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If you choose to design your own files for print, it is important to understand the basics of design to avoid any production issues. Your project will go a lot smoother and you will be much happier with the final results!




Due to slight shifting that occurs during printing and trimming, any artwork that is designed too close to the final trim edge is at risk of being cut off or may show inconsistent margins. We encourage any artwork that is not intended to reach the edge of the final print be at least 1/4 to 3/8 inch away from the trim edge. This is considered the safe area. Margins on smaller projects such as a business card may be reduced as low as 1/8 inch if needed. 

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The lack of bleed is a common issue encountered by prepress operators. Although some printers will go ahead and print the file anyway, we do try to correct the file as best we can if a client is unable. 


What is bleed !?

Bleed is the concept of extending artwork past the edge of the final trim line. When a document has bleed, it must be printed on a larger sheet of paper and then trimmed down to the finished size.


Now why would I need extra artwork that gets cut off anyways? Well, printing and trimming will never be 100% perfect. That being said, we work diligently to stay within a 1/16 inch tolerance. But without bleed, any artwork that’s intended to be printed to the edge of the page is at risk of either showing slivers of white border or it might be undercut, taking off artwork that you want shown. 

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Not all programs use the same process for outputting bleeds. To ensure that you design with bleeds correctly, download these step by step instructions, scroll to the program you've choose to design in, and follow the steps accordingly.



Your document page size should be set to match the finished print size with the exception of bleeds. A common misconception of the standard sizes of paper (5.5x8.5, 8.5x11, 11x17) is that they do not scale 50% of each other regardless that they're half the size when folded.

For example, a handbook that's set up at 8.5x11 will not scale proportionately to print as a 5.5x8.5 booklet. Likewise, a 8.5x11 flyer is not comparable to an 11x17 poster.

The picture on the left represents the original 8.5x11 size of a flyer or handbook page. The picture on the right shows what they would look like after having to stretch the artwork to fit the finished print size of 5.5x8.5 or 11x17. 

*If your document size does not match the desired finished print size, the artwork will be distorted unless given further instructions to recreate internally.

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Another issue we run into is receiving imposed files such as multiple up on a page or booklet spreads. Imposition refers to the process of arranging pages on a press sheet, in order to obtain faster printing, reduce paper waste, and save money for the customer! Conveniently, we have programs that allow for appropriate impositions so it's always best to send us single page documents. To clarify this process of imposition here are a couple examples:

Multiple Up on a Press Sheet   

A flyer, depending on the details of the project, can be imposed in many ways. 


Finished Size: 4.25x5.5

8-up on an 11x17 press sheet

No Bleeds or Gutters needed


Finished Size: 8.5x11

2-up on a 12x18 press sheet

Bleeds & Gutters needed


Finished Size: 6x7.75

4-up on a 13x18 press sheet

Bleeds & Gutters needed

8-Page Booklet Spread  

The single pages of a book are automatically arranged so that after printed, folded and trimmed, the pages will appear in their respective order. In the example below, notice how page 2 and 3 are NOT printed on the same sheet of paper. Yet, once it's bound together, the pages will then be adjacent once again. 

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*NOTE: Saddle Stitched (stapled) booklets must be divisible by four.

There are a lot of variables that go into deciding how a project is set up and printed.

To save time and confusion, it's best to send documents as single pages in ascending order.

We'll take care of the rest!!




RGB  (Red-Green-Blue)

RGB colors are strictly used to generate images on a computer screen or a digital camera. This is the default setting for many software programs, but is not suitable for printing purposes. Therefore, all artwork and images should be converted and/or designed in CMYK color mode or with spot colors.


*Please note that RGB colors seen on a computer screen are not an accurate representation of the color on printed paper.

CMYK  (Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black)

Used in both digital and offset printing, 4-color process printing combines percentages of four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) to produce a complete printed image. This is the standard printing process you find in all full color printed materials.


Colored artwork or images are broken down into four separate layers (CMYK). The four colors are printed on top of one another using tiny dots to reproduce the colored image onto the page. See example below:


*For projects that are printed as full color, we suggest to convert all Pantone spot colors and RGB objects to CMYK color mode. 

Spot Colors / PMS (Pantone Matching System)

Spot colors are simply colored inks (similar to house paint). They are utilized when a specific color needs to be met. They are known for their precision and consistency in reproducing color. Instead of artwork being printed with the four layers of CMYK, it only uses one layer of ink to produce the appropriate color.


Spot colors are referred to as Pantone or PMS colors. PMS (Pantone Matching System) is a color system based upon over one thousand standardized inks which are specified by a number. When selecting a specific Pantone color we recommend using our Pantone books as colors may vary from one book to another. 

Paint Pots and Color Wheel

Spot colors can only be reproduced on an offset printer. When printed digitally, your project will be printed as a 4-color process.
If you're looking
 to match a Pantone color for a certain element in your design, we will make every effort to match that color as

close as possible using CMYK values.

Black vs. Rich Black

Believe it or not there are two types of black:

Standard black (made up of black ink only) and Rich Black (made up of all CMYK colors)

The two might look the same on your screen, but they won’t on paper. Since rich black contains all colors it will result in a deeper/darker black. Be sure to check the color values in all black text and objects for consistency. 

When printing jobs on a black ink only digital printer, the printer will automatically convert any color artwork to produce a black and white (grayscale) palette. However, it’s not that easy with offset printing. The programs used in offset printing are not automatic, therefore the files will need adjusted accordingly. 


When designing with black or grayscale elements be sure that:

1. All images are converted to grayscale color mode (not CMYK or RGB gray)

2. Any objects or text consists of black only (not CMYK black). *Especially with text! It’s difficult to keep registration due to fine lines.

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