Pre-Press & Printing Cheat Sheet

Your mini guide to the printing industry. Please note that this cheat sheet is customized to our printing company and may be somewhat different compared to others. However, we urge you to read on to maybe learn a thing or two, and in no time you’ll be speaking in printing lingo!

The Basics of Printing

What is offset printing?

Offset printing (aka lithography) is one of the most common printing techniques used today. It starts when your inked image is transferred from a plate to a rubber blanket, then it goes to the printing surface, which, in our case, is paper. Four plates (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black — CMYK) are used for a full color print. If you have a special color in mind (like a specific Pantone color or a spot color), that would just require one plate. The process is very technical and would require the print operator’s skills and techniques to get it right.

A higher volume job would be more suitable for offset printing, as set up time can be costly. If you’re looking to print just about 500pcs. and below, we would recommend you to have it digitally printed instead.

Preparing your files

Files that are print-ready will contribute to the efficiency of print production. File revisions or repairs may incur additional charges and cost you time, depending on its complexity. Remember that what you see on your screen doesn’t necessarily mean it is print-ready. There are some elements to consider beyond that.

Programs / Softwares

Prepare your artwork in the right programs best suited for the tasks. Each type of software should only be used for what it is intended. Bad use of software can create major problems.

• Drawing Programs – CorelDRAW, Adobe Illustrator (ideal for logos, packaging, posters, etc)

• Image Editing / Processing Programs – Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom (for photos)

• Layout Programs – Adobe InDesign, CorelDRAW (for page layout or imposition)

Elements of an Artwork for Print



All artworks must at least have a resolution of 300 ppi (pixels per inch) or 300 dpi (dots per inch) in actual size. Bitmap images (linework) should be at least 1200dpi and preferably 2400dpi. Artwork resolutions lower than these may affect the print quality.


Artworks that will touch the edge of a page (in finished/trimmed size) need to overlap the trim margins to give it an allowance. That overlapping area is called the bleed and is there to avoid having unwanted white spaces in case it is not cut exactly on the trim marks. A bleed of at least 5mm is needed. To accommodate the bleed area, either reduce the intended size of your artwork or use a larger paper.

Margins or “Safe Zone”

You would not want elements in your artwork to be clipped off even if you supplied a bleed. Margins should be applied so your artwork would be in a “safe zone“. The size depends on your preferences, but at least 3-5mm is recommended.


It is important to supply all the exact fonts used in your artwork since they may not be available on our computer. However, it is still best and advised to convert all fonts to “paths”, “curves”, or “outlines” so you don’t have to supply the fonts, plus it will also be accurate. It is recommended to save it as another file since text cannot be edited once it is converted.

Text & Images

It is extremely important for you to proofread your text before sending it to us. You can compare us to a copy machine, wherein we just reproduce the prints you provide us. Once your file has been finalized, it would be hard for us to touch the artwork and do some changes. Your artist must be responsible for preparing it for printing. There are several free tools you can use to proofread your work: Google,,, or your program’s built-in checker. It doesn’t hurt to double check spelling, grammar, punctuation, format, and images used. As a general rule, images should be the same size, if not bigger, as the final output. It must also be at least 300 dpi for it to be high quality. Revisions, when too late, can be costly in terms of money, time, and effort.

File Format

To ensure high resolution printing, we accept the following industry standard file formats:


Trim Marks

Trim marks are small vertical and horizontal lines placed outside of your image so the cutter knows where to trim them once it has been printed. Usually it is placed on or outside the bleed area because they will be cut off.

Trimmed Page Size

This is the intended final size of your artwork after it has been cut on the trim marks. It is important to know this and indicate it on your quotation inquiry because it will determine which machines will be used to print your job, which will affect the final cost.


Color Mode: Process
Color Type: CMYK










CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. Four color process or CMYK color mixes is most commonly used for full color prints. Every element on your artwork/s must be saved in CMYK to separate properly. If your artwork is in RGB (Red, Green, Blue) mode, you should be able to convert these colors into CMYK using programs/softwares.

Color Mode: Spot
Color Type: Match Color
Spot colors, standardized by the PMS (Pantone Matching System) are ready mixed inks (examples are fluorescent and metallic colors) which means their colors are standardized. Each spot color is counted as one color.

* An artwork may consist of both process and spot colors. If your artwork is full-colored and has hints of neon pink, that will be counted as 5 colors (4 Process + 1 Spot). Alternatively, if your artwork only has black and gold, that should only have 2 colors (1 Process + 1 Spot). You may call any of our representatives or artist to determine how many colors your artwork has.


