designer working on digital file for digital printing

Digital File Output for Digital Printing: Best Practices

Simple Rules for Optimum Digital Printing Quality for Digital Files

Creating a digital file for digital printing is very much like creating a digital file that are going to be displayed on a monitor as a web page or a PDF or JPG – with a few very important differences. In order to help ensure the highest quality of your printed materials, we’re writing this article to offer a useful set of practices for you to follow, from how to set your color space, to bleeds, to resolution. And because we always feel that if people know the why of something the how of it makes more sense, we’re including a little bit of not-too-technological background.

We also have Tip Sheets available on all of these topics: color conversion, file resolution, bleeds, and how to set up your digital files in various programs. You can find them all on the Tips page of our website.

We’ve covered a great deal of information on producing high quality files that will print well on a digital printing press. Finally, here are some tips for outputting your documents for press. As we mentioned at the beginning of the first part of this article, you can find Tip Sheets with more information on the Tips page of our website.

Save Your File as High Quality PDF

Most layout programs (such as InDesign) will give you several quality options for saving your digital file. For digital printing, save as Press Quality. If you are saving directly out of Photoshop, make sure your file is 300ppi and set to CMYK.

Make Sure You Create Bleeds

If your design has images, background colors, or other elements that go to the edge of the sheet, then those images should bleed – or extend – 1/8 of an inch beyond the final size. The file will need to be run on an oversize sheet of paper and then trimmed to the final size. An 8.5 x 11 inch document, for instance, will need to bleed on all four sides of .125 inches, so the actual size of the document will be 8.75 x 11.25 inches before it is trimmed. Most layout programs – including InDesign and Illustrator – allow you to quickly add crop (trim) and bleed marks, so make sure you include those.

Use Safety Margins to Ensure that Your Images Don’t Get Trimmed

The zone between your text and important graphics and the actual trim is called the safety zone. The purpose of the safety zone is to ensure that important design elements do not get trimmed off. Due to the mechanical tolerances involved in printing and bindery, the actual trim can happen anywhere between the bleeds and the safety margin. This is why it is important to keep your text and important images within the safety margins. Rhino Digital Printing provides templates that include safety margins.

It’s a good idea to set up a margin of .25 inches inside your document, and then make sure that no text or non-bleeding element goes outside that margin. This will also prevent your document from looking crowded.

Send Multiple-Up Documents One-Up

For efficiency, many documents are printed in multiples on a singe sheet of paper – business cards are a good example. We usually print them 8 to a sheet. The printer’s term for this is “#-up,” so we would say we’re running business cards 25 up on a 13×19 sheet of paper in this case. If your document will run multiple up we’ll handle the layout for that. Simply send us a 1-up document.

We Provide Templates to Make Common Layouts Easy

You’ll find templates for a number of common documents, set up for various design programs, on the Tips page of our website.

Need Help with Your Digital Printing Projects? Call Us!

We’re digital printing experts serving the Portland, Oregon area and the U.S. For more information, check out our website at: Or better yet, give us a call at: 503-233-2477. We’ll be happy to answer all your questions and help you with tips and information on getting your printing projects done in the most economical and timely manner possible.



Rhino Digital