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Setting up Your Files for Printing

If you’re self-designing a brochurebusiness card, or any other printed piece, there are a few things that you need to take into consideration before you send your file to your printer.

At AlphaGraphics of New Bern, our state-of-the-art printers help ensure that your printed collateral looks as good as you originally intended.   We want to share with you a few tips on how you can set up your files so that the final product looks exactly as you intended. This will help cut down on uncertainty and will allow you to focus on creating the perfect design. Before we begin this list of tips, we’d like to talk about the design files themselves. The ideal format is a print-ready .pdf. However, we can work with Illustrator, InDesign, and in some cases, Adobe Photoshop files. 


Graphic DesignerThe images that you see on your computer screen are not an accurate representation of what they will look like in print. This is due to your computer and its ability to use low-resolution images. Commercial printers require high-resolution images to ensure they look their very best.  This is why you should set your images to at least 300DPI. The format of the file is also essential. Such formats as .JPG and .GIF are designed for the web. They don’t work well for print. They also lose quality over time as they’re saved and resaved to your computer. The ideal formats to use are TIFF or PNG.

Setting Up Your Document

Before you start your design, you’ll first need to set up the document. The width and length should match exactly with the final print size. For example, if you want an 11” by 6” card printed, you’ll need to set up your document dimensions to 11” in height and 6” in length.  While 300DPI is the bare minimum resolution you can set your images, 600DPI is much better. It offers a much sharper image and will allow you to scale it as needed. Be sure to set the DPI of the images before you add them to your document. 


color format Markus Spiske The colors you see on your computer monitor are not an accurate representation of what you’ll see on the final printed product. This is due to the individual calibrations of computer and laptop monitors, which us an RGB color scheme. Commercial printers use a CMYK color scheme and use four inks to reproduce the entire color spectrum: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.  Before you begin your design, make sure that you’re designing in a CMYK color scheme, not an RGB one. The same goes for the images that you use as well. You should set them to CMYK before adding them to the document. If you’re unsure or need help, contact your printer before you begin your design.

Vector vs. Raster

A common error that we often see is when customers use the raster format for pieces that require a vector one. Raster is comprised of various pixels and is highly dependent upon resolution. This means that you can’t scale them up without the image becoming pixelated or blurry.  The vector format uses a series of mathematical calculations to form shapes. This means you can scale them up or down, and they won’t lose quality as a raster would. If you’re unsure as to whether you should use a raster or vector format, give your printer a call.

Print Bleed and Layout

The bleed of the document is very important. It’s the area that is outside of the final printed area. Pay close attention to it as it will ensure that the final piece is printed to the edge of the document. It also allows for a margin of error after it’s cut to the required size. The minimum bleed that you should use is 0.125 inches (1/8th of an inch). Depending on what you’re designing, it may require a greater bleed. Items that require framing or heavy card stock often need a much bigger bleed area. The Live Area of your document is the spot where you place your text and important info. The Trim Line is the absolute finished size of the printed piece. For example, if the trim size is 7.25 in x 9.25 in, then the live area is 6.25 in x 8.25 in. For pieces that will require binding, pay close attention to the live area as it can get cut off if it’s too close to the spine or binding.

Printing Help in New Bern

The above tips can help ensure that what you see on your computer monitor is what you’ll see in real life. If you’re ready to start your next project or have any questions about setting up your files for printing, give us a call. At AlphaGraphics of New Bern, we’re much more than a print shop. We’re also marketing experts who you can count on to help you when it comes time to market your business. To learn more about how AlphaGraphics of New Bern can produce and design your next project, you may email usrequest a quote or call us at (252) 633-3199.

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