Digital File Setup Guidelines for Inkjet Output (Click here for Lightjet)

Images and artwork should be 8-bit CMYK mode.

CMYK files should have the ink density limit set to 300 maximum to ensure that shadow details remain as expected.

Files should be set up in proportion to your final output size.

We recommend sending TIFF’s (flattened with no alpha channels) or hi-resolution PDF’s for output.

We cannot check color mode or resolution of images in PDF’s and our ability to correct color or type errors is limited on all print-ready files. We recommend rasterizing PDF’s with transparency and submitting a TIFF to ensure expected results. Files with small type (below 12pt at final size) should be sent as vector or rasterized at a high resolution.

Supply all of your images, artwork and fonts when sending native files.

We do accept Photoshop CS6, InDesignCS6, Illustrator CS6 and Quark 7 native Mac files but we recommend converting all fonts to outlines/curves to prevent unexpected font problems. Images embedded in ANY program or file cannot be checked for accurate resolution or color mode prior to printing. Files originating from any OS other than Mac must have outlined fonts.

Image resolution at FINAL SIZE should be 100 – 200 dpi, 50 – 100 dpi for banners viewed beyond 10′.

Unnecessarily large file sizes DO NOT enhance prints. To check your image resolution, open the image in Photoshop, go to the image menu> image size> deselect the resample box and type in the FINAL output size to ensure the resolution is correct.

All placed images should either be TIFF or EPS.

Saving files as JPEG with high compression can permanently reduce image quality. (See Tips & Tricks for more information.)

For trade show booths or multiple panel murals, set up the entire file on one page.

Bleed and crop marks are not necessary. All files should appear in the program just as you want them to look on your final output. Avoid including comments, sizing instructions or dead space on the output document.

For files intended to be mounted, printed on rigid substrates or printed on banners and sewn, add bleed.

We recommend between 1/8″ to 1/2″ bleed all around, outside the document live area. Files setup without bleed may be enlarged slightly during printing to compensate.

Provide hardcopy of the final output.

Color lasers should not be used as proofs for accurate color. If a color match is required, please request a proof. Signify Pantone colors and panel breaks where crucial.

Use Pantone coated colors for reference.

We do not use Pantone inks but it can be a helpful reference when color is critical. Please note, altering the values or using a percentage of a Pantone color will produce mixed results.

For the richest blacks, use a build of C:50, M:50, Y:50, K:100.

To create gradient blends, avoid using Quark.

While Illustrator and InDesign blends typically have good results, some banding may be inevitable at large sizes, especially when blending builds that are very similar. Check Photoshop blends on screen for banding and use dithering when unacceptable. (See Tips & Tricks for more information.)

Avoid sending unflattened transparency.

Transparency and transparent effects like drop shadows and glows in Illustrator, InDesign or Quark may not print as expected if they are not flattened OR may give errors when processed with the RIP software. We recommend rasterization to ensure expected results.

For prints that will need CNC Router or Laser cutting, please include a vector path within the file.

Be aware that automatically created vector paths (such as Photoshop’s working path and Illustrator’s trace function) usually produce substandard paths.

For prints that will utilize our white ink option, please indicate what should be printed white with a spot color or channel.

When creating files with duotones, always send a file converted to composite CMYK, as well as the native duotone file and a hardcopy with color expectations.

Duotones can be difficult to reproduce but there are various techniques to match colors.

Digital File Setup Guidelines for Lightjet Output (Click here for Inkjet)

Images and artwork should be 8-bit RGB mode.

While we can print from CMYK, building files in the larger RGB color space ensures optimal color integrity.

Files should be set up in proportion to your final output size.

We recommend sending TIFF’s (flattened with no alpha channels) or hi-resolution PDF’s for output.

We cannot check color mode or resolution of images in PDF’s and our ability to correct color or type errors is limited on all print-ready files. We recommend rasterizing PDF’s with transparency and submitting a TIFF to ensure expected results. Files with small type (below 12pt at final size) should be sent as vector or rasterized at a high resolution.

Supply all of your images, artwork and fonts when sending native files.

We do accept Photoshop CS6, InDesignCS6, Illustrator CS6 and Quark 7 native Mac files but we recommend converting all fonts to outlines/curves to prevent unexpected font problems. Images embedded in ANY program or file cannot be checked for accurate resolution or color mode prior to printing. Files originating from any OS other than Mac must have outlined fonts.

