Artwork Guidelines

Designing For Print//Contour Cut//Die Cut//

At Golden Graphics we recognize that by streamlining the prepress and graphic design process we are able to spend less time fixing problem files, which results in significant savings for our customers. Thus we have compiled these artwork guidelines to help streamline the process from screen to print.

From years of experience with art files, we’ve seen the same common pitfalls that can ruin a client’s day and be costly for everyone. These artwork guidelines show the most common mistakes we experience on a day to day basis.


File Types We Recommend:

Acrobat PDF (Flattened)

Tiff (with Zip Compression)

JPG w/ Maximum quality
Any Rasterized/Bitmapped 300dpi file

File Types We DO NOT Recommend
Publisher Documents
Corel Draw
Print Shop/Paint Shop
Any MS Office program
Additional File Types We Accept
Acrobat PDF unflattened
Adobe Illustrator w/ fonts outlined
Adobe Photoshop (flattened)
EPS or PS with fonts outlined

File types that require exporting to PDF/TIF:

Corel Draw


Flattened PDF is the BEST printable file

In the last 5 years PDF has become the preferred print file. A flattened PDF can be achieved through ALL current design software suites. If not, you can use acrobat or distiller to convert your file to PDF. If you do not have Acrobat, there are many shareware PDF programs available. By using PDF we eliminate the risk of embedded fonts, overly compressed images, and other nasty problems.

Why Publisher and other MS programs are BAD!

Although we provide Publisher templates because of customer demand, we really don’t recommend it as a design program. Without getting too techinical- Publisher is NOT a professional design program, and will leave many problems with your files that we will be unable to fix. Namely, the JPG compression automatically compresses at the lowest quality possible, leaving your files blurry. Secondly, all text in Publisher or other MS programs are output as a “4 Color Black” which causes your small text to be fuzzy and at times unreadable.
If you are using Publisher because of a budget concern and would rather have a professional designer for your art, please contact us. We would rather substantially discount our design fees, over accepting substandard art / print files due to a software deficiency.

Tips For Quality Print Output:

What to know before you print…

Please read these guidelines very carefully! Although we check all of our customer files for problems, we are not responsible for customers that submit incorrect artwork. To insure proper output, please follow all guidelines and use our templates! If you have any questions regarding your files, please review our design tips and design guidline documents in our customer help center.

Download our design templates!
Click Here to download our design templates to insure proper resolution and trim!

We are a high resolution printer so we require all submitted files to be 300dpi (Dots Per Inch). If you design a job at 72dpi or lower we cannot use the file. Our prepress will resize it to 300dpi therefore “stretching” the image out. See the example below where one image was created at 300dpi, the other was created at 72dpi and then stretched out to 300dpi.

———————:://300dpi// – //72dpi//::

Bleed, Trim & Safety

About 1/8” on all sides will be trimmed off. Everything that extends past the original canvas size is considered a bleed. Make sure you do not have any important content in this area. Adjust your canvas size to compensate for this; allow another 1/8”. (See Size)

Although our cutting staff is extremely precise, we can not guarantee any print job cuts with out the added bleed. There are no exceptions. Also, please keep your text at least 1/4″ away from the edge of the piece unless it is an eighth page or smaller. This way your text is in a “safe” area. If you have any questions regarding this policy you may call us, or use our design templates located on our website.

The trim area is a space of 1/8″ after the bleed. Its purpose is to separate any text or important content from the edge.

The safety area is the space where its “safe” to put your layout, design and content.

—————-::1/8″ bleed // cut// safety::

Your print files should be designed in the size that is being ordered. We assume that you desire what you have ordered, and files will be re-sized in accordance to the job. We will not stretch and enlarge a file unless at your request. For example a 4.25″x5.5″ quarter page ordered as a 4″x6″ postcard will print as a 4″x6″ Please refer to our Design Templates for exact sizes and formats.

If your job is requires a border, please note that in order to have your border exact, we recommend ATLEAST a minimum of .25″ on all sides. Our cutters are specialists in their field, however due to paper shift, we can not guarantee it would be exactly balanced on all sides.

