This is the usually the area where most customers and print shops have trouble communicating. For instance, maybe you designed a postcard in Microsoft Publisher and submitted it to your print shop as a .pub file. The print shop probably called or emailed you back asking for something different, they likely asked you to save it as a PDF and to send it to them again. Different shops have different standards for print ready files. We always prefer press quality PDFs.
After you’ve finished designing your project your file will likely have multiple layers. It is good for you to have a file saved with these layers intact for any future edits. However, flattening or compressing your file before sending it to the printer will save you time and transfer speed.
Here’s how to flatten images in Adobe programs:
Photoshop – layer > flatten image
Illustrator – Better to keep your separate layers and export file as print ready PDF.
InDesign – select layers tab (window > layers) > hold shift and select layers in layers tab > choose = (more layer options) > merge layers
If you’re designing a piece that will be print-ready then you should plan to send it in as a pdf and not have the print shop design staff make any changes. However, if you intend for the print shop design staff to make changes it’s best to give them your file in its native format: InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Publisher, etc. If you’re sending a native file, please make sure to package your file with all fonts and links.
Here are the capabilities of different file types:
JPG – a file format that can be opened/placed in design software. Needs to be 300 dpi or larger. Can only be manipulated in photoshop.
PDF – a transferable document that can be shared and exported across multiple computer platforms and a variety of design software
EPS – a vector-based graphics file that can contain text and/or graphics. Can be manipulated (in size and color) in Illustrator
TIFF – a “lossless” compression format – maintains image integrity/clarity. Can be saved with transparent backgrounds, unliked JPGs.
AI – an illustrator file with similar capabilities as an EPS
If text/graphics are what needs to be used/manipulated/printed, outlines AI/EPS files or PDFs are best file formats.