e-idea file



A great summer salad fresh from your own garden... that's the metaphor we've chosen on a cold day for a review of digital printing file preparation tips. After all, a garden can be trying, but more often than not, it is a labor of love. Tend it well, and the fruits of your labors will be entirely rewarding.

Document size should be set to the trim size of the printed page. Bleed (if applicable) should extend 1/8 inch beyond the trim for all bleeding elements. The repositioning or extending of page objects to create bleeds should be performed by the original designer to avoid additional pre-press charges and additional proofing cycles.

All jobs submitted electronically, preferably via file upload, should be accompanied by a PDF from the originating application for reference during the production process.


Keep in mind that digital printing is CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) process. RGB (red, green, blue) images can be left as RGB, or can be converted to CMYK. A good option is to convert to CMYK using Photoshop ahead of submitting your files. RGB Conversions done "on the fly" during the printing process can sometimes yield varying results, but often have a wider color spectrum. Likewise, Pantone and spot color must be converted to CMYK equivalents which can result in a shift in color depending on the specific color(s) chosen.


Image compression allows files to be transferred more quick across the internet, but can sometimes cause the loss of valuable image information that cannot be restored. Therefore, uncompressed file formats such as TIFF and EPS should be used whenever possible (LZW compression of TIFFs is acceptable). Beware with compressed file formats such as JPEG that you avoid recompressing an image multiple times, as this can introduce artifacts into your image.


Digital presses are very capable of reproducing excellent color; however, they can sometimes perform less well when reproducing large areas of some colors in the mid-tone tint range. Selecting different stocks can help ensure a good end result. Reproduction quality can also be improved by choosing either a lighter or darker percentage depending on the color.

When streaking occurs in large areas of flat tints, selecting different stocks doesn’t always solve the problem; printing a pattern or going darker or lighter can.


Even small knockout type on black can work well on digital presses because dry inks and toners do not bleed (spread) the same way traditional inks do in offset printing. While it is counter-intuitive, registration can be a problem with reverse type on both digital and offset presses. If this occurs, consider simplifying the build color of which the type is reversed out.


Unlike offset printing, hardcopy proofing of digital print jobs is typically done on the exact piece of equipment the job will be printed on allowing the creator of the files to see exactly what the end result will look like before proceeding with the entire print run if necessary. For most digital print jobs, electronic PDF proofs are satisfactory and allow the most expedient means of proofing for time-sensitive projects. Where color is more critical, hardcopy proofs can provide an additional layer of accuracy and comfort although they involve additional time and cost. We typically only recommend proofing on the actual stock if it is a unique stock.


  • InDesign
  • QuarkXPress
  • Illustrator
  • Acrobat PDF files are acceptable as proofs as well as final files, if they have been generated with the "press" settings and include all the fonts, bleeds and trim marks.


  • TIF (TIFF)
  • Illustrator EPS
  • Photoshop EPS (advisable if image-embedded clipping paths are used)
  • High-resolution JPEG (beware of multiple compression)


  • MAC Format: Open Type, Type 1 or TrueType (avoid mixing these within the same job)
  • PC Format: Open Type or TrueType


  • File Upload (compressed with Zip or Stuffit)
  • E-mail (compressed with Zip or Stuff-It, this should only be used for small files)


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