5 tips for supplying artwork for printing

Toby Matthews

Creative Designer

5 tips for supplying artwork for printing

At Holywell we receive many “print-ready” artwork files of varying quality. Here’s some handy advice that even the most experienced professional designers will find useful in preparing print-ready artwork to achieve optimal results.

1. proofreed, proofread, proofread

Nothing detracts more from the impact of printed collateral than typos. It may seem obvious, but it is surprising how often typos slip through because proofreading has been neglected. While the temptation may be to rely on a spellchecker to do this, this cannot replace proper proofreading. A spellchecker will not pick up on missing words or slips of the keyboard such as “fro” for “for” or “form” for “from”. It’s not only spelling and grammar that needs thorough checking, make sure all contact details – telephone numbers, web and email addresses, etc. – are correct. We always supply press-checked PDFs, and sometimes printed proofs for approval and these should always be checked for typos.

2. image resolution for printing

One of the frequent issues we encounter is low-quality, low-resolution images. These images may appear good quality on screen but for printing, we specify 300dpi as the minimum optimal resolution for images at the size they are being reproduced at. The exception to this is images on large format banners designed to be viewed at a distance, where we advise a minimum of 150dpi. Images below 300dpi and especially below 100dpi will appear less sharp and pixelated and detract from the overall quality of the final product. We would not recommend resampling images upwards, although Photoshop now does a pretty good job of this. It can be used to improve the quality of an image from say 200 to 300dpi but less successfully from 100 to 300dpi.

Image resolution

3. convert colours from RGB to CMYK

If you are not specifying a Pantone colour (for letterheads perhaps) and want to print colour, then we will use a 4-colour process. That process uses four inks – Cyan (C), Magenta (M), Yellow (Y) and Black (K). RGB colour is for screen use only. Digital photographs (cameras and phones) will be RGB and many designers today design in RGB. However, RGB has a wider colour gamut than CMYK and some colours can be displayed in this colour mode (particularly more vibrant reds and pinks, and electric blues) but cannot be accurately matched using CMYK. For more information on this topic, read our 'using colour in print and screen' blog post.

You can convert images from RGB to CMYK in photo editing software such as Photoshop and in doing so you may notice the colour shifts and be able to compensate for them. Alternatively, you can use the Holywell PDF joboptions file to do the conversion for you. You should review the PDF after conversion to assess the changes moving from one mode to another will have.

4. include a bleed

Another frequent issue we encounter is artwork designed to print to the edge of the trimmed size, but which does not include a bleed, i.e., extend beyond the trim size. A bleed is important because it avoids the possibility of unsightly white edges to pages where the colour is expected to extend to the edges. We specify a 3mm bleed, so all images and solid blocks of colour should extend 3mm beyond the trim size. The bleed should be included when exporting to PDF, see our advice about supplying PDFs below. We would also suggest that any important text does not extend more than to within 3mm from the trim edges, thus remaining in what is often termed the safe area.

Bleed and safe areas

5. supply artwork in pdf

At Holywell we work using a PDF-based workflow, so we prefer artwork to be supplied in PDF format. The reason for this is that you can be confident that what we will print is unchanged from what you supply, provided, of course, that you create your PDFs to our required specification. Download our standard pdf joboptions file to find out more.

If you are happy making the settings yourself, this is what we need:

general settings

Standard: None
Compatibility: Acrobat 5 (PDF 1.4)
Pages: All (Export as Pages)

PDF Settings - General

image compression

Colour/Greyscale images: DO NOT Downsample. Compression Automatic (JPEG), Image Quality: Maximum.
Monochrome images: DO NOT Downsample; Compression CCITT Group 4.
Do not compress Text and Line Art.

PDF Settings - Compression

marks and bleeds

Include Crop Marks and Page Information only. Set the weight of crop marks as 0.25pt and Offset by 3mm (so they don’t eat into the bleed).
Bleed: 3mm all round.

PDF Settings - Marks and Bleeds


If your file contains RGB images you should convert them here to the Coated FOGRA39 profile to convert them to CMYK for printing. Review your PDF in this case before sending it to check for any colour shifts.

PDF Settings - Output


Make sure all fonts are embedded.

PDF Settings - Advanced


Do not include any security that prevents printing/opening the PDF and making changes. If your PDF contains sensitive information and you need security, then don’t forget to send us the passwords used securely.

PDF Settings - Security

We hope you've found this guide helpful. It's one of a series that aims to boost your knowledge and understanding of the design and printing processes, including:

There are many other aspects not covered here, so please call 01865 242098 or contact us using the button below if you have any file preparation queries. Better still why not get Holywell's design studio to create your artwork for you? We offer competitive rates and have intimate knowledge of materials, print finishes, different types of binding, and how to get the best from our presses.

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