How to Design for Print

How to Design for Print - BLACK LABEL UK

If you are new to the world of designing for print or maybe, you need a refresh, then be sure to look through this following help guide put together by Black Label UK's expert design team. 

It can be a little confusing and an enormous process to undertake to prepare your design for print. Creating a design that encapsulates your or your clients brand that works well on paper can be a challenging thing to undertake, but we are here to help. 

It comes as no surprise that you are looking to achieve the best print results possible, so it is crucial to read through this content. The number one mistake that happens can turn out costly in the worst-case scenarios. Always remember to check your spelling before sending your file off to print. It sounds obvious, but we are calling from our experience - this happens a lot more than you would like to believe. To help you get your printed files spot on, our team has compiled a quick list below to help you get it perfect. 

Just follow these simple steps below, and you'll be off to a great start! 

Creating a PDF

When you create a print-ready PDF, please ensure you have completed the following checks: 

    Artwork services that we provide

    BLACK LABEL UK provides a range of artwork services to bring your visions to life or get your artwork into a print-ready state. Please see the services we offer below: 

    1. Just Print - This one is for the experts; it's our free option for your print-ready PDF files. If you use this option, we shall print your files just as you supplied them. 
    2. File Check - If you are unsure about something within your print-ready file, select this option. Our Pre Press team shall run several checks, and we shall get back to you if we pick up on anything that could become a problem so you can resolve it before your job goes to print. 
    3. File Assist - So you have designed your artwork, but it isn't in a print-ready format? No worries, send us a copy of your design, and our graphic design department shall work with you to transform your artwork into a print-ready file. 
    4. Full artwork service - This is our full custom graphic design service. Drop our team a brief, and we shall cost up your custom design and put this all together for you. We shall outline the initial cost and process and work with you until your design is perfect. Once signed off, we shall get your artwork into a print-ready state and then send it to our Pre Press department before dropping it onto the print run. 

How do I set up my files for print? 

With multiple factors to consider right from the off when you set up your file for the printed medium, our practical guide will walk you through the main process. It doesn't matter if you're designing a booklet, flyer, a T-Shirt or anything else Black Label UK has to offer; we will point you in the right direction. 

Templates - All of our products have templates available upon request. You can access them by dropping our team an email at, and we strongly recommend that you use these as your starting point if you have not designed for printed materials before. 

Sizing - There is always a set-up that requires the correct sized document. If you are unsure of what this is, please check with our team to avoid any mistakes. 

Bleed - This is the area that is added to the edges of your artwork. Please include anything that goes to the edge of the page within this area; images, colour blocks, e.c.t. To create a bleed, extend your image, colour, text, or object 3mm over the edge of the page. 

Quiet Border - This is the area within your artwork which we recommend does not contain text, images, or logos unless you want them to 'bleed' of the edge of the page. We recommend a 5mm quiet border area from the trimmed edge of your artwork (not the bleed). We also recommend that if you use any borders, they are a minimum of 3mm to ensure an even finish when trimmed. 

Resolution/Images  - This refers to how sharp the quality of your image is. The higher the resolution, the better quality your images in your final printed product will be. We recommend a minimum of 300dpi (dots per inch) photos to be used within our print.

RGB - If you usually design things for a digital space, you would use an RGB colour gamut. This gamut tends to be the default colour mode in most graphic design software such as InDesign or Illustrator. However, it is essential to make use of the CMYK colour gamut in print.

CMYK - It is essential to use the CMYK colour gamut in print. All printing presses across the world make use of the CMYK colour gamut. If you were to use an RGB colour gamut for print, the colour representation would be untrue, and your printed product would look a lot duller, and the colours may differ as to what was shown on your screen. 

Black - Black is a very tricky colour in the world of print (if you can even call it a colour as it technically isn't). If you have any black text within your print, please use the following values C0 M0 Y0 K100. If you have large areas of Black within your design (what Black Label UK refers to as 'Black fills'), we recommend using C40 M0 Y0 K100 for a 'cool' rich black and C40 M40 Y0 K100 for a 'warmer' black.

