How To Set Up InDesign For Print

In this article, How To Set Up InDesign for Print, we cover the basics of preparing an InDesign project for commercial printing. It’s the first of a multi-part series to help you achieve the best outcomes for your project.

Every customer is important to us. That’s why we spend the time to help educate them — whether it’s how to prepare a file, or about the print process. Over the years, we’ve built quite a reputation around our one-on-one personalized service. It’s what sets us apart from other providers.

On any given day, we get questions about file formats, bleed, color space, image resolution, or how to package an InDesign project. We hope this step-by-step guide, How to Set Up InDesign For Print, helps you get your print project off to a good start.

CMYK And Print

The print process uses a CMYK color space. In offset printing, a plate is created for each color (C for Cyan, M for Magenta, Y for Yellow, and K for key/black). An image of the design is transposed onto each of the four plates, placed on a cylinder, and then simultaneously transferred to paper. The ink flow for each plate is calibrated to produce different combinations of color. CMYK produces a limited subset of color available in the RGB color space. Therefore, colors on a printed page won’t exactly match colors you view on a computer screen. Smartphones and computer monitors are pixel based and use the RGB color space. Read more about color spaces here.

How To Set Up InDesign For Print

  1. Open InDesign. Go to File > New. Select Print from the top bar. Standard print layout options and free design templates are available.
  2. Select a preset, or set the width and height in inches.
  3. Select paper orientation, landscape or portrait.
  4. If checked, Facing Pages sets the document up as a spread. A spread is a set of pages viewed together, like two pages of a book or magazine. To create a stand alone page or sequential pages, uncheck the box.
  5. If checked, Primary Text Frame creates a text frame, on each page, sized to match margins set.
  1. Set the number of columns/gutter, if needed.
  2. Open the first fly-out and set margins. If the lock is closed, margins are set equally on all sides. If desired, unclick the lock and set margins individually.
  3. Open the bleed and slug fly-out. Set bleed at .125 for each side. A bleed is required when color runs to the edge of a page. Note the .125 inch bleed is not included in a document’s overall size. When a print job is finished and cut to size, the bleed is trimmed. When cut, the bleed ensures color will run precisely to the cut edges of a page.

Setting a slug is not recommended. A slug is a non-printing element to note information, such as date or title of a document.

If checked, Preview shows a snapshot of the document before it’s saved.

How To Save & Create Presets

  1. To save settings and generate a new InDesign file, press Create. Don’t forget to save your file, and save it often.
  2. Settings can be saved as a preset. Name the preset at the top of the dialog box. Press the download button. Your saved Presets are accessed from the top bar under the Saved Category.

How To Check For Print Readiness

  1. A bleed is required for images and colors that run to the edge of a page. Bleed is the red line that extends outside the cropped edge of a document. Any imagery/artwork/color must be extended to the bleed line. If bleed is missing, go to File >Document Set-up and reset the bleed to .125 inches on all sides.
  1. To size image or artwork to the bleed line, select the frame. Go to Object > Transform > Scale + Check The Preview Box. Preview enables scaling in real time. Increase or decrease the % to fit to the bleed line. Or alternatively, select the frame and adjust the frame size to the bleed. Place the cursor on the image, then go to Object > Fitting > Fill Frame Proportionally. Check to validate all images are at 300 PPI (see #15).
  1. Proofread the document. Another pair of eyes always helps, but you can also run spell check. Go to Edit > Spelling > Check Spelling. Review each word that comes up on check. Dynamic Spelling allows you to see errors in real-time. Turn it on  Edit > Spelling > Dynamic Spelling. Unfortunately, this process won’t check for mistakes in spacing. To view extra spaces in text go to Type > Show Hidden Characters. Go back to Type > Hide Hidden Characters when done.
  1. If a free Adobe Typekit Font is used, converting text to outlines is required. Those fonts are excluded when an InDesign project is packaged. Select all the type to convert. Type > Create Outlines. Click on the Direct Selection Tool, hover over the text, letters have now been outlined. Creating Outlines should only be done when proofing and the layout is complete. Once outlines are converted, the font and text are no longer editable. 
  1. Images must be at 300 PPI (the terms DPI & PPI are used interchangeably). To check resolution, click on an image in the document, then go to Window > Info. Two readings appear, Effective PPI & Actual PPI. Actual PPI is the resolution of an image at 100% of its original size, or the size of the image file. Effective PPI is the resolution based on the size of the image as placed in the InDesign document. That size may be different than the original file size, based on the frame size as placed in InDesign. Effective PPI must be 300 or higher for pint. Learn more about DPI and PPI here.
  1. Image resolution can also be viewed in the Links Panel. Window > Links. In the panel, find an image on the list and click it. Place the cursor over the icon next to the word “size”, the first number is Actual PPI, the second is Effective PPI. Open the links fly-out menu. This panel provides more detailed information than the Link Info Panel. Learn more about the difference between DPI and PPI here.

PDF Settings And Final Project Preparation

The last step in preparing a project for print is to package the InDesign project. Packaging is a process whereby:

  • A .pdf file and .idml file are created.
  • Linked Photoshop/Illustrator/image files/fonts and original InDesign file are copied.
  • A folder is created and all files are organized within it.

Before packaging is initiated, the InDesign .pdf export settings require modification. A Pre-Flight Print JobOptions File with the correct .pdf settings is provided below. Follow the instructions and download the file.

There are other ways to check your InDesign file for errors by using the Pre-Flight Panel. We’ll cover how to customize that panel in a future blog post.

 PDF Settings

  1.  Importing the Pre-Flight Print Job Options File into InDesign is a great way to use a standard .pdf set-up for print production. Using the defined settings will give you increased consistency over output of your final work. Press download to get the Pre-Flight Print Job Options File.
  1. Once the file is downloaded, save it to a folder and uncompress it. Open InDesign (you don’t need to have a document open). Go to File > Adobe PDF Presets > Define. In the Adobe PDF Presets Dialog, click LOAD and navigate to the saved the Pre-Flight Print Job Options File. Double click on the file to open it. When you see the new High Quality Print listed in the presets, click done to confirm and exit the dialog. 


How To Package An InDesign Project

  1.  Open your InDesign project file. A dialog may ask you to save, save the file. Go to File > Package. Press the Package ButtonIn the Finder dialog box, name the folder where you want the files placed, and navigate to where you want them stored. Ensure all boxes are checked as per the example in the dialog box. Select the High quality Print PDF preset from the pull-down. Click Package. In the next dialog box. click ok. Packaging may take a few minutes. 
  1. Navigate to where you placed the folder and double click. The process of packaging duplicates the original InDesign file, copies all the fonts and links (images, .psd, .ai, etc.), and organizes all them into a single folder. Note that the original InDesign file is saved where you last left it. If future project changes are required, decide which InDesign file to use – the original or the packaged version. Incorporate that decision into your workflow. Archive outdated files for organization.

Refer to this guide each time you start a new print project. If you have questions, reach out and ask. Navigate back to THE TALK and view additional articles to help you design for print.

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