The Beginner’s Guide to Quality Printing: Part 1

Choose Your Design/Layout Program

Choosing the right program for designing your project is key. Follow these guidelines when choosing the programs you will use.

Adobe Photoshop

  • For photographs and rasterized images only.
  • Text is best left to other applications like Illustrator or InDesign.
  • When using Photoshop, it is NOT recommended to enlarge images because this will result in pixelated images and poor print quality.

Adobe Illustrator

  • Illustrator works with vector images which are based on mathematical formulas. This means images created in Illustrator can be scaled up or down without loss of quality, as can happen with rasterized images in Photoshop.
  • Illustrator is great for text that will be used as a design element, or logos.

Adobe InDesign

  • This is a layout program that is used to combine text and graphics.
  • It is best to compose large areas of text in InDesign rather than Illustrator or Photoshop.
  • Place images designed in Photoshop or Illustrator into your InDesign layout to bring everything together and get it ready for print production.

Microsoft Word

  • Word can be useful when creating large bodies of text. However, as a design/layout tool, it is not nearly as powerful as InDesign.
  • If your product is going to have images, we do not recommend using Microsoft Word as your primary design tool because quality can be a concern.
  • Formatting changes when Word documents are opened on different computers, with different operating systems, or with different versions of Word. The layout could be changed, fonts may not appear correctly, and images may have lost quality.
  • For these reasons, we recommend using InDesign for final layout purposes.

About Bleed

Why is adding a Bleed necessary?

Small mechanical variations can end up leaving a white edge where there should be no white edge if the image is not extended beyond the final trim size. Extending images ⅛-inch beyond the final trim size guarantees that images truly will print to the edge of the paper.

How do I add bleed to my design?

Build your files ⅛-inch larger than the final trim size. For example, if you have designed a standard 3.5-inch by 2-inch business card with a red background covering the whole area, you will need to enlarge that red background to 3.75-inches by 2.25-inches. This will make the red background extend ⅛-inch on every side of the page.

Adobe Photoshop

  • Open Photoshop and click File > New
  • Enter the full bleed dimensions. That is, ¼-inch extra both vertically and horizontally.
  • Set the Resolution to 300 pixels per inch.
  • Set your Color Mode to CMYK

Adobe Illustrator

  • Open Illustrator and click File > New
  • Enter the trim dimensions in the width and height boxes (for example, the trim dimensions on a standard business card would be 3.5-inches by 2-inches).
  • Enter 0.125 for the top, bottom, left, and right bleed.
  • Set your Color Mode to CMYK.
  • Set your Raster Effects to High (300ppi).

Adobe InDesign

  • Open InDesign and click File > New > Document
  • Enter the trim dimensions under Page Size (for example, the trim dimensions on a standard business card would be 3.5-inches by 2-inches).
  • If you do not see “Bleed and Slug” at the bottom of the window, click the “More Options” button.
  • Enter 0.125 for the top, bottom, left, and right bleed.
Trimming & Bleed Guidelines

When building your file, please follow the guidelines below to ensure your project is printed correctly.

Screenshot 2022 11 10 at 1.25.19 PM

Trim Edge (Green Border): This is the edge of the final printed product. For standard business cards, the trim dimensions would be 3.5-inches by 2-inches.

Bleed Edge (Blue Border): Images should be pushed out to the Bleed Edge, which is ⅛-inch past the trim edge on every side.

Safe Edge (Orange Border): Text and other important elements should be placed within the Safe Edge, which is ⅛-inch inside the Trim Edge. This will ensure that no text is cut off due to variations in the trimming process.

Continue reading in Part 2, in which we discuss guidelines for images, color, and fonts in printing.