Spot colour - A spot colour is another name for a Pantone® colour. To achieve your desired spot colour, ensure your colour gamut is set to CMYK and then select one of the available spot colours from your design software colour library. Spot colour is a great way to ensure your colours remain the same across multiple print mediums. 

Fountain Fills & Transparencies - Black Label UK cannot accept artwork files for spot colour jobs containing fountain fills; however, we can accept these for full-colour jobs. 

Ink Coverage - Please avoid exceeding a maximum of 300% ink coverage. Our software reduces any ink coverage down to this cut off point. You can calculate the total ink coverage before submitting your artwork by adding the C, M, Y, and K values.

Overprint - This is a specification within your printed file that allows different colours to interact with each other. We only ask for overprint if you are supplying artwork for labels on a roll or large-format vinyl. 

Adding text on top of a PDF file - If you add text directly on top of a PDF, it won't be embedded. To avoid this issue, we recommend adding the text to your original artwork file and then reexporting this as a print-ready PDF.

Hairline - If you are to print a file on your home printer that contains lines under a weight of 0.25pt, then they may show. The hairlines will show because your home printer will more than likely print at 300dpi; however, when we run the same file through our own presses, then you may be shocked when the line doesn't show. This is because our presses run at 2400dpi, meaning they will more accurately recreate your digital design. Brilliant for most artwork, especially photos, not so good when it comes to thin lines. We, therefore, recommend using a minimum line weight of 0.25pt's.

QR codes - Can we print these? Yeah, no problem at all, but please make sure that they work correctly before sending us your artwork. It's important to remember that if you submit your job without a bleed, we will enlarge this - this could affect your QR codes or barcodes. We always encourage submitting your artwork with a bleed, but if you are using these, it is more essential than ever! 

ICC Colour Profile - Here at Black Label UK, we use the press profile ISOcoated_v2_eci.icc. This means that this profile will overwrite any profiles used in your file, so it is worth taking note of this. 

Colour variations in the printing methods used - The type of paper and the colour can affect the final printed colours on your product. Please be aware of this when placing your order.

Colour variations due to the paper stock - The same goes for the type of stock you choose to have your work printed on. 

Ink variations - Black Label UK works to its own ink tolerances, just like any other printing company in the world. What this means, though, is that your colours can vary ever so slightly between print runs, even when the same artwork file has been used. 

Colour banding - Large areas of pure Cyan, Yellow, Magenta or Black are prone to colour banding. Colour banding is where you can see bands of colour within your final printed work. We advise against using large areas of solid colour within your artwork. 

On-screen colour - When using a CMYK colour mix, we cannot precisely predict how your colours will look once printed. The only way in which to avoid this would be to reference them against a Pantone®Book.

Vector/Bitmap colours - Please note that if you use a mixture of Vector and Bitmap elements within your design that the colours will appear different from each other once printed - even if the colour values are identical.

Typefaces - We suggest a minimum typeface size of 5pts on your printed jobs. We also recommend that if your text is under 12pts that you should use 100% black. Please always ensure text is embedded within your print-ready artwork - if it isn't, it can lead to the text not being printed.

Exporting your file for print

Just like when you fly in an aeroplane, a pre-flight check is essential when preparing your PDF's for submission. If we use the aeroplane as an example, you won't find a pilot doing a pre-flight check just before taking off. They do this at their earliest convenience. We suggest doing the same thing with your printed files. The earlier in the process that any issues are detected, the easier it will be to fix them. 

Accepted file formats - We accept PDF's, JPG, EPS, or TIFF file types. However, if you choose our "Just Print" service, we will request your file as a PDFx1a-2001. We can accept PDF/x3 and PDF/x4 (and other PDF formats for printing), but the PDFx1a-2001 is the one we prefer as different PDF types can occasionally lead to issues. 


We hope that you found this guide helpful. Our team put it together to help you achieve a perfect quality print, not just the first time around but every time. This guide can help you regardless if you chose to print through Black Label UK or another printing company - the same rules always apply. If you still have questions, please feel free to let us know in the comments section below, and we will do our best to answer. 

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