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Print file setup guide

Learn how to make print ready PDFs with our easy print file setup guide. It includes information on interior pages, covers, double spreads, and links to our handy library of templates.

How to make print ready PDFs

This quick and easy print file setup guide explains how to make your PDF designs ready for printing.
If you would like to know more about why these requirements are needed, click on the links in each section for more detailed information.

Before you begin, please ensure that you are using the correct size, that your images are 300dpi, that you are using CMYK colors for printing, and that you’ve remembered to add bleed to your designs. If in doubt, always follow our checklist before submitting your print file.

Print file setup checklist

To save yourself time, download our free PDF templates, complete with fold lines, trim lines, bleed, and quite areas. Each template also includes a detailed explanation for how to use it. You can find these in the templates section or on the lower left of our product pages.

Setting up a print file at a workstation

Interior page setup

When setting up the interior pages for a book or catalog, always think about how the final product will be printed and design your pages accordingly. Here is our step by step guide to setting up your internal pages for a multi-page book or catalog.

1. Choose between single or double page spreads

If you are using Adobe InDesign, your document will automatically be set up as double page spreads, but you can change to single pages by going to Document>Set Up and deselecting the option for ‘Facing Pages’. If you are using Illustrator or Photoshop, then create your canvas or art-board to be either the single or double page dimensions, including bleed.

2. Add bleed and quiet areas

Add 0.125" bleed regardless of size, and allocate a 0.25" quiet area along the edges of your design where you don’t include text. This will eliminate the risk of anything important being cut off in the binding process.

If you don’t add bleed to your project, you can be left with an unsightly line of white paper that doesn’t have any ink on it if the cutting blade falls a fraction outside of the trim line.

Once the bleed area has been created in the application the actual content of the page that touches the trim edge must be extended in to the bleed area.

In Photoshop or Illustrator, you will need to calculate the correct margins and quiet areas, as well as increase the canvas size by 0.25" to accommodate bleed on all sides. Alternatively, use one of our pre-prepared template files for reference.

When working from InDesign, select “Use Document Bleeds” in the Export PDF dialog box.

3. Set up your margins

If you are creating a single page flyer or staple-bound booklet, then your margins can be the same as your quiet area. However, if you are working on a perfect bound, wire boune, or hardcover book, then you will need to allow for extra space on the inside margains. This is so that, when your books are bound, no important content is lost in the process.

As a rule of thumb, set up your inside margin at a minimum of 0.5" for a 30-40 page booklet, and add an extra 0.05" for every 10 pages you add on to the page count.

4. Preparing for Output

Before outputting your file, follow our complete checklist to ensure images are the correct size and format and that your page is ready for output. If you want to output as a single page document, you can switch from facing pages to single pages in InDesign, but this may require some reformatting in order to make sure all the elements are in the bleed areas.

When outputting, make sure you select the correct page range, that ‘Spreads’ is not selected, and that you are outputting as a ‘High Quality’ or ‘Press Quality’ PDF with bleed marks turned on.

When working from InDesign, select “Use Document Bleeds” in the Export PDF dialog box.

Full Bleed Printing

Illustration of trim lines Illustration of the bleed area Illustration of the quiet area

Double spreads

Double page spreads are a great way to give impact to your book or catalog, but expanding designs and image across the full width of two pages. It’s ideal for everything from photobooks (where an image might cover both pages) to a magazine (where an image or text can be placed across the entire two-page spread). Here’s our step by step guide to setting up your double page spreads.

1. Set up your file as double pages.

By default, in Adobe InDesign your document will be set up using facing pages. In other words, page one (your cover) will automatically be on the right hand side, and subsequent pages will be set out side by side in the Pages palette.

If you are creating your pages in Illustrator or Photoshop, you will need to ensure that your canvas or artboard size is the equivalent to double your trim size. For example, if your book is 8.5” x 11”, then you will need to create a canvas that is 17” wide (i.e. 2x 8.5”).

