Tips for Digital Files

The following tips can help you reduce time, expense, and frustration in outputting electronic files. Please remember: these are generalizations. If you have questions, contact your Project Manager, or our prepress department. It’s best to discuss a new order as you begin to work on it, especially for complicated pieces.

Document Setup

  • Read your manual. Know your software’s limitations.
  • Avoid using word processing programs for creating page-layouts. They often cause pagination, color, scanning, cropping, and trapping problems.
  • Avoid using photo-retouching programs for creating page-layouts as well. Black text may not separate properly, and type can appear fuzzy or jagged around the edges.
  • Use a style sheet. This can save time, reduce errors, and provide consistency in your document.
  • Similarly, use master pages. This can also save time, reduce errors, and provide consistency in your document.
  • Standardize your software’s default settings for page size, margins, fonts, color, and line weights.
  • Talk with our planning and prepress departments before designing complicated die cut jobs such as custom folders.

Page Layout

  • Build the elements on each page independent of other pages. For example, do not jump text wraps across pages in a two-page spread. Make items that jump the gutter (span two pages) into contiguous elements, each with its own bleed.
  • All elements that touch the trim or edge of the page need to bleed (extend beyond the trim) at least 1/8″ to avoid having bare paper show on edges of the piece after trimming.
  • Panel sizes sometimes must vary on a piece that has multiple folds. An 8-1/2×11″ letterfold, for example, should have the following panel widths: 3-11/16″, 3-11/16″, and 3-5/8″. See our folding guides help center for examples.
  • DO NOT build your files as reader’s OR printer’s spreads. Build your pages as individual pages at actual trim size. We have a single-page workflow where we handle the imposition. Reader and printer spreads cause problems with this workflow, and WILL incur additional time and charges to your job.


  • Send all screen and printer fonts for every typeface used in your document, including fonts used in graphics to avoid font substitution.
  • Avoid using obscure fonts not created by a professional type foundry, or downloaded from freeware and shareware websites.
  • Use the font that has the style attribute you want, such as Helvetica Bold or Times Italic. Do not apply font styles from the style menu or with keyboard commands; they may not print correctly.
  • Avoid using a bold style on a bold, heavy, or black typeface, for instance applying a bold style to Antique Olive Black may not produce the results you expect.
  • Be careful if you use type within a photo retouching program. It may appear fuzzy around the edges. For this same reason, do not use a photo retouching program as a page-layout application.


  • Use tabs, not the space bar, to align type.
  • Reversed type should be at least 10-point.
  • Word-processing programs are not designed to hold line and page breaks. These breaks may vary on an imagesetter. The best solution is to save the document as a PDF file or import the type into a professional page-layout program.


  • Do not use hairline rules. They may not be visible on the printed piece.
  • Delete items that should not be visible. Do not mask them by covering them with white boxes.
  • Scanned images should have a resolution proportionate to the line screen used for output. A 300 DPI maximum resolution is the industry standard for 150-line screen. If you wish to make specific calculations, a general formula is (LPI x 2) x percent enlargement or reduction.
  • Crop photos and art before placing them in a page-layout software. After placing them, only do fine-tuning.
  • Reduce, enlarge, or rotate scanned images in a photo-retouching program before placing them in your document.
  • When you place images for position only, clearly mark them FPO (For Position Only). If an image will be replaced with a high-resolution scan, do not wrap text around the FPO image. Instead, create a polygon around which you wrap the text, then place the FPO image on top of the polygon.
  • Eliminate unnecessary points (nodes) in vector graphics, especially if you have used autotracing.
  • Avoid nesting or embedding graphics. Embedded graphics increase file sizes, may not RIP, might separate improperly, and cannot be altered by our prepress department to fix errors.
  • Do not change any file names after importing them into your document. Our preflight will report missing images, and we will not sift through hundreds of graphics to figure out what image goes where in the layout.
  • PICT, PNG, BMP, GIF, and WMF files are not recommended for output on imagesetters and platesetters. They are typically low-res, RGB, over-compressed, and do not separate properly for CMYK output.


  • When making blends or gradations on spot color jobs, blend from a spot color to a tint of the same color (100% PANTONE 185 C to 0% PANTONE 185 C for example).
  • Understand that the color on your monitor is not going to be the same as the color that will print, monitors simulate the CMYK output, it will not be exact.
  • When you specify spot colors in your document, define them using the page-layout application’s built in PANTONE library, do not mix your own and do not use a made-up spot color name.
  • Use only CMYK color mixes in process color jobs, use only spot colors in spot color jobs.
  • RGB black, is not the same as 100% K, and will separate improperly.
  • RGB color is only acceptable in high-resolution photographs, not as color swatches used to paint elements in vector programs or page-layout apps.
  • If you are using InDesign, use the “Separations Preview” palette to determine how your file will color separate in our RIP.
  • This is useful in determining if your job is going to be a spot color job, or a process color job, and if your blacks will separate out as 100% K, or if they will improperly separate into a four color mix.


  • Transparency effects in InDesign and similar programs may create unexpected or undesirable results when ripping.
  • Transparency requires flattening, this is essentially rasterization of everything layered below a transparent effect, which can negatively effect spot colors and vector objects.
  • If you are designing a spot color document, use ONLY spot colors in your files.
  • If you are designing a process color document, use ONLY process colors in your files.
  • Keep your type ABOVE transparent effects, we recommend using one layer above all other layers specifically for your type.
  • If you are using InDesign, use the “Flattener Preview” palette to determine which areas of your document may be rasterized unexpectedly.


Do not attempt to trap your publication. We do our own trapping within specialized software.


  • Delete extra blank pages and any clutter, such as unused type, boxes, and art, that remains on the pasteboard.
  • Delete unused colors from the color palette.
  • Ensure that your graphic links are intact before collecting for output.


  • Place copies of your layout, fonts, art, and photos in the same folder so that files link properly. Most page-layout applications can do this for you with a “Collect For Output”, “Package” or similar feature.
  • Provide a proof of the most current version of your document. It should be a 100-percent scale, composite laser proof with color breaks, art, and photo placement marked. Include a set of color-separated lasers for jobs that will print with more than one color.
  • For jobs with non-standard, or complicated folds and/or die cuts, please provide a folding-dummy indicating scores, perfs, folds, and cuts to avoid errors.
  • Do not send extraneous files that are not going to be printed by us and do not pertain to the job we are printing for you.