For those people that work with digital files, it is important that they have a good understanding of what the various file formats are. Depending on whether you are working with text, images, videos, audio, or a combination of any or all of these things, there are a number of different ways in which they can be saved and the data exported. What they are being used for is a helpful way of determining what format is best for each individual file. For instance, for the purpose of commercial printing, the document should always be sent to the printer as a Portable Document File, or PDF for short.
No matter what file format you end up using, there are always pros and cons to each type. This is because they all have different levels of quality, size, editability, and compatibility. So these are all things that need to be considered before deciding on a format to save a document as. When it comes to printing, PDF is the best file format to use for a number of different reasons.
Working With Commercial Printers
In order for a commercial printer to print off materials for you, an exchange of a digital file or files is necessary. Whatever is sent to the printer acts as the source file and is used for the purpose of producing the printed project for you. The best file format to send that in is PDF, as it has the best balance of quality, portability, compatibility, editability, and size.
To explain why each of these factors are important for commercial printers, we will take a look at them in detail below.
- Quality – even though the artwork may look good on a computer screen it does not necessarily mean that it will print out at the same quality as this. An image must have a minimum of 200 dots per inch (DPI) in order for it to be of good enough quality for printing. With a PDF, you are able to maintain the artwork’s quality, whilst also keeping the size of the file down. Because of this, they are the perfect format to send over to a commercial printer. Despite PDFs not being quite as editable as some other file formats, via some automated print processes and Adobe Acrobat Pro. This enables commercial printers to fully optimize the file for the presses that they have.
- Portability – as the name suggests, a PDF makes saved content highly portable. It allows the digital asset to be sent whilst still containing the original source image, whilst preserving any fonts that are on there and their placement. This differs from other types of file formats that rely upon the file system of the computer that it was made on in order to bring all of the different design elements together. For instance, sending an INDB file (Adobe InDesign) without first ensuring that it has been packed can result in fonts and linked images being lost when the printer that you are sending it to does not possess any of these elements.
- Compatibility – whilst you personally may have a certain piece of software that you can view the file in, it does not necessarily mean that the person on the receiving end of it does. By saving the artwork as a PDF, it means that it can be viewed by anyone, regardless of what software they do or do not have. This is because the format is one that is widely used in almost all industries and so practically all modern computers and electronic devices have the ability to open PDFs. It also means that regardless of what software was used to create the artwork in the first place, it will always look the same when being viewed.
- Editability – for the purpose of designers sending files between one another, this is typically done in whatever the native file format is of the software that they have used to create the artwork. The reason for this is because it allows edits to be made quickly and easily by anyone that it is sent to using the same piece of software. However, being able to do this is not necessary for the printer to do. After all, a file should not be at the stage of being sent to a printer if it still requires some editing of it to be made. Once the artwork has been finalised and has been signed off, sending it to a commercial printer in a PDF format ensures that no changes are made to the artwork at their end.
- Size – when a piece of artwork is produced using specialist design software, such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe InDesign, it usually results in the size of the file being rather large. This is because they contain some data that is only used by this software. For instance, a PSD (Adobe Photoshop) file contains lots of data pertaining to each and every layer that the image is made up of. In Adobe Photoshop, images are made up of layers and are used to make certain editions to artwork without impact on other parts of it. Some images contain many layers and asaresult, the file size of a piece of artwork can be very large. However, these different layers are not required in order for the purpose of printing and so by saving the file as a PDF, it can drastically reduce its size. If the file is going to be sent over the Internet, it is important to check PDFs to ensure that they are the right size to be sent.
It is clear to see then that when sending any documents or artwork to a commercial printer, it should always be sent as a PDF. It is the easiest way for them to view the asset and do not have to spend any time playing around with it to do so. Thanks to their relatively small size, they can be sent quickly over the Internet via email and do not need to be compressed.