We want you to get the results that you expect. Please read and follow the guidelines presented below to avoid project delays and/or additional charges.
We are able to print directly from files saved in many Mac and PC graphics applications. Several vector and bitmap graphics file types can be brought directly into our Onyx Postershop X10 Raster Image Processors (RIPs) without requiring file conversion.
Vector Files for Digital Printing
Vector file formats for direct printing are Adobe PDF and EPS (encapsulated postscript). PDF files typically include the fonts embedded in the files. Text within vector EPS files must be converted to outlines, paths or curves to avoid any font issues - please note that for copyright reasons we can not accept client font files. EPS files must include a bounding box that shows the perimeter of the image - Illustrator artboard settings do not transfer to the RIP. Linked files should instead be embedded in the main file as links do not work properly when burned to a CD or DVD.
Bitmap Files for Digital Printing
Preferred direct printing bitmap file formats include JPEG and (flattened) TIFF formats as well as Photoshop EPS files. Files may not include any alpha channels and must be saved in the "8 bits/channel" mode. See below for resolution, color space and profile recommendations. Other formats, such as .PNG, only work after format conversion and results are unpredictable.
Files with large dimensions may be saved at a reduced size of the final output (such as 50%), but the resolution of any bitmaps in that file must be higher to compensate for the final size. Please specify the final output dimensions or scaling (such as "print at 200%") for any reduced size files provided. Please see What bitmap resolution for digital printing? below.
Bleeds? Maybe. Crop Marks? Probably Not!
Crop marks (or trim marks) and bleeds (extending the image past the final image size to allow for trimming) can be confusing, but they do not need to be. Crop marks and bleeds are sometimes needed, but large format print trimming is different from, say, cutting a stack of postcards.
When do we want to see crop marks? Usually we do not - only when the crop marks define the outer corners of the image when that is the final trim - on decals and when mounting prints on softer substrates, such as Gatorfoam and fome core. Otherwise, the outside of the bitmap image (or a bounding box for vector files) defines the trimming. The crop marks must be graphic elements in order to be seen after printing with a RIP. Crop marks should be "inside" crop marks, which look like the four corners of an image with the ends of the marks pointing toward each other. "Outside" crop marks are not useful as the first trim removes the rest of the mark. Bleed is not needed with crop marks as we can not trim past the crop mark any way (it would show after trimming).
When do we want to see a bleed? In two instances: first, where the final trim size is critical and we may need some extra image to compensate for a (slightly) undersized print length (1/2% of eight feet is almost a half inch!). Second, where the print is to be mounted on a pre-cut substrate, such as aluminum or wood. This is because the print and substrate can not safely be trimmed together after mounting and a small amount of leeway is needed for mounting alignment.
How much bleed? Usually about 1/8" all around, maybe more for an exact length trim (ask us about bleed for your specific image if an exact length is needed).
Native-Format Files for Digital Printing?
Preferably not. Native-format graphics files, such as InDesign and Illustrator files, may be provided with all graphics included, but since they require conversion to a print-ready format, additional makeready charges and lead times will apply for conversion to a printable file format (such as EPS or PDF). Please note that for copyright reasons we can not accept client font files; all fonts must be outlined in the file. Native files may not be uploaded. Please contact us for pricing and how to provide files.
Instead, we recommend that you save a high resolution PDF file for printing. Many other applications, such as Word and Excel, can also make a PDF file using a third party PDF generator such as PrimoPDF or Cute PDF (see resources below). Adobe Acrobat Reader may be used to verify your PDF files (download available below). Powerpoint files, as a rule, do not have sufficient quality for large format printing. The PDF files either need to be the actual printing size or proportionate to the final size.
What Bitmap Resolution for Digital Printing?
Files that include bitmaps need to have sufficient resolution for proper reproduction at the typically large sizes for posters and banners. For close viewing (under five feet), the resolution should be 150 to 200 pixels per inch (ppi) at the final printing size; for longer viewing (over five feet), the resolution can be 75 to 100 ppi. Resolutions higher than 200 ppi will not improve the printing quality (but they take much longer to RIP). We can provide a full size section of your file as a proof upon request.
Profiles and Color Space
Printing files may be provided in either the RGB or CMYK color space, but for best results, all objects created in the application, as well as all embedded and linked files, must be in the same color space. RGB files have the widest initial color gamut for hi fi color printing without the limitations of CMYK (see printer ink color gamut information under Technologies), but some applications, such as QuarkXpress, do not support RGB file output. RGB files must include an embedded profile (in the case of TIFF files) or a profile callout (Adobe RGB 1998 is preferred) for proper RIP color conversion. CMYK files can either include an embedded profile (in the case of TIFF files) or include a profile callout (SWOP v2 is our default profile and is preferred). CMYK files will print within the constraints of the CMYK color gamut, so for extended color gamut (using the red, green and blue inks for Canon aqueous printing, for example), files should be provided in an RGB color space with an ICC profile embedded or assigned.
Each of our printers has a different color gamut capability due to the inks and media used, but colors will be reasonably close if profiles are included.
Do I Need a Color Proof?
Color proofs are recommended where color is critical, either for color balance or matching Pantone color(s). If proofs are not requested the RIP will use its standard color conversions. Please contact us directly for details.
You can upload files to us directly - see Send Files page.
You can also use a free file transfer service such as High Tail (formerly YouSendIt, below), or files may be supplied on a flash drive, CD or DVD, Mac or PC.
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