Prepress Checklist: Preparing Your Design for Print

The best way to ensure a smooth transfer of your print files to a quality finished product is to make sure your files are print ready. As we always say, prepress is the gateway to printing success!

Here are a few of the things you’ll want to do before sending your design file to your printer for your next print project.

The Checklist:

1. Check your size and image resolution
You’ll want to make sure your images meet a minimum image resolution of 300dpi. We get many questions about the quality of images and whether they’ll look good in print. It’s better to start out big when producing a digital image, as you can scale down if necessary. If you need your photo at a higher resolution, it’s best to just rescan or reshoot the image. If you start with a vector image or graphic for logos and line art, these will retain a high resolution at any size.

Resolution comparison 72dpi vs 300dpi









2. Choose the correct color mode
Talk with your print representative first to make sure you know how your job will be printing. Will it print on a full-color press or a traditional press? Knowing this will help you decide what color mode to use–Process (CMYK) or Spot (Pantone) colors. These colors may look the same on screen, but the print process will affect the look of the color. When printing in full color always convert from RGB (what your monitor uses) to CMYK, since there is a color shift when changing modes.

3. Crops and bleeds
Crops and bleeds can be turned on when exporting to a PDF. These marks indicate the edges of your design and where it needs to be cut once printed. Crops indicate where the printed area is and the bleeds are the extended area beyond the actual size. Having the appropriate marks will make sure your print piece is trimmed correctly.


Image with Crop and Bleed marks












4. Proper PDF settings
No matter what program you’re using you will most likely create a PDF to send to your printer. It is important to use the correct settings when making the PDF to get the best end result. For our presses we like to use the Press Quality settings as this will embed all fonts and keep the image resolution as is. Adobe Acrobat defaults to Standard settings that will change all images to 150dpi and will not embed the fonts.

5. Contact our Prepress Department
Any time you have a question it is easier and more time efficient to answer questions as they arise. Fixes and changes after the file is received can cause additional charges and delays that can be avoided by simply talking to one of our technicians. If you’re in Madison, WI or the Dane county area please feel free to contact our Prepress Coordinator at or (608) 845-2855.

These 5 tips will hopefully set you up for prepress success! Once you’ve completed each step a few times they will become part of your prepress routine.