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Preparing File Layout and Exporting for Print
July 29, 2020

Gather ’round, designers, for a journey into the realms of bleed, margins, and crop marks in the world of print. If you’ve ever wondered how to make your designs pop off the page or why that vital text goes mysteriously AWOL, well, you’re in for a wild ride.

We’ll navigate the enigmatic landscape of Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop like seasoned explorers. And just when you thought you had it all figured out, we’ll drop some reminders about the oft-neglected essentials: spelling, grammar, layout, and color. It’s not just a guide; it’s a design adventure you won’t want to miss.

Creating Your Document

What are bleed + crop marks?

Most presses cannot print to the edge of a page. If you want your artwork to print edge-to-edge, it is necessary to print on a larger sheet and trim the excess. Adding a .125” bleed around all sides of the artwork ensures that no unprinted edges occur after trimming to final size. Adding crop marks helps the press operator know exactly where to trim the piece.

What are margins?

Since the cutting process isn’t 100% accurate, limit the chance of losing necessary information by keeping any important text or graphics .125” from the print edges.

How to Add Bleed and Margins to a Document

Adobe Illustrator

  • File > Document Setup > Bleed: 0.125”
  • Margins: Create a rectangle 0.25“ smaller in width and height than the artboard
  • Center it to the artboard. Right-click > Make Guides (If the guide disappears, select View > Guides > Show Guides)

Adobe InDesign

  • File > Document Setup > Bleed and Slug > Bleed: 0.125”
  • File > Document Setup > Margins: 0.125“

Adobe Photoshop

  • Image > Canvas Size
  • Increase canvas size by 0.25” on both width and height
  • Margins will need to be 0.50” smaller than the canvas on both width and height

How to Export Your Document

Adobe Illustrator

  • File > Save As > Adobe PDF (pdf)
    • You can use a preset such as High-Quality Print, but be sure to select the following:
  • Marks and Bleeds > Trim Marks; Marks and Bleeds > Use Document Bleed Settings
  • Output > Color Conversion > No Conversion

Adobe InDesign

  • File > Export > Adobe PDF (pdf)
  • Follow same guidelines as Illustrator

Adobe Photoshop

  • File > Save As > Photoshop PDF
  • Once saved, import into Illustrator or InDesign and set Artboard/ page size to final trim size.
  • Follow guidelines for adding bleed and export.

How to Package Working Files

If you have a complicated project, or one that needs editing, your Client Success Manager may ask that you provide working files. To avoid issues between users such as program version incompatibility and missing links or fonts, we recommend you package your working files before sending them to us.

To package in any program: File > Package. Be sure to include all items. Simple as that!

Don’t Forget to Check

• Spelling

• Grammar

• Layout

• Color

Download the Guide