What does it mean to be Print Ready?
Before I answer this, I would like to tell you a story about my first job as a graphic designer, my first huge project to prepare for commercial printing and a whole lot of anger and cussing. Then I will provide you with a quality freebie.
So there we were..
It was 8pm on a hot summer day, everybody else in the office had left except for the two new designers; me and my friend/coworker, Rhianna* (name has been changed to protect her identity… because honestly, we made some really dumb mistakes that day.)
Our task of the day was to create Print Ready files of the designs we had been working on (relentlessly) for weeks and send them to the printer before we left. By this time we were on our third try of resaving and sending artwork to the printer. Have I mentioned it was 8:00pm and probably a beautiful summer evening? (We had not left work yet, so I can’t be totally sure but I’m willing to bet it was gorgeous outside.)
Our three problems:
- The files were too big to send via email and kept bouncing back to us
- Our sales rep kept asking us to add a bleed area to them
- Neither one of us knew how to add bleed in Photoshop
We were actually working on redesigns of files originally made in Photoshop by the designers before us. Rihanna and I were both pros in all things Adobe Creative Suite, but setting up a file for print in Photoshop was something new to us. It was also a choice neither of us would have made. We preferred using Photoshop only for editing photos, correcting file types, and creating realistic artwork. We used Indesign or Illustrator to set up anything for print and imported the needed artwork there. I still stand behind all of these preferences. I am sure Rhiannha does as well.
For some weird reason our boss had told us before he left that day “you don’t add bleed to Photoshop files” which was very confusing to us… Does that mean we just make it the final size and hope the printer has some very precise cutters? Or? What else do we do?
The first time we tried sending it as the final size. This was wrong. Our sales rep called us within minutes asking us to add bleed.
Still confused by the riddle of adding bleed to Photoshop files, Rhi Rhi and I tried a second time. This time we took everything said to us as literally as possible, abandoning all common sense. We sent the exact same artwork and just added bleed settings during save. Wrong again… We had successfully created PDFs with crop marks and a BLARING white bleed area around our colorful art. This completely defeated the purpose of bleed in the first place.
Third Time is a Charm
By our third try we decided our only solution was build our Photoshop files with the extra bleed space added to the total size to begin with. I actually think an angel took pity on us at this point and whispered the steps in our ear.
Three hours later, we had finally rebuilt every design file to have enough room for bleed without compromising resolution or cutting into our designs. We sent it via FTP and We. Were. DONE.
DONE with creating typographically heavy files in Photoshop, DONE with trying to Email files, and DONE with letting ourselves be uneducated about how to design for print ever again!
The next day I asked my boss for all of the requirements needed from our printer, I saved a list of the bleed requirements, along with a simple formula to use when working in Photoshop to our work drive, I also printed the list out and stapled it – yes, stapled – to the wall.
To be honest, it was such a terrible experience to have to redo thirty files that I wanted to hoard my newfound knowledge. Nobody deserved to know the tricks unless they had cussed and cried over it as long as Rhiannha and I had.
Not to mention, we had somehow escaped college without learning how to do this. I was angry! After all, we had learned all of the basics of designing but didn’t know how to make sure our design was safely ushered from the computer monitor to our hands.
Since then, I’ve figured out that all of this is not that hard to learn. It doesn’t require a complete college course. Just a little help from people who know (like us.. Slate Group).
If you’re anything like me… And you probably are if you are a graphic designer, You want to make sure your file is setup with no question about exactly what the final product is going to look like. You don’t want any surprises.. Just your perfect design in real life, in your hands, feeling like wonderful thick uncoated paper and smelling like sticky black ink.
You wouldn’t dare purposefully create something you know will be sent back to you to *gasp* revise.
Introducing: SG Prepress Academy
Jason, our Prepress Manager/G7 Professional, and I have teamed up to give you all the tools you need to create perfect design files for print. From both a technical standpoint and designer point of view. We also made this to cover confusing things you might be faced with fixing – like inherited Photoshop files.
This section of our website is called the Prepress Academy. Here you can learn the basics of file setup, read how-to-guides, watch quick video tutorials, see reference photos and download free templates. If there is a common file problem we see come through the shop, you can bet we’ve integrated it into the guide. If there is something you would like to know more about or see on the website, let us know! We can assure you we will obsess over it until we’ve created the best simple solution for your problem.
There are some things you just can’t learn from a textbook. Knowing how to setup files for Prepress like the back of your hand is one of them. These are all things we’ve learned from working in print all day every day.
Happily Ever After
Now that I got to tell you my story… Here are the answers to the questions,
*A Print Ready PDF most importantly, has room for bleed, a CMYK color mode, and the correct resolution. Know for sure you are setting up your file correctly by following our guide here.
Or, you can send it to us to have a look at. Judgement Free!