Recommended PDF specifications

Since the early nineties, Adobe’s portable document format (PDF) has become the standard in prepress file formats. At SOS we base our estimates on receipt of print ready, high resolution PDF files unless otherwise specified.

PDF files can be generated by exporting – or saving as PDF – from a number of applications like InDesign, Quark XPress, MSWord or by using a printer driver that produces pdfs from print data. Either way, there are a few settings that need to be applied to get to a high quality result. If left on default, the pdf will be optimised for on screen display, but not give a good result when printing in high resolution.

Images: The resolution of colour and greyscale images needs to be 300 dpi or higher, for bitmaps we prefer 1200 dpi (for an explanation of dpi, please see here). File compression can seriously degrade image quality, ideally use lossless compression such as ZIP.

Fonts: All fonts need to be embedded – either complete or as subsets – to make sure text prints out the same on our printer as on yours.

Colours: We print 95% of all jobs using Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (CMYK) inks, and ideally your files are set up using this colour system. Acrobat can convert to RGB for on screen display, but we do not want you to select that option. If you want to use spot colours, please specify them in your artwork.

General File Setup: We will take care of the imposition, therefore we need your files as single page pdfs (not as spreads). For book or magazine covers with spines please send us a complete pdf of back cover | spine | front cover in one sheet, to calculate the spine width call us or use this formula.
Please make sure to include bleeds (3mm) if you want to print to the edge of a page.

You can check your PDF file, provided you have the full version of Acrobat and not just Adobe Reader, by selecting the Preflight function. To do a manual check before sending us your file, you could use our checklist and have a look at the Top Seven Issues we encounter with art files we receive.

If you would like to discuss these specs, get some advice on how to set up your software or if you would like us to check your file, please get in touch.