We get it. As a designer, you are under the pump. It takes time to undergo the extensive creative process to develop custom artwork.

And it also takes extra time and attention to detail to ensure your files are set up for print correctly. With client deadlines looming – we will offer you some shortcuts. Here are the 5 most common graphic design mistakes when setting up for large format print.

ONE: Forgetting to add printer marks or keep graphics within safe areas

Designers working in the digital age don’t have to worry much about printer marks these days! But they are incredibly important when it comes to printing jobs such as large format print.  Incorrectly setting your artwork up, can be very costly (i.e. your client won’t want to pay for more than once for YOUR mistake!). At a minimum, most printers will require you to set up your artwork with bleed and crop. To avoid this mistake, we recommend simply setting up your artboard or new document to the correct trim size WITH the extra extra mm so your bleed is always covered. For instance, an A2 poster that requires 3mm bleed – set up as 597mm x 423mm (normal A2 size is 594mm x 420mm).

For display printing, such as our tear drop banners for instance, our templates provide a ‘safety line’, usually a dotted red red line, where all vital information should be kept within. For instance – you wouldn’t want important text or a logo crossing over this line – unless it was a part of a pattern of course, such as in our image below 🙂

Setting up print ready artwork with safety line

Keep your vital graphics within the safety line!

TWO: Colour space incorrect (RGB not CMYK) 

All photographs are RGB by default – including those raw files straight from a DSLR, and through to stock images purchased online. So, converting colours is essential. Luckily, this is a really easy fix. Simply open your image in photoshop, select Image – Mode and from the dropdown select ‘CMYK’. You can also select a CMYK work space when you export your file to PDF.

THREE: Fonts not embedded

Not all companies will have your client’s corporate font installed, especially if you have purchased a typeface or set of fonts through a foundry that has a license associated with it. This could result in disastrous print outcomes – especially as it is not the printer’s responsibility to ensure artwork is correct. Luckily – like changing the colour mode – it is super easy to embed your fonts. In Illustrator, select your font by dragging your mouse over the text areas (or, just hit ‘Select All – Ctrl+A /Cmd+A), select ‘Type’ and select ‘Create Outlines’ from the dropdown (shift+Ctrl+O / Shift+Cmd+O). Done! We do recommend before you do this that you save a version of the artwork without outlined fonts, just in case you need to make any changes at a later date.

FOUR: Incorrectly working with templates

If you haven’t used a template before it can be a little daunting. But trust us – it will save you a LOT of time and guesswork. Most of our templates are set up as 1:1 scale so – the template is the size of the product, however for the larger items like Marquees, the template is 1:10. As such, when preparing images for this size, set them up as 1000dpi to allow for scaling – final resolution for all our printing only need to be 120 -150dpi in your print ready PDFs.

Turn off or delete this template layer before saving final PDF!

Turn off or delete this template layer before saving final PDF!

FIVE: Not turning off the template in final artwork

So – you’ve set up everything perfectly and now it’s time to save as PDF to send to print. BUT….your PDF has the template outline…will it print? The most likely answer is ‘yes’ – the printer will assume it is part of the artwork!!! So – when you first open the template in Illustrator, add a new layer called ‘artwork’, drag it to be under the template, and delete your template layer when you are ready to export or save to PDF.


Have you made any of these common mistakes? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget – if you still don’t feel confident setting up your client’s artwork, we charge a small fee of just $50inc GST (see our design packages)to set up your work so you can upload and forget – we take care of the rest!



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