Image resolution at FINAL SIZE should be 100 – 200 dpi.

Unnecessarily large file sizes DO NOT enhance prints. To check your image resolution, open the image in Photoshop, go to the image menu> image size> deselect the resample box and type in the FINAL output size to ensure the resolution is correct.

All placed images should either be TIFF or EPS.

Saving files as JPEG with high compression can permanently reduce image quality. (See Tips & Tricks for more information.)

For trade show booths or multiple panel murals, set up the entire file on one page.

Bleed and crop marks are not necessary. All files should appear in the program just as you want them to look on your final output. Avoid including comments, sizing instructions or dead space on the output document.

For files intended to be mounted, add bleed.

We recommend between 1/8″ to 1/2″ bleed all around, outside the document live area. Files setup without bleed may be enlarged slightly during printing to compensate.

Provide hardcopy of the final output.

Color lasers should not be used as proofs for accurate color. If a color match is required, please request a proof. Signify Pantone colors and panel breaks where crucial.

Use Pantone coated colors for reference.

We do not use Pantone inks but it can be a helpful reference when color is critical. Please note, altering the values or using a percentage of a Pantone color will produce mixed results.

For the richest blacks, use a build of R:0, G:0, B:0

To create gradient blends, avoid using Quark.

While Illustrator and InDesign blends typically have good results, some banding may be inevitable at large sizes, especially when blending builds that are very similar. Check Photoshop blends on screen for banding and use dithering when unacceptable. (See Tips & Tricks for more information.)

Avoid sending unflattened transparency.

Transparency and transparent effects like drop shadows and glows in Illustrator, InDesign or Quark may not print as expected if they are not flattened OR may give errors when processed with the RIP software. We recommend rasterization to ensure expected results.

For prints that will need CNC Router or Laser cutting, please include a vector path within the file.

Be aware that automatically created vector paths (such as Photoshop’s working path and Illustrator’s trace function) usually produce substandard paths.

When creating files with duotones, always send a file converted to composite RGB, as well as the native duotone file and a hardcopy with color expectations.

Duotones can be difficult to reproduce but there are various techniques to match colors.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know whether to get a Lightjet or an Inkjet?

Lightjet prints will have smoother photos, archival durability and generally darker blacks. Inkjet prints can achieve sharper text, brighter colors and can print on a larger range of materials. For more information on Lightjet versus Inkjet, click here.

Can I get a sample of different printing methods?

Absolutely. Just let us know which printing methods you’re interested in and we’ll gladly send you a sample so you can compare the quality and benefits of each.

How do I set up my digital file?

Refer to File Setup/Submission for specifics on how digital art should be prepared. If you still have questions that aren’t answered there, please feel free to call us with any questions you may have.

How do I submit my artwork?

Artwork can be submitted on physical media such as CD, DVD or common USB devices. For faster delivery, submit it digitally with a file transfer service such as WeTransfer.com or if the file is small enough, through e-mail.

Can I get a small proof to approve color or layout prior to printing?

We offer proofing services for all our printers. Printed proofs for color approval are available for a small fee and we can email a digital proof for layout approval at no charge.

Can you match color?

For a small fee, we can attempt to match any color within the gamut of the printers or even produce a color chart for you to pick from a range of possibilities.

I’m concerned about a certain technical aspect of my digital file. Is there someone that can help me?

Certainly! We are committed to helping you get the results you expect and will gladly work with you to eliminate problems before they happen. Just give us a call and we will make sure you speak to someone who can assist you.

Something on my file needs correcting. Can you do that?

We can certainly fix files and we offer complete retouching or color correction services for additional fees. As for type changes, we may need original, native files if flattened TIFFs or PDFs were submitted as final art or if the fonts have been converted to artwork.

Where can I get pricing? What is typical turnaround time?

Due to the variety of services we offer, turnaround time and pricing can vary depending on complexity and urgency of the need and quantity to be delivered. We strive to make sure your job will always get done before you need it. Give us a call and we will work within your time frame.

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Tips & Tricks

When possible, leave all type, logos and backgrounds as vector art.

Vector art does not have a finite resolution like raster images and can be blown up without worry of degrading quality. It has the added benefit of a smaller file size for quick and easy transfer.

For acceptable resolution of raster images, keep image placement and document proportion in mind.

