11 Apr

Checklist: How to Create a Print-Ready File

By Kevin Crimmins

Checklist: How to Create a Print-Ready File

There’s a feeling of satisfaction when you submit a file to a printer and receive, “That’s perfect – thanks!” as a response. Unfortunately, some label vendors may not make their file requirements clear up front, resulting in a frustrating back-and-forth discussion that can push timelines further and further into the distance.

To make your label buying process as smooth as possible, here is our handy checklist that gives you everything you need to make your file “print-ready.”

✔You Are Using an Appropriate File Format

You don’t necessarily have to purchase expensive graphic design software just to prepare a file for your label printer. Most commercial printers will have access to a wide range of software and will be able to accept a variety of file formats.

However, keep in mind that some formats carry more critical information than others. Certain software tools are meant more for business or home use, not commercial printing. Word processing and presentation programs, for example, may have basic imaging capabilities, but they are not robust enough to create print-ready files.

At The Label Printers, we can work with files in the following formats (provided they adhere to the rest of our artwork guidelines): AI (Adobe Illustrator), PSD (Photoshop), INDD (InDesign),  and PDF. Acceptable file formats for images are TIFF and EPS (best quality), JPG, PNG and BMP (may be some degradation due to compression).

If you’re not sure you can create a file with the appropriate format, your label printer should be able to advise you or walk you through the conversion process.

✔Your Images Are in CMYK Mode

Computer monitors and printing equipment both create a spectrum of colors from a few building blocks, but the building blocks are different. Computers use red, green, and blue (RGB), while presses use cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK - the K stands for “key”).

Modern graphic design applications will let you convert from one color mode to the other, but keep in mind that the standard range of CMYK colors is smaller than the RGB range. To preserve your colors, design in CMYK mode from the beginning.

(If you are printing a logo that contains only a few colors, but those colors have to be perfectly matched, you may prefer to define them using the Pantone Matching System [PMS]. These would be printed as “spot” colors. Be sure to discuss with your label printer how much color variation you can tolerate.)

✔Your Images Are in High-Resolution (≥300 dpi) or Vector Format

Digital images lose definition as they are enlarged. If an image is printed too large for its resolution, it will appear pixelated and blurry. For the purposes of printing custom labels, usually an original resolution of anywhere from 300 to 360 dots per inch (DPI) will turn out fine. Much higher than that, and the file becomes too large and difficult to work with.

Or even better, submit images in vector form. Vector graphics describe image components with mathematical formulas, not pixels. They do not degrade at any size. Vector file formats are especially useful for logos.

✔You Have Provided the Necessary Fonts and/or Converted Your Text to Outlines

Don’t assume your label printer has the same set of fonts as you. Your label printer’s software will try to replace any font it doesn’t have with one it does. The results aren’t always pretty.

Be sure to supply your label printer with all the fonts you use in your design. If no editing needs to be done, a great option is to convert all the text to outlines. This will turn your text into graphics.

✔You Set the Proper Bleeds

Printers need a little wiggle room to account for variations in the printing process and minute shifts in the position of a printing surface. A bleed provides that wiggle room; it extends the edge of an image or color area a small margin past where it is intended to be cut.

At The Label Printers, we ask for 1/16-inch bleeds. If you don’t know how to set a bleed, your label printer can guide you.

✔You Have Supplied Artwork in the Exact Dimensions Ordered

You can avoid any miscommunication about the size of your artwork by providing it with the same dimensions (height, length, and width) you want it to appear on your label. We recommend setting your graphic design software to measure units in inches (rather than pixels) to align your artwork with the units typically used in print shops.

Any Questions?

You don’t have to be an expert in graphic design or printing to get a great-looking custom label. A good label printer will explain everything you need to know and lead you through the process of turning your vision into a label. To talk to one of the most experienced custom label printers in the business, contact us today.

Get a Printable Version of the Checklist