Creating a Print-Ready PDF

A Comprehensive Guide for Designers and DIY Business Owners

2023-09-21Updated: 2024-03-13Erica Haferkamp

In today's digital age, the bridge between design and print remains as crucial as ever. A print-ready PDF ensures that your designs translate perfectly onto paper, capturing every detail and color as intended. Whether you're a seasoned graphic designer or a DIY business owner crafting your own marketing materials, this guide is tailored for you. At DARE Print & Sign Co., we're dedicated to ensuring your printing process is seamless and of the highest quality.

Understanding Print-Ready PDFs  

What is a print-ready PDF?  
A print-ready PDF is a file optimized for the printing process, ensuring designs appear as intended without any alterations or errors during printing.

Why is it crucial for high-quality printing?  
It guarantees that the colors, dimensions, and overall design match the original vision, resulting in professional and consistent print materials.

Essential Elements of a Print-Ready PDF  

  • Resolution
    Aim for a minimum of 300 dpi (dots per inch) for sharp, clear prints.

  • Color Mode
    Always use CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key/Black) for printing purposes.

  • Fonts and Typography
    Ensure all fonts are embedded or outlined to prevent any unexpected changes.

  • Bleeds and Safe Margins
    Vital for ensuring no unexpected cropping or design shifts.

Setting Up Bleeds  

What are bleeds?  
Bleeds are the extra margins around a design that allow for slight discrepancies in the cutting process, ensuring the design extends to the edge without any white borders.

Why are they important?  
They ensure a professional finish, especially for designs where colors or images extend to the edges of the material.

  • Small Format Standard Bleed Sizes
    Typically, a 1/8 inch (0.125") bleed on each side is standard for business cards and postcards, but always check specific requirements.

  • Large Format Standard Bleed Sizes
    Typically, a 1/2 inch (0.5") bleed on each side is standard for banners and signs, but always check specific requirements. Specialty products such as Mounted Gallery Wrapped Canvas. have a full 2" bleed on all sides.

Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Print-Ready PDF  

Adobe Illustrator

  1. Start by setting up your document with the correct dimensions, adding the bleed size to each side.

  2. Ensure all elements stay within the safe margin, typically 1/8 inch inside the document edge.

  3. Select everything on your design, go to Type > Create Outlines to outline all text, and then go to Object > Expand to expand all strokes to their own paths.

  4. Once your design is complete, go to File > Save As and choose PDF. Ensure the "Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities" option is unchecked and select the "Press Quality" preset and ensure that under Marks and Bleeds, that "Use Document Bleed Settings" and use all printer marks is checked (only if you are saving for small format printing) - leave the printer marks unchecked for large format printing.

Adobe Photoshop 

  1. Create a new document ensuring the resolution is set to 300 dpi and the color mode to CMYK.

  2. Add bleeds by increasing the canvas size by the required bleed amount. Remember, you can always ask us to send you a print ready template of whatever you are working on. 

  3. Design within the safe area, keeping crucial elements away from the edges.

  4. Save your design by going to File > Save As and choosing the PDF format. Ensure the quality is set to maximum.


  1. Begin by selecting the appropriate print template for your project.

  2. Design with the bleed areas in mind, ensuring no essential elements are too close to the edges.

  3. Once done, click on the Download button, select PDF Print, and ensure the "Crop marks and bleed" option is checked.

Accessing DARE Print & Sign Co. Templates  

For a smoother design process, we've provided JPG and EPS templates tailored for various print materials. These templates serve as a guideline, ensuring your designs are perfectly aligned with printing requirements.  

Download Templates

Need Assistance? We're Here to Help 

Every design journey is unique, and challenges can arise. If you find yourself with questions or in need of expert advice, don't hesitate to reach out. At DARE Print & Sign Co., we have a team of professional graphic designers ready to assist or even take the reins, ensuring your marketing materials resonate with your brand's vision.

Crafting a print-ready PDF is an art in itself, bridging the gap between digital design and tangible print. By following this guide, you're ensuring your designs shine in their best light, capturing attention and leaving a lasting impression. For all your printing needs, remember that DARE Print & Sign Co. is just a call away, ready to bring your visions to life.