2. Add bleed and quiet area.

Add 0.125" bleed regardless of size, and allocate a 0.25" quiet area along the edges of your design where you don’t include text. This will eliminate the risk of anything important being cut off in the binding process.

If you don’t add bleed to your project, you can be left with an unsightly line of white paper that doesn’t have any ink on it if the cutting blade falls a fraction outside of the trim line.

Once the bleed area has been created in the application, the actual content of the page that touches the trim edge must be extended into the bleed area.

In Photoshop or Illustrator, you will need to calculate the correct margins and quiet areas, as well as increase the canvas size by 0.25" to accommodate bleed on all sides. Alternatively, use one of our pre-prepared template files for reference.

When working from InDesign, select “Use Document Bleeds” in the Export PDF dialog box.

3. Make sure your design works across a spread.

Be sure that all elements line up (where appropriate), and that important elements aren’t lost in the internal margins. Add spaces in words that run across a page to make sure characters don’t get lost in the gutter. With images, try offsetting them.

To offset an image in InDesign, make sure that your image is split into separate frames, on separate pages (not a single frame running across both pages). Move the left hand image to the left by 0.125" and the right hand side image to the right by 0.125". Then adjust the frame to fill the pages and bleed correctly. This will create a 0.25" area in the middle of the page where the image is duplicated. When printed, this will not be visible, since it will be in the gutter.

With both image offsetting and text formatting, it might not look ideal on your artwork on your computer, but when printed and bound into a larger book, they will look perfect.

4. Exporting files as spreads.

If you are exporting your file as spreads in InDesign, make sure you select ‘Spreads’ in the export panel. When uploading your file to Mixam for printing, our software will split the pages accordingly.

Please note that although they will appear as single pages in the Artwork Dashboard, the files sent to the printer will maintain their perfect alignment.

If you are unsure about how exactly to set up your document, use our free double spread layout template as a reference.

Select 'ALL' and also 'Spreads' in InDesign

Select 'Use Document Bleed Settings' in InDesign

Cover setup

Creating your cover file depends on the type of binding you have chosen. If creating a cover for a simple folded leaflet or staple bound booklet, then we use the first page of your multi-page PDF (or the file named Page 1). Our software does the rest automatically.

If you’re creating a case bound or perfect bound book, then separate cover files will be required.
Cover files can be supplied as individual pages (front and back covers) with a separate spine document, or as a single file with integrated spine.

1. Creating a cover file

When creating a cover spread, remember the artwork will wrap around the bound edge, which is always on the left. Therefore, when setting up your artwork, be careful that the front cover of your booklet is on the right hand side and the back cover on the left.

If creating a new file from scratch, it will need to be twice the trim size, and with space allocated for a spine. For example, if you have an 8.5” x 11” book with a 0.25” spine it will be (8.5” x 2) +0.25” = 17.25” wide.

2. Calculating your spine width

Mixam automatically calculates the spine width when you create a job quote. This is based on the number of pages requested and the weight of the paper chosen. You will find the required spine size in your Artwork Dashboard once you have clicked on the ‘Add to Cart’ option and you can review your final specs.

Spine width shown in the Mixam Artwork Dashboard

3. Special features

If you are adding a special feature to the cover, like varnish or spot color, create a secondary file with the same dimensions as your main cover file, and the special finish areas specified in a single color. See our guide to special features here.

Special features guide

How to submit your files

Uploading your files to Mixam’s print ordering system is easy! And there is absolutely no obligation for you to buy the product, even after you’ve uploaded your print-ready files.

Once our price calculator has determined the cost of your project, click ‘Add to Cart’, then ‘Next Step’ to enter our ordering system’s Artwork Dashboard.

On the left you’ll see the following text: ‘Please drag your file(s) here or use the button below to upload your artwork. Please not that page order is rearranged every time a file is uploaded.’ You can drag and drop files from your desktop or upload them from your computer. You can even add them directly from services like DropBox.

How to submit your files for printing

Submit and manage your print files in the Mixam Artwork Dashboard
Ready to get started?