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How to check your artwork for print

How to check your artwork for print
13 August 2017
How to check your artwork for print

Unsure of how to prepare artwork for printing? No need to panic. This step-by-step guide will help you through the process of print set up, making your print experience smooth and hassle free.

Artwork Format For Printing: Understanding Print Terms

When preparing artwork for print there’s some terms that you’re going to need to know. Understanding what a bleed area is and how to work within a safety margin will help you on your way to getting your designs perfect for the printing presses.


The size of your artwork should match the size you wish to print, plus a bleed area which we will cover shortly. We recommend choosing the size you want to print before starting to design your artwork. If you have already created your artwork before picking a size, you may have some rearranging to do.


A bleed area is an essential artwork format for printing, but it is often missed from design files. At Aura Print, we need your artwork files to have a 2mm bleed area along each edge.

Having a bleed area is like having a safety net on your artwork. Without it, your final prints run the risk of having thin, unprinted edges, which isn’t very flattering. Your bleed should seamlessly match the rest of your design, for it may appear within the final trimmed prints.

What your bleed area should not be is a block color that does not match the rest of your artwork. If you are struggling with the bleed artwork format for printing, we recommend adding a border that extends into your artwork. This will prevent any unsightly, unprinted, or mismatched edges from appearing.


Within print, you may hear the terms “margin” or “safety margin”. This is often mistaken for a bleed area but is something different entirely. We need a 3mm safety margin on most of our printed products. There are some outliers which we will discuss below.

A safety margin sits within your design and is intended to act as a guide to prevent any important parts of your artwork from being too close to the edges. Text and printed borders are typically crucial to your designs, but what happens when wording ends too close to the final edge? It runs the risk of being trimmed off.

Our printed playing cards have an increased safety margin of 5mm. Unlike most prints, which are designed to be seen individually, playing cards are intended to be viewed as a complete set. A higher safety margin helps to keep your card decks uniform, preventing noticeable differences between cards.


Resolution refers to how crisp an image is and is measured in dpi or dots per inch. Most printers will recommend a minimum of 300 dpi to ensure the best quality for your final product.

So, how do you know whether your artwork is the correct resolution for print? Sometimes it is as simple as seeing the pixelation on screen but other times it may not be this obvious. Here’s how to check the resolution when preparing artwork files for printing.

Adobe Photoshop:

To check the resolution of a Photoshop file go to Image > Image Size. If you open this box and it already states 300 dpi you should be good to go.

But if this tab states anything lower, do not just change the figure to 300 dpi. This will not increase the quality of your already-made artwork, unfortunately. If only life were that easy.

Instead, you will have to start a new document, and before doing anything else, set the resolution to 300 dpi. Then you need to make your design again. Yes, it’s a pain, but the final printed results will certainly be worth it!

Adobe Illustrator:

If you have created your artwork from scratch in Illustrator, chances are the resolution will already be 300 dpi or above. This is because Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based program, meaning the images created are smooth, crisp, and suitable for print.

To check the resolution of your Adobe Illustrator document go to Window > Document Info and then click on your image. If the figure shown in the pop-up window is below 300 dpi, it might be worth searching for a different image to use.


Canva doesn’t have a special, built-in feature to check the resolution of your designs. Instead, it is up to you to check the quality of the images you wish to use. Elements from Canva’s own library will be of high quality to print. But images you bring in from outside the program may be a different story.

We recommend only using high resolution images when working in Canva. To see the resolution of an image in Windows go to File Explorer > Right Click the Photo > Properties > Details. In Mac open the image in Preview > Tools > Show Inspector.


Modern cameras can produce images of a much higher resolution than what is needed for print. The benefit of this is that you don’t have to worry about image pixelation in printing. If you are using your phone or an older camera, be aware that the resolution might be lower simply due to the type of camera you are using.

To check the resolution of your images, we recommend uploading them to your computer. Then for Windows go to File Explorer > Right Click the Photo > Properties > Details. And in Mac open the image in Preview > Tools > Show Inspector. This will bring up a window showing your image size and resolution.

From there you can decide whether you are happy with the image resolution or if it’s worth trying to get a higher quality image.


