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Optimizing Your Design for Print

This print design saved the printing customer money.

Sending your design work to the printer can cost you hundreds of dollars if you don't understand what you are doing. However, if you properly optimize your design, you can avoid these costly surcharges.


Remember to export your design in CMYK or Pantone colors and avoid using RGB. RGB stands for red, green, and blue, the three color nodes determining color on digital screens. CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, the four ink colors utilized in most printers. For this reason, printing machines don't understand how to use RGB properly. If your design is in RGB, HSB, HEX, or LAB the print-machine has to convert it to a print-friendly color profile: CYMK or Pantone. Pantone refers to exact ink colors that can be recreated with CMYK, or the Pantone color can be purchased as an ink.

It is also important to note that if you use images and graphics in your design that do not have a print-friendly color profile, it doesn't matter if you ask your software to export the document with the proper color profile; these graphics will not adjust. Avoid using the following graphic files in your design:

  • .png

  • .jpeg

  • .svg

  • .webp

However, we do encourage the use of vector formats such as:

  • .eps

  • .pdf (print)

  • .tif

If you would like instructions on how to export your document in CMYK, we have them linked below:


If your document has any graphics or colors within a 1/4 inch of the edge of the page, printers require that you export your design with a bleed. Since printers use rollers to move paper through the print machine, there are white, inkless strips of white along the paper's edge. So, a larger document is printed and cut down to size. However, you must provide a document with extended edges so the printer can make this trim. Each edge should have a further 0.125 inches added. In total, this adds 0.25 inches to your document's width and 0.25 inches to your document's height.

It is important to note, that if you are using illustrations or photos in your background, you should not stretch your design to fit the new bleed. This can cause resolution issues to your design, making it blurry. Instead, we recommend you use a larger illustration and crop it to the bleed requirements.

Also, while you extend the background graphics and colors, you should not allow your text to get closer than 1/4 inch to the edge of the document. This ensures that if the cut is slightly off, your text will remain clear and well-spaced from the edge.

If you would like instructions to export your document with bleed, we have them linked below:


Resolution is the difference between your document looking clear or fuzzy, and it is incredibly important. However, it can also be the hardest to notice before you send it to a printer. The resolution in print refers to the dots per square inch (dpi). Designs exported at 300 dpi or more result in a clear image. However, digital screens only render images at 72 pixels per inch (ppi). So, while your artwork may look clear on your screen, that doesn't necessarily mean it will be clear once printed.

You can double-check that your artwork has a good resolution by printing it on your home printer at-size. It is important to note that if you do not print it at full size, the design will shrink or expand the image and change the dpi (producing an inaccurate result). If the printed image looks blurry, the resolution is too low. (If you do not have a printer at home, you can always request the print company perform a test print and alert you if the resolution needs to be readjusted.) If specific graphics within the document look unclear, this alerts you that those graphics do not have a high enough dpi and need to be replaced.

If you would like instructions to export your document at the appropriate resolution, we have them linked below:


All the features required for your file to be print-ready depend on the file type you export your documents as. While you may have been painstakingly careful, exporting your document as the incorrect file type could convert all your colors, bleeds, and resolutions to unprintable settings. We encourage the use of vector formats such as:

  • .eps

  • .pdf (print)

  • .tif


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