Ruta Daugavietis

5 Tips for Releasing A File To The Printer

What Can Go Wrong?

So, you’ve finalized and released a file to the printer, and you’re getting ready to finally hop to your next project. But wait…not so fast! Your printer is on the line because every font in your document is somehow missing, or the color profile isn’t right.

Here are a few tips to minimize the chances that you will be interrupted by an urgent request from the printer that will cause you to have to revisit your released project:


If you’ve packaged up your files from Adobe InDesign or Illustrator, and checked the box to include fonts, there should be no problem, right? Right—unless some of your fonts are from Adobe Typekit. Licensing of most fonts allows them to be handed off to a printer for the sole purpose of outputting your particular job. Adobe Typekit fonts are different. They do not allow themselves to be packaged. Theoretically, if a printer has Typekit, they should be able to sync and access the font, but in our experience, printers insist on being provided the actual font, so you may find yourself needing to purchase it.

The above scenario involves a job where the source files are packaged and sent to the printer, rather than just a PDF. Providing source files is a preferable way to work, particularly for a complex job, because it allows the printer to have maximum control and flexibility. Most newspapers and magazines—and occasionally vendors for jobs such as billboards—only accept PDFs. By default, Typekit fonts do get embedded into digital formats, including PDFs.


When placing photos in layout for print, make sure they have ample resolution. Typical resolution for standard print materials such as brochures or print ads is 300dpi. For large-format creative, such as transit wraps, pole banners, or bus shelters, the resolution will be less, but varies. It depends on, among other things, the substrate it is printed on and the distance from which it will be viewed. Check your vendors’ specs. And print out a portion of your creative at actual size, step back, and get an idea of how the resolution will look.

Be wary of cropping, zooming in on, and enlarging a small portion of a photo. This can greatly reduce its resolution. This is particularly important when working on large-format creative.

If using photos from the web, procure the original photo that the online photo was downsaved from. Depending on how a photo was saved for the web, it’s likely to be not just low resolution, but to have been compressed, losing information and degrading the quality.


Always check the specs. Make sure your file is built to the specs provided in a spec sheet, template, die line, or in earlier communications with your printer. Even a small difference in the overall size of your creative could require moving to a larger paper size and possibly a larger press, but more likely would result in your having to resize your layout.


It is best to do photo retouching in RGB. Photoshop has many filters that are only available in RGB color mode. Work in layers and save the layered RGB Photoshop document to allow for future editability. When you’re ready to package for delivery, if the image files are large, flatten them. But, retain the layered file just in case. And, if you need to make further revisions, work in the layered source file, not the flattened version. Many good printers prefer to convert images to CMYK themselves, using color profiles that are specific to the press being used, the paper, and to the particulars of their printing environment. If the printer requires you to convert to CMYK yourself, find out from them what color profile they would like you to use.

If you are submitting a print ad for a newspaper, find out what TAC (Total Area Coverage)—sometimes called TIC (Total Ink Coverage)—setting they require. You may need to customize a color profile. TAC controls the proportion of each ink (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) in order to avoid excessive ink build-up. This can result in the last ink laid down to not adhere. You will need to make these adjustments to your images, even if you are submitting a PDF.


Check that there are no extra spot colors in the Swatches palette of your document or they could end up being printed as an extra plate. Watch out for unused spot colors in imported graphics. That’s often where those colors come from. Consider deleting unused colors (even if they are CMYK) to de-clutter your file.

Many of these things are best tackled proactively and early in the project to avoid last-minute headaches. Then when you finalize and release a file to the printer, you can hop to your next project confident that you’ll stay uninterrupted.