What is a Print Ready File?

I’m sure you’ve heard this term before. Usually in a statement like “Sure, we can print that for you! Can you send us the print ready file?” Sound familiar? While I’m sure some of you know what this term refers to, let me explain to those that don’t just what a print ready file is. It’s really pretty simple. A print ready file contains a few characteristics that allow it to go straight to pre-press and avoid any additional charges and time to have the print facility create these for you. Let’s review the most basic of these characteristics.

Bleeds – If your print project includes images or color going to the edge of the paper, it is important to include bleeds in the file. Simply put, a bleed is a color or image that extends beyond the crop lines by one eighth of an inch. Bleeds are necessary due to the trimming process. Once printing is completed, the paper must be cut to size specifications. While today’s trimmers are extremely accurate, there is still a chance the cut will be slightly past the crop line. If this happens and there are no bleeds, you will see a sliver of the paper in between the end of the page and the image or color. Not a very attractive quality for a commercial piece. With bleeds, however, if the cutter misses its mark, there is no evidence and the slightly larger paper is not noticeable to the human eye.

Crop lines – These tell the print facility where to cut the paper so they meet your required size specifications. If you are printing an 8.5” X 11” catalog, then your crop lines will be set for all pages, including the cover, to 8.5” X 11”.

High resolution – this seems like a no brainer, but make sure the file you send is of the highest resolution. Commercial machines will produce great results but they are only as good as the file they are printing. A low resolution file will result in poor production and lost time as you will most likely want to re-print the job. A native file should do the trick.

While there are other items to look for, these are the most basic of items you need to have in your print ready file to ensure a nice, clean and efficient production. Most of the time, a print facility will alert you if your file is not print ready or they’ll ask if you would like for them to do this for you. This will generally come at a cost and slow down production. So try and have these key items in your file before you send to a printer. It will save you time, money, and stress!

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