The difference between a Print Ready PDF vs just a PDF

By Tracy Jack

"Print Ready" is a term used in the printing industry to describe a PDF that has been correctly prepared so that it can be printed by a commercial printer. The exact requirements for a PDF to be “print ready” depend on the specific printer that will be printing the PDF document. Their printing equipment and technology set up determines what standards a PDF must be in order to print correctly.

Here are some general standards that are applied to a "Print Ready" PDF:

  • Colours in the document use the correct colour space for the desired outcome i.e.: CMYK colour space or Pantone if an exact colour match is required rather than RGB.
  • The colour black in the document is the correct kind of black (e.g. CMYK black/100K black)
  • Images are JPG, TIFF or EPS format
  • Resolution of the images is 300dpi or higher
  • Line weight of hairline rules is not less than 0.25pt
  • Bleed has been added to the document to ensure that where the images or design bleed off the edge of the page, you won’t see a white gap if the trim is not 100% acurate.
  • Any finishes applied during the printing process have been set up and specified i.e. foiling, knife lines, spot UV.
  • Page size (a.k.a. trim size) of a PDF is correct
  • Crop marks are present

 An everyday PDF that is generally exchanged throughout the design process is a lower quality PDF (to keep the file size down for emailing). The most obvious problem with these files, if they were commercially printed, would be the images potentially appearing pixelated and not sharp. Colours would possibly not be what was expected. This general PDF is usually suitable for reviewing, emailing and using online.

Each project is unique. It’s important to ask your printer exactly what the printing specifications are for each job, up front, so you can be sure you are pressing print with the correct PRINT READY file.

If your final PDF from your designer isn’t clearly labelled PRINT READY in the file name, we would suggest always double checking with them before printing. Ask yourself, is this the final file to print from, did you brief in the print specifications to them and is it clearly labelled as PRINT READY?

If you assume it’s print ready because you have no more revisions to the design, you could well be sending to print a PDF that is not optimised to be the best quality it can be.

The old saying “measure twice, cut once” applies to printing practices, because once it’s printed, it’s printed.

Print Ready PDF