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Doing your own production files

If you are planning to do your own graphics, make sure you understand the process.

There is more to know than just how to work a computer program. If you don’t feel comfortable following the specifications, please consider letting me handle it for you or hiring a designer. Graphic design for CDs is unlike design for any other media. Magazines, newspapers, the web, CDs – they all have specific requirements.

Production Ready means just that – ready for production. The printer should have to do nothing more than load the file into his system and print it. Your file must include bleeds, crop marks, registration marks, and booklets should be imposed.

This is an area that is deceptively easy, with all the cool computer equipment and software available. Just because you have a hammer doesn’t mean you can build a house.

Please have your designer contact me before starting. Print this page for reference.

ALL FILES WILL BE OUTPUT AS IS, unless adjustments are requested in advance. Changes and adjustments will be charged at published rate.

File Submission Policy
All projects include two rounds of file reviews (to check for template, resolution, printers marks, basic layout, missing elements, etc.).
Additional file resubmissions will incur a per-file charge


If you or your designer cannot answer ALL these questions correctly, please consider letting me create your files for you to keep your project moving along quickly and smoothly.

1. What is Bleed?
a. the liquid stuff that comes out of your finger when you cut yourself
b. the excess image area cut off a printed piece
c. the inside margin you should not cross on your insert

2. What is a Registration Mark?
a. The marks showing where to cut.
b. The cross hairs placed outside the image that help the printer line up the plates.
c. The © copyright symbol on your disc.

3. What is CMYK?
a. Stands for Certified Media Yellowbook Kernel
b. The Asian version of RGB.
c. Process colors

4. Which of these would be the best resolution at which to scan a 3×5 photo for a cover?
a. 300 LPI
b. 720 PPI
c. 72 DPI

5. What is a Spot Color?
a. The color used for registration marks
b. A printing method using separated predetermined numbered colors
c. A color used for proofing.

Preparing your files

THIS IS NOT A TUTORIAL ON DOING YOUR OWN DESIGN FILES OR HOW TO USE YOUR SOFTWARE – YOU ARE EXPECTED TO ALREADY KNOW HOW TO DO THIS. If you don’t know how to do it already, then a 2-page tutorial isn’t adequate to teach you, just like knowing how to master your music is something you either know how to do or you hire someone.

If you hire a designer, please have your designer contact me before starting.

ALL FILES WILL BE OUTPUT AS IS, unless adjustments or finishing services are requested in advance.

If you have hired an outside designer, it is highly advisable that the designer be in charge of or at least involved with the proofing. The designer is the only person who really knows whether the proof is correct, and how to fix it if it isn’t.


If you need a barcode, request it BEFORE you submit your production files to avoid extra charges to drop it into your art. I can email you a file that you can drop into your artwork. I can drop a barcode into your art files for you later, but this service will incur an additional charge.

• Approximate size of your barcode box should be 1.25”w x 0.5”h.
• Always place your barcode on a white background box. Bars must be 100% BLACK.
• Always generate your barcode in vector format (i.e. Use an EPS file). If your barcode is embedded in a Photoshop or TIFF file it will separate into CMYK colour format – this means the bars may not print as crisply, which affects its scannability.

Steps for preparing your files

1. Download Templates
2. Create artwork
3. Proof and check files
4. Generate production PDFs


Download my templates.

Choose the correct template according to the fold/style you desire – there are different dimensions for different fold configurations and every factory has their own templates. They might look the same, but there can be slight variations.

Note that the template for the inside of 6+ panel folders must be FLIPPED horizontally (left to right) so that the corresponding panel size lines up with the one on the outside.


Learn your software!
Upgrade your software!

Use the right software for the job. Each program has its strengths and weaknesses.

DON’T use software that is not intended for production quality graphics – eg. Microsoft Publisher, Word Perfect, CD Creator, Neato Disk Software, ClarisWorks, or Adobe PhotoDeluxe. Do not use Word to layout your design. Word should only be used for WORD processing.

Use a Page Layout program such as Adobe InDesign or Quark for layout and text instead of Photoshop.

Use support programs like Photoshop for images (photographic), and Freehand, Illustrator, or CorelDraw for vector art (logos) and then import into the page layout program.


While Photoshop is best image-editing program on the market today, it is not designed for page layout and does not handle text as well. It also cannot create the printers marks required.  Photoshop files are also extremely large files which can actually choke the image processor. Process (color correct, crop, clean) your images in Photoshop and then import them into a layout program.