Gradients or shades of a color are produced with a technique called halftone. If you look closely at a print (using a magnifying glass), you’ll see that each ink color is composed of many tiny dots that are of equal size and spacing. A halftone is basically an optical illusion wherein the dots differ in size and spacing, so you see it as different shades from afar.

Rich Black

If you want a more solid and darker black than the 100% K Black, then you can opt to add other colors (CMY) to make it richer.
Rich black is a combination of:

• 30% Cyan

• 30% Magenta

• 30% Yellow

• 100% Black

Please keep in mind that this technique is only suitable for large, solid black areas and text that is at least 36 points. If not, it will be harder to guarantee the sharpness of your artwork.

Choosing the Right Paper

Paper Descriptions

Choosing the right paper for your project is vital in making an impression. We have a variety of paper stocks available for your printing needs. Below are some of our most popular stocks.

• Book Paper – High quality paper used for printing books. There is a variety of sizes and thickness available.

• C1S / C2S (Glossy or Matte) – These are print industry shortcodes for “Coated 1 Side (front only)” and “Coated 2 Sides (front and back)” respectively. C1S is mostly used for covers or labels wherein the back side does not need coating or may be used for other purposes (i.e. glued to glass). C2S is mostly used for double-sided printing as the coating yields sharper text and images than non-coated papers.

• Carrier Board – A coated board that is colored white on one side and colored brown on the other side, has the wet-strength to accommodate freezer storage.

• Chip Board – A board made from waste paper used mainly in packaging; usually colored gray.

• Claycoated Board – A board in which a special clay mixture has been applied to; white-colored on one side and gray-colored on the other side.

• Corrugated Board – Consists of one or more sheets of fluted paper stuck between flat sheets of paper or board.

• Duplex Board / Foldcote– A multi ply construction of a board made predominantly from mechanical pulp but with a bleached chemical pulp liner.

• Kraft Paper – Solid pulp paper produced by the sulfate process with or without bleaching. Usually brown in color.

• Sticker – An adhesive paper usually used for labels, promotions, or decorative purposes. Available in satin and hi-gloss.

• Synthetic Paper – A high grade paper with the finish of plastic. Made from a mixture of paper and special film, this paper’s properties include amazing strength and high opacity at low weight and low density. Unlike plastics, this paper is environmentally friendly as it leaves no residue when discarded or burned.

Source: NAPPCO

Paper Weight

The term “paper weight” refers to the thickness and sturdiness of the paper. When choosing paper weight, you must consider how you’ll use the paper. If you’re having trouble deciding, call us up and we’d be happy to help.

60lb Your everyday paper– bond paper / copy paper
70lb Multipurpose paper– most popular business letterhead or stationery weight
80lb Excellent for 2-sided printing with minimal show through– perfect weight for brochures and presentations
100lb Excellent for 2-sided printing with minimal show through, but slightly heavier– also perfect for brochures and presentations
120lb Often considered the lightest of the cardstocks– great for self mailers with a flexible “soft feel” quick drying surface
140lb A durable cardstock with a smooth, hard surface for medium applications– tabs, dividers and manila folders
160lb A sturdy stock with a superb “soft feel” fast drying surface– great for postcards, menus and posters
180lb The average weight of an index card for heavier applications– common for tabs, dividers and manila folders
220lb A heavy cardstock– most conventional business card weight

Your Guide to Printing Finishes

What are finishes?

Finishes are additional work done after printing.
See below for the various finishes we offer.


Binding styles need to be considered as they will affect margins and impositions. Thickness, durability, cost, and purpose contribute to choosing the right types of binding. Always remember to place margins accordingly to accommodate your chosen binding.


Wire-O binding (aka Double Loop, Twin Loop, or Duo-Wire) is very similar to spiral binding, wherein the publications can be laid flat and pages can be turned 360 degrees. The only difference is the wire used and how it is closed. This type of binding has 2 sizes/punch patterns:

• 3:1 – Three holes per inch. Usually used for thinner documents, wire diameters range from 3/16” – 9/16”, and can fit 5 – 120 pages.

• 2:1 – Two holes per inch. Since the holes are further apart from each other, this allows for a bigger wire diameters ranging from ¼” – 1-¼”, and can fit 20 – 260 pages.


Comb binding (aka Plastic Comb Binding or Spiral Comb Binding) uses round plastic spines that can be opened again, making it perfect for frequently-updated documents like price lists, training manuals, proposals, and more. Documents can be laid flat, but cannot be turned 360 degrees. Spine sizes range from 3/16” – 2” and can hold up to 16 – 425 sheets.


