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Guidelines For Successful Printing

This information is intended to provide our customers with guidelines to help ensure that digital files submitted to Island Printing & Imaging for either offset, laser or wide-format inkjet printing will meet our technical requirements and result in meeting your expectations – without incurring additional charges for file reworking.

All files submitted will be reviewed to ensure they meet our requirements for successful printing. If we find issues we will contact you and you can decide if you will fix the file(s) as needed or have us do the work for you. When we do file work a labor charge of $70/hour will be applied. The safest approach is if you’re submitting files that are not intended to be worked on by us, then submit them as PDFs. PDFs eliminate most postential problems.

There are a number of reasons for customer submitted files not meeting expectations. Here is a list for you to consider:

Files originating on a Windows PC can be problematic when brought into our Mac Platform environment even when using cross platform software such as Adobe products, Microsoft Office and others. Fonts are the usual, but not only potential problem. The best insurance of cross platform success is for you to submit your files flattened in PDF file format. Microsoft Publisher files MUST ALWAYS be submitted in PDF format.

Files from the same software on the same platform, Mac or PC, can result in layout changes if your file is submitted in it’s native format. Fonts may not match up. Graphic elements or things like text wraps may shift when old version files are opened with new version software. Kerning (letter/word spacing of text) will likely be handled differently between software versions resulting in modified page layouts. Sometimes it may be necessary to submit files in their native format, but this will need to be worked out with our technical staff in advance. Under most circumstances, remember to flatten files and save in PDF file format!

Colors are always an issue. First, unless you calibrate your monitor to an industry standard, the colors you see on your monitor are going to be somewhat different than what we see on ours. Print proofing is the only way to identify color issues upfront accurately. High resolution offset printing-specific proofing is available as well as a more economical digital laser proof that is a reasonably close facimile of the final printing. Print proofing is possible for digital laser and wide-format inkjet printing. If your project is color critical, ask us about the best proofing options for your need.

Another critical color consideration is RBG color mode versus CMYK color mode. Printing, both laser and offset, use the CMYK mode (cyan, magenta, yellow, black). If you submit your file in RGB mode the automatic conversion to CMYK may produce an undersirable result due to color shift. Reds and blues tend to be the most problematic. Reds in CMYK printing are not as rich and vibrant as in RGB. Blues, especially dark blues, converted to CMYK tned to take on a purplish shift. Make sure that your submitted files are converted if you created them in RGB. If you place say photo images into a layout document (InDesign, Quark or Publisher), make sure you converted the photos to CMYK BEFORE placing them. This way you’ll see where the color shifts might be occurring so that you can modify them as needed although they tend to be more subtle on a monitor than what will occur in printing. Converting from one color mode to the other is program specific so you'll need to look to your program's help files if you're unsure on how to do color mode changes.

The chart below will give you an idea of how colors can shift around, some not so much and some significantly.














NOTE: This is an approximation. Color variances will differ from one monitor and one job to another. 

To ensure your photos and placed graphic elements print with the best quality, make sure your image resolution is at 300 dots per inch (DPI, also may be referred to as PPI, pixels per inch) at the final output size. DO NOT take photos and graphics from websites to use in your printed pieces as they typically are at “web resolution,” 72 DPI and will NOT print clearly. Simply increasing the resolution in Photoshop or another image editing program will not work. The result will still be a blurry image.

















72 dpi web resolution file printed at 300 dpi compared to original file at 300 dpi printed at 300 dpi. 

Wide-format inkjet printing has much more tolerance for file resolution. 300 dpi is great, but resolutions down to 150 dpi are very workable in many instances. Large format layouts at 300 dpi can create very large files that you may find difficult to handle because the resolution requirement also assumes the file is at the final physical dimensions. For example, a 24 x 36 layout in Photoshop at 300 dpi produces a file size of 222.5MB. Photographs can print at 200 dpi.  At 200 dpi the file is reduced to 98.9MB, a signifcant change. If file size is a consideration for you, call or email us and explain what you’ve done, or are planning on doing, and we’ll advise you on the accaptable file resolution for your project.


This refers to imagery that extends to the trim edge of your printed piece, be it a photo or graphic element or a color in the background. A common mistake is not providing a “bleed” of these elements. This simply means that the layout should be a typical 1/16" to 1/8” larger on all sides (per instruction given with your specific product) and any elements going out to the trim edge need to extend fully into the 1/8” bleed area. This ensures that when the paper is trimmed that there always will be a clean edge with no “slivers” of paper color showing at the edge. Also keep in mind that pieces that are intended to laser print on 8-1/2 x 11 paper cannot not have bleeds. We cannot print right to the edge of the paper with either laser or offset, so layouts that bleed have to print on paper larger than the trim size of your printed piece. 

Files for laser printing submitted with content to the edge and with no bleed provision will be printed on oversize paper and then trimmed at least 1/16" into the layout. This may cause issues with the graphics. Files submitted for offset printing with content to the edge and with no bleed provision will be rejected and require a replacement file with proper bleeds included.

The business card template sample shown below is typical of all templates in that it shows the outer bleed line, the Trim Line (red), and the inner Safety Line (blue). It is important to following these guides in order to ensure a good printing result.


There are many types of software programs that can be used to create a brochure, flyer, rack card, etc., on either the Mac or Windows platforms. At Island Printing & Imaging we are Mac-based. Cross platform files are almost always problematic unless they are in PDF format. Unless you’ve worked out details in advance, do not submit files in their native format. If you work in Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, QuarkXpress, Coreldraw, or any other program that can create layers, be sure to FLATTEN your file and then make a PDF. Do not send files with editable fonts as they likey will not render correctly. So remember, files flattened in PDF file format!

We realize that computer graphic files of all types can be confusing and that meeting the various requirements can be difficult for those who don’t routinely deal with them at our level. We’re more than happy to offer advice as needed and do the work for you as required. Please realize that there will be a labor charge when our work on your behalf must go beyond simply offering a little advice or direction.

Color chart showing how some RGB colors convert to CMYK inks
Printing quality comparison of a 72 dpi and 300 dpi image.
Illustration to show printing bleed, trim and "safe area" of a typical printing job.
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