Text in Photoshop:

Text in Photoshop may not print as crisp as text set in a page layout or vector program.

If you must create your design in Photoshop, try to stick to large font sizes and fonts that are relatively clear, set all type as anti-alias, and consider increasing your image resolution to 450 dpi to preserve some of the detail the font would normally have.

When you open the PDF in Photoshop, it is very important that your resolution is set to 300 ppi. The template should come in as a layer. Do not flatten.

File formats

I PREFER TO RECEIVE YOUR FILES AS PRODUCTION READY PDFs with crop marks and bleed, ready to print.


If you must provide files in native format (Indesign, Pagemaker, etc.) there will be a prepress charge for creating the production ready PDFs based on the hourly published rate.


If corrections need to be made to your files, an hourly charge will apply.

If you must resubmit your files due to errors on your part, a $10 charge will apply per file.

Native File Formats I Can Accept

InDesign, Pagemaker, Corel Draw, Freehand, Photoshop, Illustrator, EPS, TIF.

Send the actual working document with editable layers in case we need to make adjustments to your file to get it to match our templates or make last minute corrections you may request.

Do not flatten Photoshop layers.

I work on a PC (Windows) operating system. I can read MAC files, but may not have the same fonts.


  • all linked image files (tif, psd, jpg, eps)
  • Font files (TTF, OTF) of all typefaces you use
  • list of fonts and images used in your publication

Suggestion: keep all final images for your project in a single folder, and name them so you know which is for what so that when it comes time to save everything onto a disc, you won’t forget something.

File Submission

  • PREFERRED: FTP (file upload) – click on Upload tab in top menu – email me for the password
  • CDR / DVDR
  • Email – files should be zipped or stuffed,  5MB limit
  • USB Minidrive (thumbdrive)


Files should be CMYK or Greyscale. NO RGB or Spot Colors.  No indexed or lab or multichannel.

There is no discount for all black and white only printing.

Refer to a Pantone Process Color Guide for Coated Paper for color matching.


Do not rely on your screen or inkjet printer to provide accurate representaions of color.

IF YOU REQUIRE SPECIFIC COLOR MATCHING, please alert us. We can arrange for custom proofing and printing.

Create a Rich Black by setting it up with 100% Black and 40% Cyan.


DO NOT EMBED YOUR GRAPHICS! LINK them. Depending on which program you are using, the menu item (usually the FILE menu) will say GET PICTURE, IMPORT, or PLACE.

Never use GIF or BMP

Be sure color images are CMYK (not RGB), and scanned at adequate resolution – the final image must be able to maintain 350 ppi (175 line screen).

Do not use images that start at 72 “dpi” (such as something off the web) and then try to up them to 300  you’ll get garbage.

A 5″ x 5″ CMYK TIF file at 350 “dpi” should be at least 8.6 megabytes. If it isn’t, there is probably something wrong.

Save TIF files without LZW compression

Avoid JPGs if possible – this format compresses the image and can cause color loss and blur. If you need to edit a JPG, save as a TIF first.

Digital cameras should be set to the highest uncompressed format your camera has. Avoid using cameras under 2.5 megapixles.

Other things to know

Print out and fold a mock up to be sure all the folds line up correctly.
Bleed: 1/8 inch
Inside Margin: Don’t allow type to come any closer than 1/8 inch from the cut edges or folds.
Proof carefully, especially for typographical errors, missing elements, and font issues. You will be charged for any changes. (See my “Proofing Checklist”)
Do not assume the files you provide will automatically output correctly just because they print fine on your inkjet printer.

Booklets 8+ pages must be IMPOSED as Printer’s Spreads. Booklets received in reader’s spreads will incur additional charges. Please also provide a reader’s spread version (non-imposed) for them to reference page sequence.

Imaging Time: Keep your files as small as possible without losing resolution. 15 minutes imaging time is allotted per page or per plate for color separations. Jobs running over the allotted time will be charged for imaging time. To avoid excessive processing time, keep your images within 80-125% of final size at 350dpi. The extra resolution will not improve quality, just slow things down.

Design Tips

Less is more. White space is your friend. Don’t complicate things just for the sake of filling in all the available space. White space helps the reader to focus on the images and text that is there and actually draws attention to them.

Fonts: Limit your fonts to two or three different typefaces.

Look at some CDs in your collection for inspiration and guidance.


If you don’t feel comfortable following these specs, I would be pleased to create or finish your files for you. Call for a quote.

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