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What do we mean by 'print-ready'?

Updated: Jan 12

print ready

Great question!

Chances are, you are asking this question because you have approached your local printer and they have asked if your artwork file is ‘print-ready’.

If your response was to look at your printer with a puzzled face and feel overwhelmed – you are not alone!

We get asked this question ALL the time, so we have decided to take the time to sit down and explain…

Print-ready is a term used to describe an artwork file that has been set-up correctly as per the printers’ requirements and is ready for the printer to load up to the machine for printing.

Now, obviously the nitty gritty of what is required can vary from printer to printer or from product to product, so it is ALWAYS best to ask your printer what they require.

This is (of course) if YOU are supplying the artwork to your printer. If, however, your printer is able to produce the design for you, or you are paying them to take care of the design component, they will take care of creating the ‘print-ready’ file for you.

Now, before we dive into a list of what kinds of things you need to consider or have organised for your artwork to be considered ‘print-ready’, let’s take a quick look at what a print-ready file is NOT.

A print-ready file is NOT:

  • An artwork file that requires re-sizing. If you supply an artwork file that has everything you need, however, just requires us to re-size to the correct size, this is NOT considered print-ready as it still involves additional work in order to make it ready for print.

  • A file with no bleed. Most print products require a minimum of 5mm bleed to ensure you get a clean finish on your prints when they are cut to size. Fabric prints, often require 20-45mm of bleed to allow for hemming or any specialty finishes. Providing a file without bleed, will often be rejected as not being ‘print-ready’.

  • A mock-up. An image that shows you how your design will look when printed, or that shows us how you would like your design to look, does not constitute as a print-ready file. Mock-ups can be great ways of giving us a brief to design your work, but this doesn’t work as a print-ready file.

  • A low resolution file. A file that is pixelated, fuzzy or not clear is not considered a print-ready file. We may be able to print that file, but it is not going to give you the quality outcome you desire.

  • An image file. Generally, all print-ready files supplied to a printer are supplied as high resolution PDF’s – NOT as image files (png or jpeg). Some printers may accept an image file, but pdf’s are ALWAYS preferred.

  • An image downloaded on your phone and converted to a pdf. Unfortunately, while it is convenient to search for and use images off your phone, often images that look great on your phone, don’t always work well when enlarged on a print. Converting these images to a pdf, doesn’t do anything to increase the quality or make it print-ready, all it does is change the file type.

  • Photo of a photo. Taking an image of a photo you wish to have printed, doesn’t always work when re-produced. Often the resolution is quite low and you wind up with an image file that isn't considered print-ready.

  • Embroidery Files. Embroidery files are generally set up differently to be compatible with an embroidery machine. So, unless you are getting embroidery done, these files are not suitable for standard digital or large format printing.

  • Watermark. Files with a watermark (washed out logo or text over the top), meaning they were created using a free program or on another software, aren't considered print-ready. Files supplied with a watermark generally indicate that the file is a low resolution draft that hasn't yet been paid for or is not owned by you. These files are not considered print-ready as they are low resolution and will result in a strange watermark being printed over the top.

  • Scan of a photo. Scanning a photo isn’t a print-ready file. Often it ends up low resolution or with imperfections that can impact the quality when printed.

  • Physical Print. Bringing in a physical item, whether it be a business card, piece of clothing or previous print, doesn’t constitute as ‘print-ready’. You may have had this printed before, however, without the digital file this isn’t considered ‘print-ready’.

  • Logo Files. A logo file is NOT considered a print-ready file. You may have had this designed or created by a professional, who supplied you with all the files. But, to make this a print-ready file, the logo needs to be positioned ON the template of the design product you wish to print. Just providing a logo requires us to prepare and position the file on a template and then export it as a print-ready pdf. The need for this work & time, means the logo file itself is not considered ‘print-ready’.

Any of the above scenarios are NOT considered print-ready and will often incur design or artwork fees from your designer in order for them to assist you in converting your file to a ‘print-ready’ file.

Now that we have that out of the way. Let’s take a look at what DOES constitute a print-ready file…

  1. Correct size. Your artwork file should be set-up to the correct size for the product you are purchasing. Printers will generally have templates available to assist you in this department. Ours can be downloaded off or website, or if you are ever unsure you can also contact our friendly sales team. Printers tend to work in millimetre measurements – so bonus points for having your design set-up in millimetres! (But this is certainly not essential)

  2. Bleed. Make sure your design has a minimum of 5mm bleed (or 40mm for fabrics). This is to ensure you get a nice clean finish when your print is cut or hemmed to size.

  3. High resolution. You want your design to be high resolution and NOT pixelated or fuzzy at full size. You can check this yourself by zooming in to 100% on your computer or phone to see how clear it looks up close.

  4. Pdf’s are best. It is always preferred you provide the artwork in a high-resolution pdf.

  5. Ensure you text or artwork is WITHIN the safe zone. Some product templates have a clear safe zone and require you to keep any text away from the edges of the design to avoid your artwork being cut off when produced. Make sure your print-ready file complies with this.

We hope this helps to clear up the term ‘print-ready’ and makes it quicker & easier for you when you next get in touch with your local printer to get some printing done.

IF you are still unsure, you are always welcome to get in touch with our friendly team.

We do also have a print checklist that you can download from our website to give you an extra reminder, when preparing your files.


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