How to Prepare Files for Print

Mar 24, 2021 | Design Basics, Tips & Tutorials

Files For Print

As a graphic designer, I prepare files for print all the time. Generally, it’s for projects I’ve designed for my clients. But, whether you are a designer or a client, it’s always good to know what elements a print file should have. So, here is a quick checklist of things you should check to prep your files for print.

A Checklist For Preparing Printer Files



Make sure your file has a resolution of 300 DPI (dots per inch). If any of the images within your file have a lower resolution, they may print blurry or pixelated. Unless you are working with vector graphics, you cannot increase an image’s original resolution, so it’s important to use high-resolution images in work meant for print from the very beginning.


Color Mode

Check that your file is in CMYK color mode. CMYK refers to the inks used in four-color printing (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). If your file is in RGB (red, green, and blue), you should convert it to CMYK before sending it to print.


Safe Area

Define a 1/4 inch safe area margin within your design to avoid placing important text or graphics too close to the edge of the paper where they can accidentally get cut off during trimming.



If any elements from your artwork reach the edge of the paper, you should add a 1/8 inch bleed to the file. A bleed is an extra space around the perimeter of your print where the color and graphics continue. Bleeds prevent white from showing around the edge when the paper shifts during trimming.



Convert your fonts to outlines. When fonts are converted to outlines (vector graphics), the printer does not need to have the same font files you used in your design.


File Format

Although you can also export your file in several different file formats, PDF files are the most popular ones to use for print. Within the PDF settings, you can set your file to retain a high resolution, include the bleeds, and even add crop marks if necessary.

These are just the basic guidelines to what you should consider when preparing files for print, but make sure to always check with your printer what specifications they prefer. If you have any other questions about creating printer files, reach out and let me know!

Nothing on this blog should be taken to constitute professional advice or a formal recommendation. Please read the full disclaimer.


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