How to Create a Print Ready PDF

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How to Create a Print Ready PDF


If you are a Graphic Designer or a Print Buyer of any sort I am sure that you have been asked by your print service provider to supply a high resolution print ready PDF at some point in your career. You may have also been told that your PDF really wasn't "print ready". With any luck your printer let you know about the problems with your file or, as we often do at TPI Solutions Ink, fixed those problems before they printed your job. Some of you may have been charged additional fees to correct the PDF or InDesign file or, even worse, received the completed job with mistakes. Well, don't fret because our TPI Solutions Ink graphic design team, Addy Fulmer and Diana Spurrell, have put together this blog post of helpful tips. Check it out . . . Carrie Grove

How to Create a Print Ready PDF


Don't forget them! A bleed should be used when an object in your document is meant to go to the edge of the printed page.  A standard bleed is .125”. Using a bleed gives some extra room to ensure that your piece is cut down to size correctly. Each Adobe program handles bleeds a little bit differently. Below are examples of how to work with bleeds in InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop. 

InDesign - Bleeds

When creating a new document in InDesign, click the “More Options” button in the new file dialog box to display your bleed settings. Enter 0p9 or .125”.

bleeds-indesignWhen your document opens you will see a red box surrounding your page area, this is the bleed. Make sure that the object you want to bleed extends all the way to this red box, not just to the edge of the page. Below are examples of correct and incorrect uses of bleed.

Correct use of bleed
using-bleeds-printingIncorrect use of bleed


Illustrator - Bleeds

Illustrator does not show any kind of bleed guides within your document. To make something bleed, simply drag it to the outside of the page area. You will specify your bleed settings later when you export the document as a PDF. 

bleeds-adobe-illustratorPhotoshop - Bleeds

There are no bleed settings available in Photoshop when you make a new document. However, it is possible to create a bleed yourself by adding the bleed size to the document size. When creating a new document, add .25” to the width and height to ensure there will be an extra .125” on all sides.

CMYK color

It is important that your document is created using CMYK in order to produce the most accurate color possible, especially when working with images and bright colored objects. Most images use RGB color, which can make them appear slightly brighter than they will actually print. Using Photoshop is the easiest way to change your images from RGB to CMYK very quickly. Open the file and click Image > Mode  > CMYK color. This will convert the color values and make the image printer friendly.

Image Resolution

It is important to always use high-resolution images when creating a printed piece. The higher the resolution, the sharper your image will look. Ideal image resolution is 300dpi. To see what the resolution of an image is, or to change it, open it in Photoshop. Click Image > Image Size and a dialogue box will appear that tells you how big the image is. Note that if you change the resolution, the size of the image itself will also change.

image-resolution-photoshopCreating a PDF

Creating a PDF is the easiest way to ensure that your document will get sent to the printer with all its pieces correctly in place. There are certain rules you should follow when exporting a PDF from an Adobe program which are highlighted below.


To create a PDF from InDesign, go to File > Export. Name your file accordingly and select your file destination. Be sure to change the format to Adobe PDF, then press Save. A dialogue box will appear.

Change the following options:

• Select Adobe PDF Preset: Press Quality

•  If your document has a bleed, click on Marks and Bleeds and check off Use Document Bleed Settings.

• Click Export



To create a PDF from Illustrator, go to Go to File >  Save As. Name your file accordingly and select your file destination. Be sure to change the format to Adobe PDF, then press Save.

A dialogue box will appear.

Change the following options:

• Select Adobe PDF Preset: Press Quality

• If your document has a bleed, click on Marks and Bleeds and enter a value of .125” on top, bottom, left and right.

• Click Save PDF


Before you create a PDF from Photoshop, make sure your color mode is CMYK, your resolution is 300ppi and your layers are flattened.

Once this is done go to File >  Save As. Name your file accordingly and select your file destination. Be sure to change the format to Photoshop PDF, then press Save.

A dialogue box will appear.

Change the following options:

• Select Adobe PDF Preset: Press Quality

• Click Save PDF


Have you found these tips helpful?
If so, please share!



Also important is the registration mark offset. Nothing is more frustrating to a pre-press department than having the registration marks encroaching into the bleed. They should be set larger than .125" (the offset is from the the page edge NOT the bleed edge).
Posted @ Saturday, March 17, 2012 7:57 AM by Karen McLaughlin
It would be really nice if this were a downloadable pdf. It would be most helpful to have to send to beginning graphics designers and others who have not learned the hard way!
Posted @ Saturday, March 17, 2012 1:01 PM by Doug Carlile
The Ghent PDF Workgroup, an international group op prepress experts, has a dozen settings for creating the best 'press ready' PDFs, for different market segments (eg magazine ads, high quality sheetfed jobs, ...). You can download the settings for free:
Posted @ Sunday, March 18, 2012 3:43 AM by Eddy Hagen
Thanks for the feedback! We took your advice and created a downloadable PDF of this blog. It can be found here:
Posted @ Tuesday, March 20, 2012 11:08 AM by Addy Fulmer
As a printer, another frustrating point is the "Actual Size" of the finished product. Size specifications are usually provided to the printer as "Fractions", yet artwork file sizes are provided to the printer in "Decimals". All too often, I will receive specs stating that a letterhead will be 8-1/2" x 11" yet the file size will be 8.463414" x 11.0149253", or, 8-57/123" x 11-1/67". Printers do try to be as precise as possible during production, however, most printers do not have the capability to final trim a product that is measured in units smaller than sixteenths of an inch (1/16" or .0625"). Designers and Graphic Artists should create their artwork with this in mind. 1/2" (.500") is great, 3/8" (.375") is good, 7/16" (.4375") is OK. Though the entertainment value increases when we see 57/123" or 1/67", so does the frustration and lost time.
Posted @ Sunday, April 01, 2012 6:43 AM by E. Keith Storey
I have a question about the right way to indicate white ink in a design document to go to a printer. For example, I want to print white ink on a plexy back. I don't want to select "paper" in indesign because that would make the text "cut out of the image". Should I use "black ink" at 0% opacity? Or a color swatch with 0 cmyk? What is your suggestion. If I were printing on a paper (the same graphic) I suppose I would choose the color swatch "paper" right? Thanks!
Posted @ Thursday, August 22, 2013 1:23 PM by Reat
Hi Reat, 
The way we design with white ink is to treat it like any other spot color, simply create a new spot color swatch and apply it to the areas you would like the white ink to print in. The "paper" swatch tells the program not to print anything in that area, while creating a spot color for the white ink tells it something should be printed. For more information about printing in white ink, check out another one of our blog posts: We Love White Ink & We Can Print It on our HP Indigo Press
Posted @ Thursday, August 22, 2013 1:59 PM by Addy Fulmer
Great post. 
Posted @ Sunday, February 16, 2014 11:54 PM by Joe
this is a good blog.
Posted @ Thursday, April 03, 2014 5:15 AM by Mack
Thank you. Finally a simple tutorial!
Posted @ Thursday, August 28, 2014 6:29 AM by Julie
You're welcome Julie! So glad you find it helpful!
Posted @ Thursday, August 28, 2014 7:24 AM by Carrie Grove
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