How To Create A Print-ready PDF File

The name kind of says it all. A Print-Ready file is one prepared to the printer’s specification. 

Print-Ready files should always be a PDF file. 

How To Make A Print-Ready PDF

Your word processor (like Microsoft Word, Scrivener, or Google Docs) all have options to export your manuscript as a PDF. But how do you know if it’s print-ready file for Lulu? 

  1. Export with Print Settings

    The exact language varies, but you should always export from your Word Processor with the highest quality settings available. 

  2. Open Your PDF in a PDF Editor

    Now that you have a PDF, open it in Adobe Acrobat or your editor of choice.

  3. Check Fonts

    Go to Files > Properties > Fonts. If all Fonts show (embedded subset) then your fonts are embedded.

  4. Check Images

    Make sure all you images are high resolution, a minimum of 300dpi.

  5. Check for Layers

    Flatten all layers.

For more details about each important element in your PDF, keep reading!

What Is A PDF?

Introduced nearly 30 years about by Adobe, the Portable Document Format (or PDF) is a file format designed to ease the sharing and distribution of content. PDFs are the single most versatile and simple to share a file, offering consistency across a range of writing, editing, and design platforms.

Likewise, a variety of PDF viewers and PDF readers make it easy to share files. 

No matter how what your preferred document layout software, you’ll need to adhere to the requirements for a PDF that iSupply's printers can work with. 

A Print-Ready File is always a PDF, and a Print-Ready PDF always uses the printer-on-demand provider’s specifications. Printing always begins from a PDF. 

Print-Ready PDF Requirements

iSupply has a set of rules we need files to adhere to. Don’t get stressed though! These aren’t difficult to apply to most files and the software you use to create your PDF will almost always cover many of these elements for you. But not all of them. It’s valuable to understand the recommendations and requirements for your document design and file.

1. Image Resolution 

Look for 300 dots per inch (dpi) for all your images. You’ll also need to look at your software for the best way to output a print-ready PDF that retains the image resolution. PDF and image compression is common for software like MS Word, so be on the lookout for anything that may shrink your file size. 

Now, if the original image is less than 300 dpi, it may not be possible to achieve the image resolution we require. That’s okay. You can use lower resolution images, but the print quality may be off. Grainy or pixelated images are the most common issue you’ll see with lower resolution images.

We strongly recommend using high-resolution images in your file.

2. Color Space

Color Space defines the specific set of colours and how they are organised. Importantly, you want to be sure your file uses the same colour space our printers use so that we can be sure that the colours you see on your screen match the colours in the printed work.

For iSupply, we prefer sRGB and CMYK colour. If you’re working in Word, you’ll need to be sure your images are already using sRGB or CMYK for your images. Word will only export at the given settings, so you won’t have a lot of options to control the image quality once you’re in Word. 

That’s one of the primary reasons I tend to shy away from recommending Word for custom designs that incorporate images. Software like InDesign, Affinity Publisher, or even Scribus offers more control over a range of settings, including image quality and colour space. You’ll need that control over elements in your file to generate a quality, print-ready PDF. 

3. Crop Marks

Traditionally, crop marks indicate where the printers should trim the page. Also called ‘trim lines’ the crops show up in the corners to allow the paper cutter to align and perform a straight cut.

It’s very important to note that iSupply does NOT use crop marks. Our printers use a trimming process based on the paper size you’ve selected. If crop marks are present, there’s a good chance the marks will appear as dark lines in the corners of your pages.

Crop marks are helpful when laying out your file. Just be sure to turn them off before exporting your final PDF.

4. Bleed

The Bleed is a slightly larger margin applied to the edge of every page to ensure the page can be trimmed down to the final size. For most common printers, bleed is 3mm on all sides of the page for Litho, 5mm for wide format. 

Take note: all files created for printing have Bleed.

A print-ready PDF NEEDS to include bleeds if you have content (like images or background color) that extends to the edge of the page. A file that does not include that extra 3 or 5mm will still be printed with the bleed margin. The result can be pages with a thin white border. 

I recommend you create your file with bleeds, no matter what kind of print you’re creating. In Word, this means adjusting your page size and margins to allow for that extra 3 or 5mm. Other file layout programs, like InDesign, will allow you to set up your file for bleeds when you create the document.

bleed_vs_no_bleedCredit – Stack Exchange

The above image highlights the dangers of printing without bleed. The cut edge of the page is the black border, leaving the page on the right with white edges around the light-blue background. For those interested in further reading about graphic design and bleed, I recommend this article from Stack Exchange.

5. Fonts

While there are many compelling reasons to use common fonts for your design, you might want to use a unique font for some text. 

Just be aware that using uncommon or paid fonts can present a number of problems. The most pressing issue is that the printer may not own or have the rights to use that font. Fortunately, there is a simple way to ensure your fonts render perfectly for printing.

You need to embed all fonts in your file. 

The procedure for embedding fonts is different for all programs, but once you have your PDF created, you can use Adobe Acrobat or Reader to view the PDF specifications and verify if the fonts are embedded. 

Look under File > Properties > Fonts

Print-Ready PDF Font Embed

The text (Embedded Subset) indicates the font has been embedded properly. 

Heres a summary of all the items to consider for a print ready file:

  • Litho/Digital: Document size 100% / 300dpi plus 3mm bleed.
  • Wide Format: Document size 25% / 300dpi plus 5mm bleed.
  • Only PDF format files are accepted
  • No printers marks required.
  • Minimum resolution of 300dpi
  • Fonts embedded.
  • All spot colours & images converted to CYMK using Fogra 39 ICC colour profile.
  • Flatten transparencies.
  • No Overprint - turn off overprint before submitting your files
  • Document orientation right reading.
  • Black text 100% Black.  Rich Black - large areas 100% black & 40% cyan.
  • Easily identified file name.
  • Single multiple page PDF, not in spreads.
  • White out text set to knockout, not overprint.

Pre-Flight PDF Check

When we receive your Print Ready PDF file, we perform a 'Pre-Flight' Check. To print your book from a PDF, we first must verify that the PDF can be used by our printers. If we spot any issues we will get in touch so you can fix and resubmit the file. Or we can fix the issues for you, though a small fee to cover the required work may apply.