Shout FULL BLEED here and no one calls the paramedics

Are your files print ready?

Properly prepared files for print will make the printing process much easier for you and your printer. Achieving this is not difficult; it just requires a few simple steps which will become second nature in no time.

Checklist for submitting properly prepared print files:

- Print document is properly prepared and includes a bleed of 0.125”
- All links and colours used in the print document are in the CMYK colour spectrum
- High resolution pdf file is created with bleeds or working files are packaged and supplied

Fancy Jargon of a Print Document Layout:

The diagram below is a visual representation of the specific areas of a properly prepared print file.

Live Area/Safe Area: Is the main section of the document where all important information should be.
Trim Line: This is the edge of the document. Nothing important, especially text, should be outside the trim line as it will be trimmed off.
Crop Marks: These tiny lines line up with the trim line and indicate where to cut or trim the printed document.
Bleed Area: The bleed area is where the image or background colour should extend if a bleed effect is desired.

Adding a bleed:

To make an image or background colour run to the very edge of the page when printed, the image or background colour must run over the trim line and into the bleed area. We prefer our files with a 0.125” bleed area. As a best practice, always prepare, save, and submit your files for print with a bleed, but keep in mind that anything past the trim line will be trimmed off.

To add a bleed to your InDesign file go to File > Document Setup, and set the Top, Bottom, Inside, Outside bleed to 0.125”, click OK.

You will now see a red line 0.125” outside of the trim line. The space between the two lines is known as the bleed area. Anything that you want to bleed off the edge of the document, such as colour or images, should be extended past the trim line covering the bleed area right to the red bleed line.

For other programs such as Photoshop and some older versions on Illustrator, add 0.25” (0.125 x 2) to the width and height of the file size. Center the live area so there is 0.125” bleed all the way around the trim line. Position guides on the trim line and draw in crop marks. Again, only extended colour or images meant to bleed past the trim line should be in the bleed area.


Full colour offset and digital printing is achieved by printing only four colours; cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, better known as CMYK. To achieve the desired colour, all images, text and colour used must be set to the CMYK colour spectrum. To learn more about colour spectrums, click here.

If you are using a spot colour in InDesign, be sure to add the colour to the Swatches palette. If you are using a spot colour in Photoshop, merge all elements of the spot colour on to one layer and name the layer appropriately and provide a PSD or TIFF file to the printer when submitting the artwork. Also, it’s a good idea to review a hard copy sample before printing to ensure colour accuracy.

When printing black, there are two different options available. Black, as found in the InDesign swatches palette is made up of 100K and should be used for text. Rich Black made up of 20C 20M 20Y 100K should only be used for large block of black colour to achieve a dark, rich black colour.

Images and other links:

In addition to properly preparing the document for print, it is important to ensure all images and links used within the document are formatted properly. All images and links should be assigned a CMYK colour spectrum and have a resolution of at least 300 dpi, anything less may print blurry or pixelated. For more information on resolution, click here. If images or links created in Photoshop or Illustrator contains layers, it is best to save them as a TIFF or PSD in Photoshop, or as an EPS or AI file in Illustrator, so the layers can be accessed if necessary.

Saving a high resolution PDF for print:

Now that your document is correctly setup, it is critical to ensure the information is captured in a high resolution Portable Document Format or PDF.

From InDesign: Delete all unnecessary text and images outside the bleed area.

File > Export > Type file name > Select Adobe PDF (print) from the ‘Save as type:’ drop down menu > Choose where to save the pdf file > Click Save.

In the Export Adobe PDF menu under Adobe PDF Preset at the top select ‘[High Quality Print]’. This default will set the export quality to 300 dpi. Click ‘Marks and Bleeds’ on the left side menu. On this menu under Marks ensure ‘Crop Marks’ is checked. Under Bleed and Slug also check ‘Use Document Bleed Settings’. Click ‘Export’.

Working files: Providing working files to your printer will give them the ability to adjust the document as needed, unlike most PDFs. If asked to provide working files, it is necessary to include all images, links, and fonts, as well as the original working document and a high resolution pdf.

This can easily be done in InDesign by selecting File > Package, then simply follow the steps to produce a folder containing all the elements required, including a .idml file of the working InDesign file. Compress or zip the folder before emailing or uploading to an ftp site.

To prepare working files for a document that was created in Photoshop or Illustrator, rasterize text or convert all text to outlines and save the file as a TIFF or PSD in Photoshop or as an EPS or AI file. This will preserve the individual layers allowing the file to be edited if necessary. If using CS6 and up, collect all necessary elements using the package feature, similar to InDesign.

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