Preparing Files for Print

FAQs - Preparing Files for Print

Tips about preparing your file for print production

Your file is only high resolution at a certain size.

If you are dealing with a vector file, there is no resolution (vector files do not use pixels and cannot be said to be high res or low res). See vector graphics here.

Resolution illustration

Any file can be shrunk in size enough to make it high resolution. "Resolution" is simply a count of how many pixels a file contains in a given area (typically, a count of pixels per inch or ppi).

So is your photo high res? You can only answer this when you know how large it needs to be printed. Every raster image is made up of a grid of pixels. Pack more of them into a given area and the resolution increases (higher resolution). Spread those pixels out over a larger area (a larger print) and the resolution (count of pixels in every inch) drops.

Here's a method for figuring this out:

  1. Open the file in an image editor (Photoshop, Lightroom, etc.)
  2. Find out the pixel dimensions:
    1. In Photoshop, go to Image -> Image Size
    2. The image's pixel dimensions are shown in red. Divide these numbers by the desired output resolution. For example, the above image shows the resolution to be 176.825 ppi at 24.25 x 16.106 inches:
      1. 4288 ÷ 176.825 ppi = 24.25 inches wide
      2. 2848 ÷ 176.825 ppi = 16.106 inches high
      Dividing by a different resolution will yield a different output size. For example, if you need the image to be high resoluion you should divide by 300. Note that the output size drops accordingly (below). We're simply packing more of the available pixels into every inch:
      1. 4288 ÷ 300 ppi = 14.293 inches high
      2. 2848 ÷ 300 ppi = 9.49 inches wide

An image can be resampled in Photoshop but not with any gain in clarity. The image will indeed become higher res, but no additional true detail will be added to the image.

If you are not clear about resolution, feel free to give us a call.

A good print starts with a good file.

Providing us with a healthy digital file is the best way to ensure the quickest and most cost-efficient print service.


Build the file to the size you want it to print. For example:

  • If you want a finished size of 8.5 x 11, build your file to that size.
  • If you are designing a banner, find out what size the banner should be and construct the file to those dimensions.
  • If you want a poster to be printed at two different sizes, you'll probably need to set up two different files…one for each size.


Ensure sufficient resolution for images:

  • large format: generally 150 ppi at output size is good for large format posters
  • digital and press: try to provide 300ppi at output size
  • fine art and photography prints: 300ppi will giev the best quality and detail

Do not bump up image resolution beyond 300ppi unless the image is intended for enlargement. If you're not sure about how resolution works, call us.

File formatAdobe PDF

Whenever possible, provide us with a PDF. Microsoft formats (Publisher, Word, Powerpoint) are very difficult to print from. Please export to PDF and check to ensure that the PDF looks exactlyhow you want it before you send it to us.

TAGS: file format, PDF




Vector Graphics 

Raster Graphics 

Image is created by 

Geometrical shapes, lines (vectors) A grid of pixels

Capable of spot colours?

Yes Technically yes, but not without difficulty and only in some file formats.

Capable of RGB and CMYK colours?

Yes Yes

Good for photos?

No Yes

Good for logos?

Yes No. Raster files are quite bad for logos.

Typical file formats


Scalable to any size?

Yes No

So which one is better?

Neither. They both have their uses. A photo should be stored as a pixel-based format such as TIF and JPEG, but when a logo is stored in these formats serious limitations are placed on its ability to be scaled, printed and used in general. A logo should be stored as a vector file.

Can I just re-save the file into a vector format?

No, that's impossible. In order for a raster file to be made into a vector file it needs to be re-drawn or traced. A computer can do this (Adobe Illustrator has this ability) but it can only do a nice job under certain conditions. Normally a human will need to do this process using some vector tools. Simply re-saving your image as an AI, EPS or PDF will not convert your file into vector data.

Still confused?

Don't worry about it. Give us a call.

TAGS: bitmap, raster, vector

Every image has a shape. Some are square, most are rectangular. Aspect ratio is simply a description of the image's width and height. This is most often expressed as a ratio such as 4:5, 16:9 and so on. This can express length:width or width:length, depending on whether the image is oriented to portrait or landscape.

Aspect ratio and resolution describe different things about a file. Aspect ratio and resolution are related (one describes the numerical relationship between the length and width, the other measures how many pixels per inch are available) but they are not the same thing.


Every square image, regardless of its size, has an aspect ratio of 1:1.  That means that the length of the image is exactly the same as its width. That's what we mean when we say "square".


Most photos come off the camera as some sort of rectangular shape. Common aspect ratios are 4:5 and 16:9.

Cropped images

If you crop your own images without paying attention to aspect ratio, it is very likely you'll end up with a non-standard size that will require custom framing. We are capable of printing most non-standard sizes without any trouble at all; but be aware that when you reach framing stage you may encounter some trouble with standard frames.

So what aspect ratio should I use?

That depends. What size print do you want? If you want a 12" x 12" (square) print, you need to crop the file to be square. If you want an 8" x 10", there's no use in sending us a long panoramic photo or a square photo. Common aspect ratios are below.

Common aspect ratios include:

Moving columns requires cropping
Moving rows requires 
changing resolution




4" x 6" 4" x 4.53"  4" x 5" 
8" x 12" 8" x 10.67" 8" x 10" 
10" x 15" 9" x 12"  9" x 11.25" 
11" x 16.5" 11" x 14.67" 11" x 13.75"
16" x 24" 16" x 21.33" 16" x 20"
18" x 27" 18" x 24" 18" x 22.5"
24" x 36" 24" x 32" 24" x 30"

What's the difference?

RGB colour is made up of Red, Green and Blue colours. This is typically used for screen graphics: monitors, handheld devices such as smart phones, and other screens. See

CMYK colour is made up of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black colours. This is also known as process colour, full colour and four colour. CMYK is typically used in inkjet, digital and offset press printing.

Spot colour is made up of whatever inks are chosen or the job. Typically designers will use a black ink plus one, two or more 'spot' inks. We create one press plate per colour, and these are each printed in turn to create the finished image. True spot colour printing can only be done on a press, but many digital devices (inkjet and digital printers, for example) are able to emulate spot colours.

Which one should I use for my files?

It depends entirely on the job.

Production method

Best colour model

Typical examples

Full colour offset press CMYK brochures, fliers, posters, rack cards, some stationery 
Spot colour offset press spot colour stationery, forms,  some posters and promotional printing
Large format inkjet  RGB posters, exhibits, displays, maps
Digital colour CMYK  reports, booklets, business cards, stationery

If you accidentally provide the file with a mismatched colour model, that's fine. Our prepress operators have a lot of experience swapping files from one to the other.

Still confused?

Don't worry about it. Give us a call.

Yes, you can. But it's not a good way to send files. Send us a PDF instead.

If you are not able to send us a PDF, send us your Microsoft files and we'll do the conversion. We'll send you a PDF proof before we print.

To find out how to convert your Microsoft files to PDF, click here:

TAGS: Microsoft

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