Spiral binding (aka Coil Binding) is used so publications can be laid flat and pages can be turned 360 degrees. Although available in different hole patterns, 4:1 (4 holes/inch) is most commonly used. Typical uses are for notebooks, calendars, flip charts, presentation proposals, and more. Coil sizes range from ¼” – 2”, and can hold up to 2” thick documents.


Perfect binding (or unsewn binding) is the application of adhesive to the spines of the book. The process is slower and more expensive. Consideration should be given for the area near the spine, as artwork/text there tend to be harder to see when opened. A larger margin would solve this problem. Typically used in paperback and soft cover books.


Saddle-stitching is a fancy way of saying stapling, though the wire staples used here are longer and rounder than normal office staples. It is the least expensive form of binding, but can only be used on publications of up to around 128 pages, depending on the paper stock. Typical uses are for booklets and catalogs.

Caution: The more pages you have, the more it will cause “bulking”, wherein the middle pages would appear to be “wider” than the outer pages when folded. This edge will be trimmed after binding, so you must allow a bigger margin for these pages to avoid losing important content.

Die cutting

For printed products that are not square- or rectangular-shaped (in spread size), die cutting is used in order to achieve a unique shape. You will need to submit a separate file that contains only the shape so that a die (blade) can be created for your project.

Some examples of die cut products are paper bags, boxes, stickers (half die cut – doesn’t cut all the way), folders, door hangers, and more.



Tri-Fold / Letter Fold /

Gate Fold




Accordion Fold

Four-Panel Roll Fold

Double Gate Fold


Double Parallel Fold


Half-Fold + Half-Fold /
French Fold

Half-Fold + Tri-Fold


Gluing is where sheets are held together with an adhesive, which differs depending on its purpose. A notepad would require a special padding glue (usually red or transparent) to hold the sheets together and can be easily torn. A paper bag requires its base and sides to be held with a stronger glue. Sometimes, if the product is too big or if it will be more cost-effective, we can also separate and print the artwork in two parts then glue them together instead.


A coating or lamination is an additional layer applied after the printing process to protect and preserve your printed products. Depending on the purpose of your prints, coating/lamination can strengthen your paper, improve appearance and feel, protect it from water, extend its life, and more. Laminations using plastic may also make it harder for it to be torn.

• Varnish – a clear liquid coating that results in a glossy look. It is the cheapest option but also has the lowest protection.

• UV Lamination – also a clear liquid coating that is hardened by exposing it to ultraviolet light. This is glossier and has more protection than varnish.

• Plastic Lamination – a layer of glossy plastic is applied to achieve a glossy and more vibrant look. We also offer a variety of textures for plastic lamination.

• Matte Lamination – also a layer of plastic, but matte. Use with caution as colors may become duller, but this is mostly used for a more sophisticated look. We also offer a variety of textures for matte lamination.

• Spot UV – a varnish applied to “spots” (chosen areas) to highlight that part of the artwork. Usually paired with matte lamination to heighten the contrast between the glossy and matte parts.


Scoring is a method of creasing the paper with a line in order to help in folding. It helps prevent the cracking of paper and ink, and gives a clean fold. This is needed especially for folding thicker stock like greeting cards, boxes, gift tags, folders, envelopes, paper bags, and more.

Foil Stamping

Foil stamping is the application of heat to transfer metallic foil onto paper. There are many different available colors of foil, but gold and silver are the most common. Foil stamping gives off a shiny and sophisticated look, and can be used to make your prints stand out. This is mostly used in business cards, packaging boxes, note/book covers, and more. Like die cutting, a separate file that contains only the area to be stamped (in solid black) is required.

Checklist for your print files

Is your file print-ready?

To avoid delays in printing, please use this checklist as a guide before sending your file/s to us.

  •  Color

Proofreading should be conducted prior to submission of the files. Always remember to proofread at least twice (always better to have someone else proofread too) before submitting your file/s to us. We cannot emphasize too much how important proofreading is to you. You can compare us to a copy machine, wherein we just reproduce the prints you provide us. Once your file has been finalized, it would be hard for us to touch the artwork and do some changes. Your artist must be responsible for preparing it for printing. Once it’s a go, there’s no going back.

Send your file/s

What to provide us when you send your file for printing.

  •  Artwork file/s
  •  Diecut and/or Scoring file/s
  •  Foil stamping file/s
  •  Mockup or dummy

*If you will be sending your file/s through email, please also attach a picture of the mockup– this way, we can envision as to how the final output should look like. By doing this, you will reduce any chances of errors and prevent any unnecessary delays.