How To Best Prepare Your Files For Printing

You’ve spent the last few weeks working on an important project, and now it’s finally ready for printing and distribution. You’re excited because you know your printing company always does a great job, but have you ever wondered if your files, document, or artwork, is actually ready to send to a professional print press?


Operating System Problems
Most of the office productivity software – and all of the operating system software – you use was created by US-based companies. This in itself isn’t a bad thing, because you can always change the default language and keyboard options to your own regional preference. What doesn’t change in your operating system (on either PC or Mac) is your default document size, which will be set to US Letter size. Microsoft Word, and pretty much every other word-processing package out there, defaults to US Letter when creating documents, and this can then lead to printing headaches much later on.


A4 vs. US Letter
Your printing company’s digital presses will be set to manage A4 documents, because that’s the paper size used in Europe. The problem is that US Letter and A4 pages have totally different dimensions:

A4 = 210mm x 297mm
US Letter = 216mm x 279mm

What this means is that a document formatted to US Letter size is shorter and wider than its European A4 cousin. You probably don’t even notice this when you’re creating a new document, but the dimensions can cause headaches when you bring your project to your printing company. Changing the document size after the fact causes your page breaks and content to shift downwards, completely altering your layout. While this isn’t a problem on single page documents, just imagine having to reformat a 50-page document because you used the wrong document size in the beginning?


Changing Your Default Document Size
How do you change your default document size to A4? Here are some useful links to walk you through the process:

Apple Pages

Changing your default document size

Microsoft Word

Changing your default document size


Word Documents Vs PDF
When you’re prepping your project for your printer you’ve probably asked yourself is it best to provide the files in PDF or document format? At DVF we always ask for a PDF document in addition to a Word document, and the reason we do this is to save you time and money.

You see, something else you probably didn’t know is that your default word-processor document size is also based on whatever printer your computer is connected to. This means that your margin, header and footer settings might look fine on your screen, but they’re actually set to the wrong size. There’s also the tiny issue that Apple and Microsoft fonts are completely different to each other, even if they share the same name. No, Arial on a Mac isn’t the same as Arial on a PC.


Manual Adjustment Time
So, when you send your printer your neatly formatted Word document, they then send it across to their Apple Mac design and layout software. It’s only at this point that page size, font and formatting issues become obvious, with the designer then having to adjust the document so it’s formatted correctly. These changes can then affect the page count, which can then impact the overall cost. These adjustments can cause unwanted and expensive delays, which is the last thing you need if you’re waiting anxiously for your leaflets, brochures, or other marketing literature.


Save As PDF
There’s a really simple solution for this potential headache, and will only take a few seconds of your time. All you need to do is save your Word document as a PDF file, and the reason for doing this is that PDF files don’t suffer from any of the above formatting or potential typography issues.  There was a time when you had to buy PDF creation software to do this, but both Microsoft Word and Apple Pages can both save your document as a PDF file.


How To Save Your Document in PDF format
Microsoft Word

Apple Pages


If for some reason your PC doesn’t have the ability to save to PDF format, a quick Google search will turn up some excellent downloadable PDF makers that can be added as a printer driver.

The above notes apply to any document you plan on sending to a printer – from a simple Word document all the way through to finished artwork for a much larger project. So, even though you might think your printer is asking far too many questions about your project, they’re only asking those questions to ensure that you get the best possible results. Oh, and that your project will be ready when you expect it to be.

Now that you have read our blog on preparing your files for printing, why not read some of our other articles on printing and graphic design here

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