Printing 101

New to this whole printing thing? Not sure about paper weights, coating types, and if they will meet your standards? Well, take a seat and we'll discuss Printing 101

First let's start with what you will need to provide in order to get a high quality print.

1) Your file will need to be a PDF file, not an image file (JPG, GIF, PNG, etc) and not a microsoft office document (Word, Power Point, Excel, Publisher, etc). 
Why: Image files may show up clearly on your monitor, but may print blurry. Esp. when it comes to lettering and fonts. (We'll talk more about font handling in a moment). Microsoft office documents are not compatible with the printer programs that the printers use. I know you're saying, but they work with my printer at home, what's the difference? Desktop printers are created to work with these types of files, but commercial printers like these:

Run on special programs that are not compatible with regular computers. It is easy to save your word, excel, or powerpoint document as a PDF, just click SAVE AS and in the drop down box select PDF. 


2) You will need to outline/vector/stroke/embed your text. Not all computers have the same fonts, so when you send a file the next computer will try to reinterpret the fonts. Which can cause all of your work to be lost, garbled, or just look bad.  Here is an example:

So in illustrator you will need to select the text and select TYPE>CREATE OUTLINES.
In Photoshop you will need to select TYPE>CREATE WORK PATH.
You cannot outline/stroke text in microsoft office, but you can embed your fonts by following these steps.

You can also do a compatibility test prior to saving, which will ensure that the fonts you used are standard fonts. (Disclaimer- that means standard on PCs not MAC so always try to embed first)

3) Your images need to be 300DPI. DPI stands for Dots Per Inch, the more dots the more detailed the information the file gives the computer. Most website images are 72DPI so that they can load faster because they are a smaller file type. (for example: Instagram, and facebook photos.) Sometimes you can get away with using them on small print items but larger print will cause the image to be blurry. 

DPI comparison

So make sure you're using the highest quality and largest image file.

4) Your colors need to be in CYMK not RGB. Printers print using CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, (K)Black) while computer monitors use RGB (Red Green Blue). RGB creates brighter more intense colors because RGB are subtractive color combinations while CMYK is additive. So when you send that RGB hot pink to the printer you can end up with a dusty pink when it comes back. 

rgb and cmyk color chart



5) You will need .13" bleed/margins around your document. Despite popular belief, no printers print to the edge. Each design is printed on a massive sheet with an edge and then put into a cutting machine to cut out the edges off and then to cut each individual card out of that sheet. If your text (or important part of an image) is too close to the edge then it may be cut off. Because of the frequency of this, if your file does not have bleeds or margins it will normally be sent back as an unusable file for corrections.

So when you are setting up the document size for example 4x6, enter 4.13x6.13 instead of 4x6 to give you the correct area.

Rule of thumb, if it's within a quarter inch of the edge of the design it will be cut off. 

6) Triple check your document for errors and typos. While our team looks for file issues (size, format, bleeds, font issues) we're not proofreading your document. We will send a proof prior to printing, and if it is approved we will print whatever is on that file. We do not offer refunds for typos, or for design issues once it's approved. We only refund items that are damaged, or have printer errors such as ink drops, bad cutting, etc. 

7) Paper Weight. It's always best to get one of our sample packages in order to test the paper types, but here is a quick breakdown.

--pt is the weight of cardstock. The higher the number the better. AMD prints on a standard 16pt  cardstock unless mentioned otherwise. Vistaprint and other quick print places will often print at 12-14pt, which is a thinner more light weight print. This can feel flimsy, and AMD likes a substantial weight of paper. Here's a video to better demonstrate the difference between 16pt and  12pt. 

--LB is the weight of book or cover paper. Book and cover paper are just that, they are papers that are similar to what is in a book or the cover of a magazine. These are a lot thinner than the cardstock options, and on AMD are used solely for booklets, sale sheets, and brochures for easy folding. The higher the number the heavier the weight, starting at 70lb to 100lb. 70lb is closest to a standard sheet of computer paper (just slightly thicker) while 100lb is the closest to a cardstock. 100lb is not available for brochures as the ink cracks on the folds because of the thickness. 

8) Paper Coatings. All of AMD's business cards come automatically UV coated on both sides.

UV coating: Our standard glossy coating. UV coatings provide the highest and most durable gloss versus other coatings but may crack when scored or folded due to the thickness and hardness of the coating. Due to cracking UV coated sheets can not have foilworks effects added. (However aquafoil is available). UV Coating is also not available for booklets or folded brochures due to potential cracking. (UV gets its name because we use UV light to cure and dry the coating.) 

Aqueous Coating:  Aqueous coating is a clear, fast-drying water-based coating that can be used on our booklets and brochures. It provides a high-gloss or matte surface that deters dirt and fingerprints. Due to its water base, aqueous coating is more environmentally friendly than UV coatings. 

Luster Coating: Ultra Gloss Luster Cards are printed with high quality equipment on 16pt card stock and then they are laminated with an optically clear 3mil gloss laminate on both sides, making the cards a colossal "22pt" thick.


9) Aquafoil vs Foilworks

Aquafoil is actually a clear iridescent coating applied on top of a printed file to make an area appear metallic, no foils are used, and this is an affordable way to achieve a luxury look.  Aquafoil can be printed in any color.

Foilworks is actual hot foil that is applied on top of the print like a stamp. (Only slight embossing occurs, unlike letterpressing.) It is only available in Silver, Gold, and Copper.


If you have any questions about your file, please give us a call at 910-236-9776