Printing can be a complicated business and there’s a lot to think about before sending your files to be printed. These are the ten most common issues we see. You can use this as a checklist to make sure your files are ready to go, and that you can receive your prints as quickly as possible.
Bleed means that the outside of the document can be trimmed to size. In the case of books, it means that the cover and text block (inside pages) can be cut to line up perfectly. It allows for small inconsistencies in cutting and means that you won’t end up with unsightly white outlines on your final copies. Standard size for bleed is between 3-5mm around the outside of the paper, meaning that you need to add between 6 and 10mm to the height and width of your document.
Using the wrong programs
While you can make print files a program like Microsoft Word, it isn’t ideal for complex designs, especially if you are including lots of text and images. Adobe InDesign is the industry standard when it comes to creating print files today.
Images need to be at least 300 dpi (dots per inch) when viewed at 100% scale for print. Images for the screen are generally only 72 dpi, so it is advisable to avoid images sourced from the Internet.
Packaging your InDesign file will ensure that all of the images are included.
When exporting your PDF, make sure that any fonts are embedded. If you are working with the InDesign file, package it before submitting it. This will make it a larger file, so you might need to compress it into a zip file to email or transfer.
Incomplete or corrupt files
Open your file before sending it and check that it is complete. Better still, transfer it to another computer or device and make sure that it opens.
Colours in RGB
Print files should be in CMYK for four-colour printing. RGB is the colour space used for images viewed on the screen, but it not suitable for printing, as there are some colours available in RGB that cannot be replicated in CMYK.
Black and white not saved in greyscale
Images that do not require colour should be saved in greyscale, not CMYK or RGB. That is if you want to save money on colour printing. You can do this in Adobe Acrobat’s ‘print production’ settings.
Files created at US letter size, not A4
Letter paper size is not the standard across the world. In some countries, they use US letter size, which is 216 x 279 mm. In New Zealand, we used international paper sizes, e.g. A4, A3 etc. Some computer programmes may default to US sizes. Check that you are working in A4 (210 x 297 mm) before you start.
This should go without saying, but spelling errors are very difficult to fix after your document has been printed! Double and triple check before sending in your files.
Click here for a printable version of this list.
This list is also available in Self-Publishing in New Zealand by H.L. Kennedy, CP Books, 2019.