Our preference is to have bitmap images submitted in TIFF format, vector images as Illustrator or EPS files, and layouts as PDF/X-4 files or native files in InDesign 2 or later or QuarkXPress 4 or later, but we can accept documents created in almost any popular Mac graphics or layout program and most PC graphics programs as well. In all cases, be sure to include any placed images that are part of your layout along with the main file to give us as much ability as possible to troubleshoot your files, if necessary. Fonts should also be included or converted to outlines before sending.
We have a great deal of expertise in converting and trouble-shooting files, so there is little we can't handle. Files from office programs such as Word, Publisher and PowerPoint can be difficult to output properly, so we recommend against them. If you can, convert them to pdf files. If not, there is a $25 charge for us to work with these files. When sending CorelDraw files, be sure to convert all fonts to curves and send an eps version as well, if possible.
We require that you include your document fonts, convert them to outlines, or embed them in your file, and we also recommend some kind of proof so that we can verify that no problems have occurred in transferring your file to our system. A low res jpeg or pdf file works great for this purpose, but be sure to name in such a way that we know it's for proofing purposes and not be used for the printing of your job. Labeling it as Proof Only will work fine.
If saved properly, PDF files are a great way to submit your layouts, but we will have limited ability to change what you give us so it's important to double check your files before sending them to make sure the size and resolution are correct. In general, you want to save a pdf file that contains all the resolution of your original and doesn't jpeg compress the images. If available, PDF/X-1a, PDF/X-3 or PDF/X-4 settings would all be good choices. Contact us for questions regarding how to properly create these types of files.
If your print requires mounting, die cutting, or the size is critical, then you should allow for 1/4" bleed on all sides of your file or outside the cutting path. If you are ordering double sided prints, you should allow 1/2" bleed. This will allow us to trim your print to size more precisely without having the paper edge show. If the final trim size of your print can vary by 1/8" or if your print doesn't require mounting, then bleed is not necessary.
For jobs such as murals, tradeshow backdrops, wallpaper prints or others that require the job be printed in multiple sections, it's best to leave your design as a single large image rather than trying to break it into panels for us. If you split the image up yourself, we loose control over any adjustments that need to be made for overlap of the panels.
Resolution and File Size
The proper resolution for scanned images is really dependent on the viewing distance for the finished print, and the quality you would like. For viewing distances of 5 feet or more, images should be at least 100 dpi at their actual final output size, and we recommend 150 dpi. At viewing distances of 10 feet or greater, 72 dpi images at the actual print size will produce good results.
For image that are to be viewed closer than 5 feet, higher resolution images are required for the best quality output. A minimum of 150 dpi at the final output size is recommended for images viewed from 2-3 feet, with 200 - 300 dpi at the actual print size being recommend for prints viewed closer than 2 feet. There is no noticeable improvement in images above 300 dpi, but if your print contains text or line art elements that are part of the bitmap image, higher resolutions could be beneficial. In general, it is best to leave these types of elements in their native form for the best quality output.
Scans can be in either RGB or CMYK. We find that on glossy medias or for backlit images, the RGB color space provides the best color depth and contrast, but there is not a significant difference on more matte finished medias. Files tend to reproduce more accurately in CMYK, but our color profiling minimizes this difference.
We use the US Web Coated (SWOP) profile for CMYK images, and the Adobe RGB (1998) profile for RGB images. For the most accurate color, you can either use these profiles for your images, or embed your working profiles in your images and we'll convert them to our space for accurate color.
All files and layouts should be setup at actual size if possible. For programs such as QuarkXPress that may not be capable of creating a file at the actual size of your project, you can create the file at 1/2 or 1/4 size, and we will enlarge it before printing. Keep in mind that your images should fit the resolution guidelines above when enlarged to their final size. For example, a 300 dpi image at 1/4 scale will only be 75 dpi when printed at actual size.
For any job where the final color is critical, we recommend a color proof before we run your final prints. The extra cost could easily pay for itself if problems are found with the color. Contact us if you have questions about this process and we will help you determine the best approach for your job.