Color is incredibly important in print, with specific shades making or breaking the overall look of a design. In digital printing, the color mode used is always CMYK and so we recommend sending over your artwork in CMYK.

We know it can be tempting to create your digital artwork in RGB but artists beware! RGB is designed for screens, not for print, with printed colors being unable to match the bold and vibrant tones that can be shown on a monitor or phone screen. We recommend converting your artwork to CMYK so you can judge whether you are happy with the colors produced.

With spot color printing, we need your Pantone color to be set up as a spot color, with the Pantone reference code in the name.

File Formats

The final step of preparing artwork for print is picking the file type. At Aura Print, we accept a range of different types of files for print including:

• PDF files (Preferred)

• Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign

• EPS and SVG

• Jpeg


Regardless of the image file you choose, don't forget the above artwork requirements for printing. We still need your bleed, safe margin, and colors converted to CMYK to be able to print your artwork.

Another question we often get is what to do if your file size is too large to submit via email. The Aura Print team can accept files via Google Drive, Dropbox, and other large file-sharing sites such as WeTransfer.

How To Create Artwork For Printing: Special Finishes

Ok, so you’ve got the fundamentals of print down, what’s next? Well, depending on the type of print you are looking for, you may have a bit more work to do. At Aura Print, we’ve got some special finishes and techniques that each have their own special artwork requirements for printing.

Metallic Foiling

Metallic foiling is created in stages, with your printed and foiled designs being applied at completely different times and on different machines within the print process. As the print and foil are applied separately, it only makes sense that your artwork is also separated for print and foil.

First comes your print file. We need that to be supplied as an individual file with any foiled areas removed. Try to avoid having duplicate areas on your print and foil file as this may cause issues down the line.

Next comes your foil file. This should only include the parts of your design that you want to be foiled in 100% pure black on a white background.

We have a dedicated post if you want to learn more about setting up artwork for foil printing.

Die Cutting

Custom shaped prints and kiss cut stickers differ from standard prints as their shapes are anything but standard. Although your shape may not be a typical square or rectangle, the artwork format for printing should still include a bleed area and safety margin.

Other than that, we need one more important thing from you. The shape of your print! Our team needs to know the shape you want them to cut your artwork to. Sending over a file with a 1pt stroke in the shape you want cutting is all we need.

Without this cutline, our team will be back in touch to ask you what shape you would like (unless it’s something obvious like a circle). So, save yourself the back and forth by sending over your cutline with the rest of your artwork files.

Raised and Flat Spot UV

Adding a glossy layer over the top of your print is a wonderful way to add a subtle highlight. When it comes to preparing artwork for print with spot UV, we need an extra file from you with your spot UV design separated from the rest of your print.

Your spot UV design needs to be spot color pink, ideally labeled as “Clear”, on a different file to your print. Having duplicate designs on your print and UV file is absolutely OK as the spot UV is clear and shows any print underneath.

Metallic Gold and Silver Inks

Metallic inks differ from metallic foil, both in appearance and print technique. Where metallic foiling requires multiple print machines, metallic inks can be run on the same print press as the typical CMYK.

Your metallic ink design needs to be spot color pink, labeled as either “Gold” or “Silver”. We recommend removing the metallic ink design from your print file and only having it on your metallic ink file.

Spot Colour / Pantone

Pantone printing has a unique set of artwork requirements for printing. The area you want to print as Pantone must be set up as a spot color with your Pantone reference as its name. Our printers will print the colour that matches this reference number so make sure it matches your artwork design.

With spot color Pantone printing, the only colors visible on your designs should be the Pantone shade. We cannot print Pantone and CMYK together. Anything set to CMYK or not as a spot color will not appear on your final print.

What Happens During The Proofing Stage?

For each order placed through Aura Print, you’ll be given the option to receive a digital proof from a member of the design team. As part of this digital proof, our team will check your artwork files to determine whether they have met the required artwork guidelines for printing. If anything seems amiss, we will be in touch with you with our recommended changes to get your files just right.

We know that getting your files print ready isn’t always easy. If you are struggling with how to prepare artwork for printing, request our team to do it for you. With our “Supply brief and we design” service, our team can get your artwork to be up to scratch to ensure the best printed results.

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