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Knowledge Base - Print-Ready Artwork

All commercial printing facilities require customers to supply print-ready artwork.

What is Print-Ready Artwork?

Print-ready refers to a type of artwork for any print media (e.g. business cards, flyers, magazines, etc) that is prepared to certain standards that enable it to be fed into professional printing equipment.

These standards are strict:

  • Format: 300 DPI Adobe® PDF CMYK
  • Bleed: 5mm bleed
  • Safety Margin: 5mm safety margin
  • Crop Marks: 3mm out

Any deviation from these standards will immediately render that artwork to not be print-ready.

What is PDF?

PDF is a type of file format called "Portable Document Format". The PDF specification was originally published by Adobe® Systems and eventually became an open standard. PDF is a very flexible standard that allows for document consistency across a number of platforms - digital and print.

See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portable_Document_Format

What is Bleed and Safety Margin? What are Crop Marks?

Bleed refers to graphic art that is located beyond the specified trimming edge.

Safety margin refers to a standard that requires placement of content within a printed document at a certain distance on the inside from the specified trimming edge. E.g. the company name and phone number listed on a business card is required to be a certain minimum distance inside the artwork.

Both bleed and safety margin are necessary to account for a margin of error present during trimming. The general recommendation for both is 5mm.

Crop marks are guides for trimming.

What is not a print-ready artwork?

This covers all documents that differ from the print-ready artwork standard outlined above.

Common examples of files that are not print ready:

  • Documents produced by word processors: Microsoft® Word, Open Office and any other (e.g. RTF, TXT)
  • Source files for Adobe® InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop applications
  • Source files for Microsoft® Publisher
  • Microsoft® Powerpoint Presentations
  • Spreadsheets
  • JPEG, PNG or any other image formats
  • Low resolution (e.g. 72DPI) PDF files

Please note that while word processing software can output directly to consumer printing equipment without any difficulties, the same does not apply to professional printing environment. Print-ready artwork is still required in this case.

Can my documents be made print-ready?

Some existing documents can be compiled into print-ready PDF files.

In other cases, professional graphic design software is required to complete the process.

Where do I obtain print ready artwork?

A professional graphic designer can assist with preparation of artwork for printing.

Which applications can prepare print ready artwork?

Professional graphic design software is commonly used to prepare print ready artwork:

  • Adobe® InDesign
  • Adobe® Illustrator

These are applications are developed for professional graphic designers and require training. We don't recommend preparing artwork without aid of a professional graphic designer.


written by Daniel Moisyeyev
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