Checking artwork before sending to print
Tuesday, 06 March 2012 15:37

Artwork checklist

Some things to check, that will make your job run smoother, cheaper, and more predictably:.


  • Check document size, folds and trims
  • Spell and grammar check
  • Ensure the file has the bleeds it needs.
  • If it is saddle stitched, Page count must be a multiple of 4.


  • When colour matching is required, provide a sample, or specify a PMS colour to match to.
  • Avoid mixing colour spaces especially when using transparency effects (Drop shadows, blends, etc)
  • Check white elements for "overprint" (use "output preview" in Indesign or Acrobat) This common error is caused by changing a black element with an overprint setting (automatically applied to blacks in illustrator) to white. Since white is actually the paper it cannot overprint, so the setting will cause it to disappear.
  • As a proofing device, your screen (computer, phone, pad) is not a good indicator of colour. It can give you a "feel" a comparison of colour, but "Soft proofing" is for content and extreme colour errors. If your focus is the accuracy of subtle colour tones, you'll need a hard proof.
  • More on screens: those subtle shadow tones (in the 85 to 99% range) that work so well on screen will reproduce, unfortunately they will only be apparent when you shine a light through the paper, to all intents and purposes it will appear to be black. Be wary of subtle tones in heavy ink-weight areas. Such is the nature of subtractive colour (print). On the other hand that 1% to 15% gradient that is almost invisible on screen will produce a definite vignette of colour in print. (Additive colour expresses the same issue at the opposite end of the scale.)


  • The correct optimum resolution for photos in print is 300dpi
  • There is no difference between digital and offset resolution capabilities. The only reason to "downsample" is for file size. which is a legacy consideration of little importance today.
  • Proper resolution is essential for crisp, highly detailed images, but don't be afraid of lower resolution for low detail, textural, or "mood"  shots, or for work that will only be seen from a distance. As a guide even 100 dpi will still look good in most applications.
  • Supplying higher than 300dpi may be appropriate in a composite image (raster and vector elements rasterized on output (Photoshop))
  • Artificially increasing the resolution does not give you a clearer image, if you have not got the resolution; accept the fact and decide to either replace it, place it at a smaller size, or live with it.
  • Keep images in their source colour space and with profiles intact. The time for conversion to an output colour space is when distributing the file. In this workflow regime you can select the optimum colour space and output profile for each output application (Print, Multimedia, etc) without compromise.
  • Converting an image to cmyk does allow predictable colour in print, but we do not recommend that. Much of the gamut is lost and cannot be recovered in a conversion back to RGB. So an image purposed for print and re-purposed for screen will never look as vibrant as the original RGB image. If you choose to edit photos in cmyk, work on a copy, not the original.


  • Embed fonts in a press ready PDF.
  • If embedding is prohibited, convert that text to curves.
  • Avoid Rasterizing text

Acceptable files

  • Press ready PDF is the standard file format for printing
  • Alternately and where alterations or colour correction/retouch is required a "packaged" Indesign file is the preferred format.
  • Other file formats are acceptable but can result in additional costs.




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