Design Basics for Your Print Files

When you’re talking about print projects there are certain questions that pop up over and over again…and most of them are directly related to how to format your files for submission to your friendly neighborhood printer. Since proper formatting is a key ingredient in convincing your printing project to come out with the clean, clear appearance you want (instead of the fuzzy, grainy, pixilated, choppy, off-center appearance you don’t) a quick run-down on the basics of print formatting should be an integral part of your pre-submission routine.

Text Alignment

There’s a great quote from Peter Bilak that explains the formalities of text alignment in graphic design to the proverbial “T”. Bilak stated that “Right and wrong do not exist in graphic design. There is only effective and non-effective communication.” Now, don’t get me wrong, there are times when graphic design can go horribly, horribly wrong…but when you’re talking about the alignment of your text it really is all about which style will go best with the rest of your design.

We personally recommend you use either fully justified text or left alignment when plotting out your text, since:

  • Fully justified text allows for more characters per line, may require you to pay extra attention to word and character spacing to avoid ugly white space in your text and may touch base with the familiar, since this is the format usually used by books and newspapers, whereas
  • Left aligned text is often considered more friendly/less formal, opens the door to the possibility of white space at the end of the paragraph and is generally considered easier to work with.

The best rule of thumb is to watch your spacing and see what works best with your design. Oh, and don’t forget to make sure there’s at least .5” between your text and the edge of your document.

Margin Allowance for Bleeds

Bleeds are often preferable to having a “framed” image on your print project, creating a smooth and finished look that most graphic designers use as a matter of course. When an image “bleeds”, the background design rolls over the cut lines so that the printer actually cuts through the image, a look that can be achieved by extending the margins of your graphic 1/8” on either side. (Click here to learn more about bleeds and your print design.)

File Format

What format should your files be in? We accept files in:

Proper formatting is essential to the success of your print project, so if you don’t know whether or not you’ve got your file set up the right way, ask! Remember, you can always reach us here at 585-266-4911 or via email at