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Printers or Designers… Who is to blame? Tips to prepare a Print File correctly


A battle that will never end is the one of the graphic designers vs. the printer operators, whether the designer did not prepare the file correctly, or that the colors do not match the ones on file, or that a piece of the final art was cut, etc. We could spend the whole day making excuses and arguments, in order to avoid any of these, I will give you a guide on how graphic designers should correctly prepare files for printing. As well as some aspects that printer operators should take into account.


What software you choose will depend on what kind of artwork we are going preparing, most graphic designers currently use Adobe programs, year after year they have improved user experience so that interact with each other and produce great results.

A problem that I’ve realized is that many of the printing companies do not always keep their software up to date; these will cause compatibility problems so you must be very careful with every detail at the time of exporting your file. It is recommended you always export your printing file in an earlier version so it can be opened without a problem.

Take care of essential aspects such as color mode, convert typographies to path, use images in the correct color mode, margins, etc.

Adobe Illustrator

Example illustrator.

Adobe InDesign

Example InDesign.

Adobe InDesign1

Example InDesign.


Never forget to do… Checklist

We are going to use as an example an InDesign file, we must be very aware that the printing operator will not take the time to modify any artwork, the files will be printed as they come, so we have to have everything under control to avoid surprises.

  • Check that the document size is correct.
  • Verify that we have the adequate margins and bleeds (the printing cut is not perfect there should always be a printing bleed).
  • Ensure that the PDF is exported with the same color profile in the InDesign workspace.
  • Monitor the inks. In principle, you can use RGB or CMYK (be sure to ask you printer operator before you start working on your file) unless you need to print with special inks, such as PANTONE.
  • Monitor that all images have the appropriate resolution (300DPI recommended).
  • Pay attention to special elements, such as UV coating layers or cutting dies, which must be created as spot colors and overprinting.
  • One of the most IMPORTANT points are typographies, this is one to cause great headaches, so the first thing we must do is export ALL the typographies used in the document or better yet convert the typographies to paths but you have to evaluate the pros and cons of doing this. For smaller documents it is better to convert typographies to path, but for multiple page documents such as books it is advisable to provide typographies, otherwise the files will become huge.

Final Artworks that include Finishing

The printed materials with finishes are prepared in a special way, so you should consider the following:

Whenever an artwork is sent to print with a cutting die, it is convenient to attach the cutting die line with its cuts and slits. This should go in a separate document of the design that you want to print and in vector format. We have to add 2 cm of extra print around the design as a bleed. It must be with a figure of a totally different color so that it stands out and there are no confusions, special care must be taken with the very small letters and thin lines.

The artworks that use UV coating on specific places must be attached to another layer of the document or in another document, all the places where we want to apply the coating should be reserved; and represented as black vector color.


Photo courtesy:

One of the best things I have learned at the time of preparing final artworks, is that you should apply all of these principles from the beginning, make good use of your layers, sort by colors, styles and elements in all the different programs. This will allow you to understand and get to know your document in a better way so that the printer operators can easily find any element. To answer the initial question, I propose the following answer:

Designers should be concerned about doing an orderly work and detailing all the important aspects in the different documents, they should review, photos, typographies and any element that can be modified, review every detail of the PDF file in case it is a very long document, or the handling of color in a JPG file. As a designer you must demand the corresponding printed proofs of the document so that you can see a preliminary image before authorizing the print run and if necessary there is still time to do corrections.

Photo courtesy:

Like many things in life, good communication is key in this type of work in my opinion the printer operator should not just grab the file and print it, I think you should take the time to review and understand it, being able to confirm with the designer the work that is wanted, hence the printed proofs. So in my opinion, neither the designer nor the printer operator is the sole responsible, but the lack of communication.

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