Designing for print

Ensuring a seamless transition from design to print is crucial to avoid delays and unnecessary time costs. In addition to this, correct document preparation will guarantee a professional look that accurately reflects your original piece of artwork. We’ve put together a checklist to make optimising your design for print easy.

1)    Resolution

Firstly, resolution. For print it is highly recommended to set all images within your design(s) at 300 dpi (dots per inch) or higher (max 600 dpi). This will ensure that all printed images are not pixelated or blurry. Anything less than 300 dpi may result in this occurring.

2)    Colour mode

CMYK is the ideal colour mode to use for print. This is due to not all RGB colours being easily accessible using CMYK. Therefore, colours may appear slightly different as they do when previewed on a screen once printed. These may be less vibrant, enticing or off-brand.

It is also important to note the two different types of black and when they should be used. For body copy or barcodes, black (100%) can be applied. However, if your design includes blocks of colour then you should use rich black (40C 40 M 40Y40K).

For grey, we strongly suggest using Pantone. In this colour mode the printer will more accurately decipher the correct tone of grey you require.

3)    Include crop marks

These indicate where the edge of the final product will occur. In order to maintain professional results, designs are printed onto larger pieces of paper before being cut down. This enables ink and colour to be extended to the outer edges of the finished product. They are particularly important for smaller items and for designs which include bleed.  

4)    Include Bleed

This is the area where your artwork extends further than the crop marks. In doing so, it ensures that there are no white edges once the piece has been trimmed. It also hides any inaccuracies that may occur during cutting. The industry standard bleed is 3mm. However, we ask for bleed which is 3-5mm. This is essential if the artwork extends to the edge of the final printed product.

If your artwork does not extend to the edges it may not be necessary, but it is advised. If you do not use bleed then you must ensure that the background is transparent. This is due to variances in paper tone which may then create an unwanted border if it does not match the background tone exactly.

5)    Include a Safety margin and safe zone

Adding a safety margin or safe zone will make sure that text and images do not appear too close to the edge of the final product. This improves the finished look but also ensures that no key images or text are cut off.

We recommend a 4mm safety margin from the final size (not including the bleed). However, we understand that all designs will be different in size and may have a predetermined margin setup which is outlined within the brand guidelines. If this is the case, feel free to use a larger safety margin.

6)    Use the preferred file type of your printer

We prefer our clients to send their designs as a print ready/press quality PDF. This most accurately represents the printed outcome.

If InDesign files are used, it is recommended to package the file. This can be done by simply selecting file > package. Please make sure you select all fonts and images within the settings, so that once they are opened at the printers, the design remains the same.

We advise against sending documents for print in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. This is because different versions may not support CMYK colours and therefore will display designs differently. Simply save the file as a print ready PDF to avoid this.

7)    Outline fonts

Sending your PDF with outlined fonts will preserve its appearance, ensuring it is not altered when printed. Doing so changes the font to an object, freezing it in place.

Make sure to outline your fonts before you export your illustrator or InDesign file to PDF. It is also beneficial to only do this to the print file only and not your working file, as once converted the text cannot be edited.

Bascom-BMS: Print and Mail Solutions

At Bascom-BMS we provide high quality print solutions for a variety of campaign types, including postcards and letters. Our one-stop-shop means that not only can we answer all your printing needs, but we can then take care of the international distribution of your final prints. Just send us your design and mailing list, sit back and relax. 


Contact us at to get started.