edge of the finished paper size and beyond. It’s difficult for printing equipment to apply ink up to the cut edge of a sheet of paper, so an extra .125″ (3mm) margin is typically added on each side of the design, enabling the background color, graphic or image to extend past (i.e., “bleed off”) the paper’s final trim edge. This extra bleed area will be cut off the printed sheet. For example, a letterhead sheet that incorporates bleed in its design will be 8.75″ x 11.25″ before being trimmed to a finished size of 8.5″ x 11″. 

In contrast, a piece with no bleed keeps all the printed elements a minimum of .125″ (3mm) away from the edge of the paper on all four sides. Nothing is printed to the finished edge of the paper. 

Bleed vs. No Bleed

In the image above, the illustration on the left is printed with bleed before trimming. When trimmed, the finished piece will have color or graphic content extending to the finished, cut edge on all four sides.The illustration on the right shows a page designed without any bleed. When trimmed, the finished piece will have an unprinted border on all four sides. 

What is a Trim Edge?

A sheet with bleed is larger than its finished size. The “trim edge” refers to each edge of the sheet after it has been cut to its finished size. Any printed elements that extend beyond the trim edge will be cut off in the process of reducing the paper to its finished size. 

What is they Safety Zone?

To avoid being trimmed off, text and other important content must stay within a “safety zone” that is a minimum of .125″ (3mm) away from the trim edge. Any design elements that extend beyond the safety zone risk being cut off in the process of trimming the paper to its finished size. For example, the safety zone for an 8.5″ x 11″ letterhead would be .125″ smaller on each side, or 8.25″ x 10.75″. Safety zone is especially important when you are printing a bound book.

Bleed Before and After Trimming.

The illustration on the left shows a document designed with bleed (finished size plus an extra .125″ (3mm) on each side). Because minor variations can occur when cutting the paper to its finished size, to avoid being trimmed off, text and other important matter must stay .125″ (3mm) away from the trim edge (the “safety zone”). 

The illustration on the right shows the printed piece after trimming. Note the last “e” in “Example” has been cut in half because it extended past the safety zone and into the trimming area. Some of the artwork has been cut off for the same reason. Any elements that extend past the safety zone risk being lost in the process of trimming the paper to its finished size. 

How Do I Create Bleed in my Design?

To create bleed in your design, add 0.25″ to the dimensions of your file, then simply make sure the background color, graphic or image you want to bleed extends off the final trim edge of the page by .125″ (3mm). 

If you are creating your file in an application such as Photoshop, you must make your document height and width dimensions .25″ (6mm) larger than your final trim size. For example, if the finished size is 8.5″ x 11″ then make your document 8.75″ x11.25″. Position guides that are .125″ from each edge. For design purposes, these guides will represent where the paper (and any of your design elements) will be cut. 

Position any background color, graphic, or image that you want to bleed so they extend past your guides, all the way to the outside edge of the document. Remember, the extra .125″ will be cut off after your piece is printed. 

Our experienced and helpful production staff at DRSi is here to help. We look forward to assisting you with your next print project!

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