“Camera Ready” Artwork

by Brad “the printer”

Prepress, Action, Print

Eight years ago I started a print shop in Fort Myers, Florida. Minuteman Press-Printing.

Technology was really not affecting our daily lives at the rate that it does today.  Cell phones did not have cameras; AOL was the big browser, and most everyone who had a desktop/laptop computer used a telephone driven dial-up modem to access the internet.  Desktop publishing although around was not as widely used as it is today.

Today people access the internet on their phones, tablets and laptops.  Everyone has access to various types of desktop publishing software.  People do their print designs and email their print companies to print flyer, postcards, brochures and business cards.  Pictures are “Googled” and downloaded. People are becoming are becoming “designers” who often use low-end to midrange desktop publishing software.

Print shops now have to deal with files that are not camera ready.  Just because it looks good to the customer on their computer screen does not mean the file is “camera ready” for professional printing.  Nowadays your printer is faced with any number of customer software types and file extensions including various Microsoft, Adobe, Corel, etc. and other word processing software’s.  One of the most universal types of files is the Portable Document File (PDF). Overall, a PDF is a good way of providing your printer with a manageable file for print.  However, this only works if the artwork is correctly setup.   The main issues are usually:

  • missing fonts
  • lack of accounting for bleeds
  • low resolution pictures
  • attempting to fit as much graphics and text as the dimensions of the pages can seemingly fit.

This is usually demonstrated by placing text directly on the cut lines, not allowing for the small deviations (bounce) that happen during the print process.  Print becomes cutoff during the bindery process. Also the folds, if required, can be off if the artwork is not accounting for the folds.

A PDF file can also scramble when being brought into other software, in particular Corel Draw used by a significant amount of print and sign shops.  Fonts are often an issue.  It is a continuing challenge for the printer/graphics person to have access to every font possibly available to the non-designers and others without graphic design experience. Hundreds are continually being created. It is impossible for printers to have them all.  Whenever sending a file to your printer, you should send your fonts packaged with the artwork file, if you cannot send the fonts, set the file to curves so that fonts are not required.  More importantly, just because you pdf a file created in another software does not mean that the file is printable.  An example is a Word file.  Text boxes are visible on solid backgrounds and colors may not match.  Bleeds are usually incorrect.  In general print and sign shops do not accept files that are Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.  JPEG’s are acceptable if they are setup correctly and are high resolution.  However these files are not easily editable.

Print customers often submit files that they try and setup up to maximize the use of a particular size of paper.  In general the file does not allow for bleeds and bindery.  They also do not account for correct dimensions or allow setup of the number of images up on a sheet of paper.  An example would be a business card in Publisher.  Printers/graphics will do their own setups using their own software designed to accomplish correct setups for the copier or the offset press.

Everyday more and more print shops turn away work because they do not support Microsoft files.  In general, it is that they involve a significant amount of graphic / prepress time that requires additional cost for both the customer and the printer.

So with the ever increasing advance of consumer based technology to everyone, it is important to remember files may not be “camera ready”.


How to Prepare my Graphics for the Printer

Preparing your Graphics for the Printer!

Folks want to have their print projects finished “yesterday”—sometimes even sooner than that! A great way to get this accomplished without having to fight the printer is to provide them with error-free graphics. What do I mean by that? Believe it or not, it’s not often that printers receive graphics which don’t need fixing up. Here are some tips to help you get your next project in and out of the print shop as soon as possible.

High Resolution Images

You may or may not have noticed from personal experience that some images, when printed off of the Internet, appear to lose quality and sometimes show several little squares making up the image. This occurrence is commonly known as pixelation and it is caused due to the resolution of the image not matching the printer’s settings. Most images print at 300 DPI (dots-per-inch) and anything else will appear as a bad quality image or as pixelated. Avoid this by making sure any image you include in your design is a high resolution that will print accurately.


On graphics, where any colors touch the borders, an additional 1/8th of an inch has to be added to the design document in order for the print and cut to appear correctly. What this means is that if you wanted to print a flyer that was 8 ½ x 11 inches and there are colors and images that reach the edge of the layout, you would have to add a 1/8th inch (0.125 inch in decimal) around the edges to make up for the cut that will be applied after printing. After applying the bleed, the completed graphics should be sized at 8 ¾ (8.75) x 11 ¼ (11.25) inches.

CMYK Color

Have you ever noticed that sometimes a color you absolutely loved on your monitor doesn’t print out in the same color? The reason this happens is because anything viewed on a digital device (i.e. computer monitors, cell phones, tablets, etc.) uses a color mode known as RGB whereas printers use the color mode CMYK. Although this might not seem like a big issue, it often is! That beautiful blue-green you chose out in the design might now print out like a gray-green which will not produce the same feeling you intended in your initial design. Although different printers produce slightly different results, making sure that your design is produced using CMYK will help obtain the best finished product.


Serif, sans-serif, scripts, and more! With thousands (if not millions) of fonts to choose from, you can produce a very unique design using custom fonts. If you love fonts as much as we do, PLEASE remember what font you used! If you ever want to recreate the design using similar elements (important for branding), keeping the font on file will help not only your business, but also the graphics department at your printer if they have to add a few changes to your new product. Odds are that if you don’t know what font was used, the printer will find it hard to match your exact design.

Have your ideas ready!

Need to get something printed but you don’t have the design ready? Start thinking about what you would like it to look like so that the printer’s graphic designer can create something you’ll love! Things to think about range anywhere from fonts, colors, and style (western, urban, contemporary, traditional, classic etc.), to size of the finished product, amount needed of said product, as well as any images you would like to have included. Something else to consider is finding examples of what you like, what you don’t like, and everything in between! Something is better than nothing and the more information you provide, the closer we’ll be to hitting the nail on the head with your design.

Keeping these tips handy will help ensure the relationship between you and your printer remains a happy one!