Preparing Digital Files for Printing

Cuesta Printing can output documents from a wide range of native application files or common file formats. Please refer to “File Submission” for further information on these acceptable files.

PDF File Type

PDF is the preferred file type to upload. A PDF file contains the most information that is useful to our printers to successfully reproduce your digital files. You may upload other files such as Word, Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign but you will be required to approve a PDF proof of these files before we can begin production.

By uploading a PDF file we can begin production on your order right away without having to send you a PDF proof. We can also accept flat image files such as a JPG which require no proof approval. If you are on a time crunch and need your copies right away then please upload a PDF or JPG file.

Understanding Vector and Raster Images

The major question facing clients submitting files for large format printing is “What resolution do I need?” To further understand this it is necessary to discuss the two types of computer digital artwork: vector images and raster images.

Vector Images

Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Macromedia Freehand and Deneba Canvas are all examples of vector based applications. However, they all have the capability to add raster images to file content. Vector artwork can be scaled infinitely without the loss of detail or quality. Vector based artwork has no resolution (except for placed [linked] or embedded raster images) and does not need any other intervention other than choosing the right colors from the CMYK color palette.

Raster Images

Raster images, on the other hand, do have a resolution value which is a critical component of the data to ensure quality output. Adobe Photoshop, Photopaint, Photodeluxe, Corel Painter are all examples of image manipulation or image painting programs that create raster type images.

It is very important that when working with files from raster type programs, that the correct resolution is determined from the very beginning. It is not possible to successfully add resolution to an image without suffering quality lose.

Color Space

All files should be in the CMYK color mode, except for fine art prints. Fine art prints should be supplied in the RGB color space as it has a wider color gamut that can be matched with inkjet printers. Embedded color ICC profiles should be US Web Coated (SWOP) v2 for CMYK files and Adobe RGB (1998) for RGB files.

Document Size & Bleed

The size of your document should be set to equal the trim size of the final finished piece. Large documents may be created at 50% or 25% of final size but all images must have 2X or 4X the final resolution. Please clearly note in the file layout and your communication what size (e.g.: 100%, 50% or 25%) you layout is.

Bleeds should be extended an appropriate amount beyond the trim size to ensure that images or color that extends past the page edge will be printed and not show a white border.

As a general rule, bleed amounts should be set according to the graphic application (at final size):

  • Collateral/Offset: a minimum of 1/8 inch (0.125 inch)
  • Display Graphics: a minimum of 1/4 inch (0.25 inch)
  • PopUps/Banners: a minimum of 1/2 inch (0.5 inch)

Please note that special bleed borders are required for applications such as retractable displays, giclée gallery wraps, etc.. Call us to discuss your specific application.

Trifold Brochures Sizes

Adjust the first folded panel to be 1/16 inch shorter than the other two for 80 lb. text paper and 1/8 inch shorter for 100 lb. text paper.


All file formats must have a minimum of 350 dpi (dot per inch) resolution.
The images designed for the web are done at a low screen resolution of 72 dpi. Print images need to be created at 350 dpi or there will be a substantial drop in the image quality.


Perfect Binding

We do not recommend crossover images and/or copy, as these elements may be lost in the gutter and may not line up after binding.


Please keep all critical images and/or copy within the Safe Zone to ensure these elements are clearly visible and there are no line-up registration issues when the product is bound.


All fonts used in a document MUST be submitted with the job files. Include all fonts used in the layout ANDfonts used in linked files. For Mac, include both screen and postscript fonts and ensure that you have used the proper font face weights (bold, italic, etc.) where appropriate. DO NOT use the application’ menu selection for bold or italic styles. For PCs, include all TrueType fonts used.

However, it is preferrable to convert all text to outline objects, particularily when submitting large display graphics, posters, etc.

Embedded Fonts

All fonts should be embedded or converted to outlines/curves. If you are using third party or free fonts found on the internet it is best to embed these fonts when creating a PDF. Some programs like Adobe Illustrator have the ability to convert the fonts to outlines / curves which is essentially the same as embedding the fonts.

By embedding fonts you will insure that when we receive your file that your fonts look the same on our end as they do on yours. If you do not embed your fonts and said fonts are not available on our system then you run the risk of the text and possibly the layout being different on your copies.

Rich Black

When working in CMYK and you need to create a dense black color swatch for printing large black areas or large black text and objects used in color process printing or backlit film applications use this ‘rich black’ formula. 60% Cyan, 50% Magenta, 50% Yellow and 100% Black. Do not use rich black for small text or small lines as you can have blurring issues (registration problems).