The Complete Guide to Creating Press Ready Print Files

Even the best designers break out in a cold sweat when it comes time to send a project to a printer. There are a ton of moving parts, checklists and details to keep in mind when it comes to getting your project ready for commercial printing. This guide will cover the technical do’s and dont’s, give you tips and best practices and walk you through how to take a project from your computer to the printing press.

How to Plan For Perfect Color Printing

One of the most common issues with professional printing is sending your printer graphics files that is in the wrong color space. Here’s what you need to remember about color before you send your file to your printer.


Your computer uses a color space called RGB to produce the colors you see on your screen. A printing press uses a color space called CMYK to produce similar colors using just four colors of ink: cyan, magenta, yellow and black, also know as 4 color process. When you send your files to a commercial printer, they must be in the CYMK color space.This is so important that we have a whole page dedicated to RGB vs CMYK color space if you want to learn more.Here’s how you change your color space in InDesign: When you create a new document, the color space changes based on your intent.

InDesign document settings

You can also change the color space in the Color Panel.

InDesign color panel CMYK seting

Spot Colors

Most of the colors produced in color printing are created by blending just 4 colors of ink: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. But sometimes you need a very specific color. Despite all of the advanced techniques and technology at a professional printer, matching the exact color from printer to printer and even from one order to the next can be a challenge. Consistent color-matching is what separates good printers from great ones.When you need a very exact color, such as Coca-Cola’s trademarked red or John Deere’s famous green, you’ll need to use a spot color. A spot color is not created by mixing other types of ink, but rather it is made to order for the project at hand. This also means the printer must make an additional plate for the spot color, which usually makes using a spot color more expensive.If you have to use a spot color, you’re likely using a color from the Pantone Matching System. It is a commonly used system of spot colors that helps press operators achieve the exact same shade, every time. Find a Pantone Color here.

Pantone color book example

Speciality inks like metallics, neons and unique colors will also have to be run as spot colors.Spot colors can be expensive for short run orders, but become more economical if you’re doing larger quantities using offset printing.Viewing spot colors that are blended with other colors, or are somewhat transparent, can be a problem in your page layout program. Make use of Overprint Preview when you’re working with spot colors.

Planning Image Quality for Professional Printing

Low quality and low resolution images produce terrible, ugly, hideous printing but many people don’t understand the relationship between quality and resolution. You must plan for your final output at the beginning of your design, otherwise you’ll be left with an unusable final product.Print will always look better with higher resolution images. Let’s get clear on what we mean by resolution.Image resolution is how much data is in a digital image, it is directly related to how many pixels are in the image. When you print an image, you must transfer that data into dots per inch (DPI) which determines the image quality of a printed piece. Usually, 300 DPI is what you’ll need. Most images on your computer are not at 300 DPI, but 72 DPI. This is because 72 DPI looks good on most computers and the files are much easier for the computer to store and display. Be sure to check your images for print quality and insure that they are 300 DPI or higher.


Leave a Reply