Design Basics

When creating artwork for print through a professional printer, there are certain aspects you need to be aware of such as file format, size, document bleed settings and basic colour settings.


PDF – The best format to save a document in for print is as a PDF. If you are using PhotoShop to design your artwork, simply “Save As” and choose PhotoShop as your file format. If you are using InDesign, Export your file as a PDF rather than using the Save or Save As function.

JPG – JPG is the preferred file format for any artwork that you are creating to be used online, for example on websites or social media. Again, use the “Save As” function in PhotoShop or the Export function in InDesign to save your file as a JPG. If you require a smaller file size, save as a PNG or GIF instead.


Resolution – refers to the measure of pixels per inch and is usually expressed as a DPI figure. For print-quality images and artwork, you should work in 300dpi. For web images, 75dpi or 150dpi is sufficient. In other words, the higher the resolution, the better quality the image or artwork will be. This usually also means that the file size (eg the MB size) will be bigger.


Bleed – When you are creating artwork for print, you should include a bleed around the images to allow for any discrepancies when the artwork is being trimmed. Your artwork should extend the full width of the bleed so that even if the trimming is slightly off, there will be no blank areas on your final product. It is recommended to add a 5mm bleed around all images or artwork being sent to print at a professional printer. Bleed is added when you are first creating the document (under “Document Settings” in InDesign or simply add 10mm to the height and width of your canvas size in PhotoShop.

Crop marks – When exporting the file to be printed, you should also include crop marks. Also known as trim marks, these are lines that are printed in the corners of the artwork to show the printer exactly where to trim.

When exporting your PDF in InDesign, make sure you include the bleed and crop marks by following the prompts when exporting.


When creating artwork in PhotoShop, you need to state whether you want the image to be CMYK or RGB, depending on what your artwork is being used for. If you are creating artwork for the four-colour print process (ie anything hard copy), make sure you are working in CMYK. If you are creating artwork for anything light projected, eg a TV screen, computer or projector, ensure you are working in RGB.

Remember, this is just a general guide with some introductory tips. You should always seek expert advice specific to your project.

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