Resolution is a ratio of DOTS per INCH. As print size increases, resolution decreases and after a certain point, may produce unexpected poor quality. To figure out the final print resolution of any image placed in a layout program, take the starting image resolution, divide by the image placement percentage and multiply by the document scale.

For example:

  • An image is 300 DPI in Photoshop
  • It is placed at 75% in InDesign (or .75)
  • The document is 12 x 12 but will need to be printed at 48 x 48 (12/48 = 1/4 scale or .25)

So, 300 DPI divided by .75 multiplied by .25 = 100 DPI.

Do not send unnecessarily large files. They will only slow transfer and production time.

Resolution has diminishing returns above the minimum resolution we recommend for our printers and no benefit beyond the maximum resolution. For instance, an image printed at 200 DPI on our Lightjet will look identical to one printed at 400 DPI and it will be 1/4 of the file size.

Specify critical colors and give Pantone references.

All of our printers are regularly calibrated for pleasing color. However, if certain colors are critical, we can manually attempt to match them. For a small fee, we can print a chart for you to see an overview of the Pantone colors as interpreted by our printers or even a custom chart with a range of similar colors to choose from.

Type can be outlined or converted to art for reliability.

To ensure that there is no shift in type or line breaks, Illustrator and InDesign can easily turn type to outlined artwork. This cannot be undone, however, so be sure to save a copy of the original file in case copy needs to be edited later.

Native files versus ready-to-print files.

Ready-to-print files, such as rasterized TIFFs or hi-resolution PDF’s are very convenient all-inclusive files and have the benefit of reliability. For instance, A TIFF file or vector PDF with outlined fonts will reliably look the same way on our system as yours. However, there may be things we cannot change or check. Native files that require fonts have the possibility of performing differently than expected, but we will be able to access individual components should things need editing. Regardless, native files should always be accompanied by hard copy or a PDF or JPEG for reference. If the file sizes permit, it’s never a bad idea to submit both ready-to-print files as well as native files, just in case.

Saving files as a JPEG can permanently alter your file.

The JPEG file format uses a lossy compression and removes information to compress an image, often permanently putting compression noise around high contrast areas (eg. the edge of type and in solid areas) that cannot be easily removed. The higher the compression of a JPEG, the more the image will suffer. When possible, use a lossless compression to reduce file sizes when submitting. We recommend checking LZW compression when saving TIFF’s as a good solution. It may not be as small as a JPEG would be, but your artwork will remain completely intact.

Black and Rich Black variations will not print the same.

A color that is marked 100% black will not print as deep and dark as one that also contains 50% of cyan, magenta, and yellow with it. This can be used for effect but if you want a truly dark black, use a rich black build (50c, 50m, 50y, 100k for inkjet prints, 0r, 0g, 0b for Lightjet prints).

Keep stitching in mind when designing layouts for banners

Banners that will get edge hem for durability or sewn pockets for hanging will show stitching on the front. To ensure that threads do not go through logos, type or other crucial artwork, use these guidelines:

  • For sides that get hemmed, keep items 1.25″ away from the edge
  • For sides that get pole pockets, keep items away from the edge a total of 1″ + the size of the pocket.

For instance, a banner that gets a full 3″ horizontal pocket on the top should not have critical artwork within 4″ running across the top.

Keep panel breaks in mind when designing layouts for booths.

Booths that will be split into multiple panels should be submitted altogether as one piece. However, be mindful when designing layouts that it’s best to avoid putting critical text, especially small text, directly on panel breaks.

Gradient blends without banding

Banding can occur in gradient blends when they are spread across large areas or using colors that are very similar. There are sometimes simply not enough colors to create a smooth transition. InDesign and Illustrator can produce acceptable results but sometimes Photoshop’s dithering is best.

To take advantage of this, work with only the gradient at first. Make a new document with the size of gradient you desire to the resolution you need but choose 16 bit mode instead of 8 bit mode. Create your gradient. It will still look like it has banding at this point since Photoshop’s preview is 8 bit.

Go to EDIT>COLOR SETTINGS. Click on MORE OPTIONS to the right if available. Make sure the option “Use Dither (8 bit/channel images)” is checked.

Go to IMAGE>MODE and change the file to 8 bit/Channel. Gradient banding should be much less prominent. If there is still too much banding, this can be further hidden using FILTER>NOISE>ADD NOISE, adjusting amount to preference.

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Product Specific Graphic Sizing Templates

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