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File Prep

Digital File Assembly Guidelines

To reduce your costs in prepress and turn-around time for proofs, Great Lakes Integrated recommends using the following steps as a guide for correct file assembly:


Files should be assembled in a page layout application such as InDesign. Logos and vector art should be created in a vector drawing program such as Illustrator. All art elements should be linked, not embedded within other documents unless absolutely necessary. If this is the case, embedded art should also be supplied in its original format. Work-up files, such as Photoshop documents with layers and channels, should also be supplied.


Elements that print all the way to the edge of the trim on a page are called bleed elements and should extend in the file beyond the edge of the page by one eighth of an inch minimum. When the finished piece is trimmed, it is impossible to cut all pieces exactly on the edge of the printed area, by extending the art (or bleeding it), the finishing department is assured of all elements trimming consistently.


As stated earlier, logos and vector art should be created in Illustrator, then saved as .eps and imported into the page layout file.

Bitmap based files do not provide a smooth appearance. This rule applies to .tif or .eps files saved from PhotoShop. PhotoShop is a bitmap-based file format and does not support the Bezier curves the vector programs do. This means the bitmaps can be used only at 100% of the actual size or smaller; otherwise they will appear pixilated on the final piece. Alternately, vector art can be sized as large or as small as desired without sacrificing quality.

It may take more time to draw correct art than to rasterize or scan something, but the perfection afforded by the vector programs is well worth the effort.


PostScript fonts are always preferred for use in file assembly. TrueType fonts, though sometimes used successfully (and are cheap and easy to come by), should be avoided. All fonts used in the creation of your file must be provided to ensure correct processing of your file. Stylizing fonts in the style palette is not recommended, because when using this palette, the application allows you to create fonts that may not actually exist and when this happens, your high-end proof will not look like the hard copy off your laserprinter. The appropriate font must be used by choosing the actual font in the font menu.


Information regarding the colors actually used in the design should be clearly indicated. Properly prepared files will contain clean color palettes with colors not in use deleted from the palettes and all colors in use residing in palettes identically. Duplicate colors should be merged before releasing a file to any prepress establishment. Spot colors should be identified by the default library name (PANTONE 540 CV) and process colors should be named as a process mix, which indicates the percentage of each process color within the mix (100c55m0y55k). Similarly, multi-inks should be named by the percentage of color in the mix (70% PANTONE 540 with 30% black would appear as 70-540_30k). By naming colors in this manner, you have the opportunity to be sure all colors are created equally. Settings for color mode in Illustrator should be set to CMYK.


InDesign has a great tool that allows you to preview the color breaks on screen before releasing files. “Under the “Window” tab, scroll down to “Output” and choose the Separations Preview” Option. A new window will open that allows you to preview color separations. By turning colors on and off, you can turn all the process colors off and the only thing left on the monitor will be the spot channels. If you have two or more of the same color, this can help you to isolate the items using the wrong color name and change it, or you’ll be able to view elements that should be spot, but aren’t set up as such.


Because the printing process is a CMYK process, all images should be provided as such. Otherwise, they will have to be converted before proofing. Should you desire GLI to perform any color correction to your images, then please provide RGB images, as the color space is larger and the ability to correct color is greater.


The resolution of bitmap images out of PhotoShop must be two times the output line screen frequency. An acceptable resolution for most images is 300 to 400ppi (pixels per inch) when using the image at 100% in your document. This will support 150 lpi up to 200 lpi. If the images are extremely reduced or enlarged in your files, the resolution should be adjusted accordingly. Vector art can also be dependent upon resolution. Settings for output resolution in Illustrator should be set to at least 2400. The setting is found under the file menu\document setup\printing & export output resolution then for each element under color palette\attributes\output.


Current hard copy must accompany the job. We check our proofs against your hard copy for accuracy; if no hard copy or incorrect hard copy is provided, it causes unnecessary and sometimes costly delays. Separated lasers help designers to verify that process colors, spot colors, overprints, etc., separate properly before ever releasing files for expensive high-end proofs. Properly formatted PDF proofs are considered acceptable hard copy.


Avoid process color mixes on small typeface, fonts with thin strokes and very thin rules.

Avoid reversing small typefaces, fonts with thin strokes and very thin rules out of fields made up from process color mixes.

Be aware of overprint settings. If used intentionally, they should be clearly noted and white should NEVER overprint, as this renders white to be invisible.


You can save time and money by providing print-ready pdfs in lieu of native files. Instead of sending the InDesign file, all your fonts and links, you can send one file that is ready to trap and proof.

Keep in mind that any editing pdfs is limited and takes longer than editing native files.

Once you have your proof, if you need to make revisions, you may have to do them yourself and resubmit the file or send the native files for the prepress department if you want them to make the revisions.

Before proceeding, be sure you have sufficient bleeds where necessary and all your spot colors fall on the correct color plate. You can check this through the “Seperations Preview” window. If there is more than one color by that name, you can go page-by-page, turning the inks on and off to see where the rogue color may be and correct it before generating your pdf.




Once your file is properly prepared for print, you can provide a pdf to expedite the prepress process.

In InDesign, under the”FILE” tab, locate the Adobe PDF Presets.

InDesign is released with several options from which you may choose – or you can create your own.

For most purposes, PDF/X-1a is sufficient for a print-ready pdf. If you have your printer’s preset, use that instead. It will set all the following tabs for you.

After you’ve chosen your preset, InDesign will ask you where you want to put the resulting pdf and you have the opportunity to name it as you desire.



Here you identify which page(s) you want to put into the pdf.

PDF/X-1a doesn’t call for any of the options or inclusions, but you can experiment to see what enabling these choices does for your personal preference.



This setting automatically sets the downsampling to provide for 300 dpi high-resolution images as is the standard for 150-175 line printing.

These numbers can be revised, but this is sufficient for a print-ready pdf.

Always compress text and line art.

Cropping image data to frames removes hidden image bytes that unnessecarily increase file sizes.



The default on this tab is completely blank, so choose the marks you prefer.

Crop marks are a must and page information is helpful. Adding the other marks is an option, but they do get to be a bit much.

If you specified a bleed when you first set up your document, you can choose the Use Document Bleed Settings option, but if you haven’t specified a bleed your pdf will have no bleed. If you need to spec bleed, you can do so manually. Minimum of .125” is standard.

The slug is also an option spec’d at the time you create your file and if you want to include it, choose to do so here.



By default, this setting chooses to convert to destination, that being cmyk. Anything in your document that is not set as cmyk will be converted as the pdf is created.

The default conversion option is U.S Web Coated (SWOP). If you have a profile from your printing company, you can choose it here or make another choice; there are several options available and you should probably speak to your printer’s rep to make the best choice.


These defaults are set for print-ready pdfs and don’t require any changes.

You are now ready to export your pdf!

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