Artwork Guidelines

So you’ve been working hard on your amazing design, and now it’s time to get it printed.

But wait! Before you hit that print button, there are some artwork guidelines you should know about to make sure your file is print-ready.

In this section, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about creating artwork that will look great on paper, including file types, resolution, colour modes, and bleed.

Whether you’re a seasoned designer or a newbie, don’t worry – we’ll break it down for you and give you all the tips and tricks you need to get your artwork ready for a flawless print job.

Step 1:
File Types

Vector files such as PDF and AI are made up of mathematical equations that create objects. They are resolution-independent and can be scaled to any size without losing quality. This makes them ideal for creating logos, illustrations, and other graphical elements that may need to be resized.

In contrast, raster files such as PNG and JPEG are made up of pixels. This means that they have a fixed resolution and will become pixelated if they are enlarged beyond their original size. Raster files are perfect for photographic images and complex gradients because they can display a wide range of colours and shades.

If your logo file is a Raster (ie. JPEG or PNG), we will often need to turn this into a Vector file by tracing objects, matching colours and sourcing fonts. This can be a process that takes up time and could result in Artwork Fees being charged before we can print your job.

For images of things (such as photos or illustrations), a Raster file will do just fine, so long as the Resolution of the file is high enough (ideally, 300dpi).

If the resolution of the photo is too small, it might not be high-quality enough for print.
A good test is to open the photo file in your preferred program, and set the Zoom to 100%.
If the file is too small on the screen, chances are it won’t be suitable for print, depending on the size of the finished product.

If you’re unsure, ask us and we’d be happy to help!

Print files are typically created using PDF files. PDF files can contain both vector and raster elements, making them ideal for combining multiple types of artwork into a single file. Additionally, PDF files can be highly compressed, resulting in a smaller file size without sacrificing quality. This makes them perfect for printing.

These Print files are ‘ripped’ into formats easily readable by Digital Presses or Platesetting machines to create your job.

To sum it up:

  • A “Print-Ready File” is in PDF Format.
  • Logo files need to be in Vector Format – usually AI, EPS or PDF.
  • Images or Illustrations are usually in Raster Format – JPEG, PNG for example – but need to be large enough in resolution (we suggest 300dpi) to be good enough to use in your print file.
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Step 2:
Trim, Bleed & Margin

When it comes to production printing, there are three crucial elements that must be taken into account: trim area, bleed area, and margin area.

The trim area denotes the final size of the printed piece, which means that all elements of the design must fit within this space.

On the other hand, the bleed area serves to ensure that there are no white edges or borders around the printed piece. The bleed area is basically an additional space added around the trim area, and any design elements or images that extend to the edge of the printed piece must overlap into this area.

Finally, the margin area (sometimes known as the ‘safe zone’ is the space between the trim area and the important content of the design. It helps to ensure that no essential content is cut off or is too close to the edge.

The absence of these elements can lead to several issues that can negatively affect the overall quality of the final product. For instance, a lack of sufficient margin area can result in important content being cut off or appearing too close to the edge of the page. Similarly, without a proper bleed area, there may be unsightly white spaces, making the printed piece look unprofessional.

Hence, ensure that your design elements and images extend into the bleed area and that the margin area is adequate to produce a sleek and refined final product.

See below for our recommended bleed and margin sizes for Print Ready jobs.

To sum it up:

  • A trim area shows our production team where to cut the job to ensure it is finished at the proper size.

  • Nearly all print jobs are produced on oversized sheets and cut down to size, as nearly all printing presses  lack the ability to print on 100% of a sheet’s total area.

  • Bleed – We recommend a minimum of 3mm.
    This allows the print to travel to the edge of your product without any unsightly white lines or borders.

  • Margin – We recommend a minimum of:
    – 5mm for Flatsheet Jobs
    – 6mm for Drink Coasters and other Diecut/Custom Shape jobs
    – 10mm for folded jobs or books
    This protects the important content of your product – words or images that are not meant to be near the edge (or off-the-edge) of your job. 
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Step 3:
Colour Modes

It’s important to understand the difference in colour, depending on the output of your job.

It’s crucial to first understand that colours on a screen almost never look the same when they are printed – this is because computer screens of all types use an additive light method to reproduce colour (that is, starting off with a black screen, and adding light to give you the correct colours).

Print, on the other hand, uses a reductive light method to reproduce colour; that is, starting with a (usually) white substrate and darkening it with colour.

Because of these differences – unless your computer screen has been professionally colour calibrated – the colours you pick for your job will almost always look completely different on a printed page.

How can I ensure the colours I pick are going to be correct?

There are two methods of reproducing colours in Lithographic Printing – one is known as Spot Colour printing, and the other is known as Process Colour printing.

Spot Colour uses an ink mix, carefully calculated to be an exactly picked tone – similar to choosing a swatch for painting a room.

Printers use the Pantone Measuring System (PMS) to choose specific colours. 
Printers, designers and others in the industry carry a Pantone Guide which shows a printed example of each colour, so that the customer knows what to expect when the colour they choose has been reproduced.

To sum it up:

  • Know your job!
    Ensure your file is set up for CMYK or Spot Colour, depending on the print method being used and the best practices considering the type of job and design.

  • Grab your Pantone Book!
    For Spot Colour jobs, ensure you’re matching Spot Colours via the Pantone Solid Coated or Uncoated Book (Depending on the type of substrate being printed on)
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