There are two types of color spaces that are used for graphic and print design:

(Red, Green, Blue) These are the colors your monitor uses to display everything.

(Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) These are the colors used for printing.

Offset printing uses the process colour or four colour known as  CMYK.

  • C‘ stands for Cyan (a color in the blue/green spectrum),
  • M‘ stands for Magenta (a color midway in the red/blue spectrum),
  • Y‘ stands for Yellow
  • K‘ stands for Key (the Black key plate).


Color shifts are usually not visible in color photographs; however, rich and solid colors (like a background) can be affected by a color conversion. Most of the time, color shifts are minor and may not be noticeable.

————-::RGB- CMYK::

Using the color BLACK

Rich Black
Large, solid black areas and text over 36 points should use Rich Black to prevent the color looking gray. Rich Black consists of 30% Cyan, 30% Magenta, 30% Yellow, 100% Black. For regular body text, do not use Rich Black.

————-::rich black – 100% black::

4 Color Build Black
If you have small, thin text on your piece, it is STRONGLY recommended that you do not use 4-color build black on your piece. Although, using a 4-color black is recommended on larger areas, using 4-color text on small areas will make your text blurry and at times, unreadable.

Process printing uses 4 plates that overlay to make your full color spectrum on your paper. Although precise, the registration of the 4-plates will shift during the print process. If you use all 4 colors to create your black, they will not line-up precisely, creating a ghosting affect.

This is especially evident on small text, or small lines 12pt and smaller. In order to fix this, we require that all small text be created as 100% black, 0% Cyan, Magenta, Yellow. This way, as plates shift, it will not affect the black color.

Please view this picture for an example.

————-::Picture 4 color 1 color::

Convert fonts to paths when possible. By converting fonts to paths in programs like Illustrator and FreeHand, you will avoid having to send the fonts with your files. When converting to paths, the text becomes a vector shape and will look no different than its original state.

In Photoshop, text can be rasterized and therefore does not need the fonts. Keep in mind that after rasterizing text, no changes can be made to the text.

If your fonts are not converted to paths or rasterized, your design may not be viewed the way it was meant to be seen.

File Names
In order to make the pre-flight process more efficient, please use unique file names for files you are submitting. The file name should reflect the job name that was given when ordering. Example: jsmith_4x6_front.pdf

Same Image on Both Sides
Let us know during the ordering process if you want your project printed with the same image on both sides. If we are not notified early in the project and receive only one file, your project could be delayed in order to locate the second file. If we receive two of the same file, your project could be delayed until you verify that both sides are to be printed with the same image.

—Instructions For Exporting From Design Programs—

Quark Xpress®

From the file menu in Quark select: “Save page as EPS…”
Name the file and press “Save”.
Open the Quark EPS file into Adobe Illustrator, “Select All” and go to the “Type” menu selection and “Create Outlines”. All text on files must be converted to outlines with the outline set to zero to eliminate the need for fonts.
Save file as Illustrator EPS with placed images included.
Open Illustrator EPS file into Photoshop.
In Photoshop set resolution to 300 dpi and mode to CMYK.
Save files as “JPEG” or “TIF” with Maximum quality.


Go to “Edit”; “Select”; “All” and then go to the menu selection “Text” then “Convert to Paths”. All text within files must be converted to paths with the stroke set to zero to eliminate the need for fonts to be sent to us.
Export file as EPS with placed images included.
Open EPS file into Photoshop.
In Photoshop set resolution to 300 dpi and mode to CMYK.
Save files as “JPEG” or “TIF” with Maximum quality.

Adobe Illustrator® 

In Illustrator “Select All” and go to the “Type” menu selection and “Create Outlines”. All text within files must be converted to outlines with the outline set to zero to eliminate the need for fonts.

Save file as Illustrator EPS with placed images included.
Open Illustrator EPS file into Photoshop.
In Photoshop set resolution to 300 dpi and mode to CMYK.
Save files as “JPEG” or “TIF” with Maximum quality.