How to Set Up a Print-Ready File in Photoshop

How to Set Up a Print-Ready File in Photoshop

Read Time: 2 Minutes


03 Oct 2019

Update: 17th May 2023

Here’s a quick guide to setting up your artwork PDF for print using Adobe Photoshop CC. It shows best practice for designing for online printing and how to get the best results from your design.

Design tips we’ll cover are:

•    Setting up your canvas
•    Adding bleed
•    Adding and placing an image
•    Exporting the PDF document


Setting Up Your Canvas

•    Open Photoshop
•    Go to File > New
•    Select a unit of measurement – we recommend working in millimetres for print
•    Put the finished document size in the height and width boxes
•    Choose your orientation
•    Set resolution to 300dpi
•    Set colour mode to CMYK
•    Select Create


Adding Bleed

For commercial printing you need to add bleed area. This a section that allows extra room around your design which will be cut off to avoid a white border when the paper is cut. We suggest a 3mm bleed. For Photoshop, you’ll need to manually add this in:

•    Add rulers by going to View > Rulers
•    Right click the ruler and change the unit of measurement to mm
•    Click and drag the blue ruler lines to the edges of the canvas – they will snap to the edge of the canvas
•    Go to Image > Canvas
•    To add bleed, add 6mm to both the width and height


Placing an Image

To place an image either:

•    Drag an image file onto the canvas, or
•    Or go to File > Place Linked to select an image from your files
•    Adjust the size of the image by clicking and dragging the handles on the corners of the image

If the image is RGB, you’ll need to change it to CMYK so it’s suitable for printing.

•    Go to Image > Mode > CMYK Color
•    You might notice a slightly colour change – this is normal and reflects how the colours will print


Exporting the Document

•    Go to File > Save As
•    On the file type selection, choose PDF
•    In Save Options, tick ‘As a copy’, untick ‘Layers’ and set Color to CMYK
•    Name your file
•    Click Save
•    In Adobe PDF Preset, select [PDF/X1a:2001]*
•    Click Save PDF

*Don’t have this option? Here’s how to manually set this up:

•    In General, untick Preserve Photoshop Editing Capabilities
•    In Compression, if options are already set as 300dpi, click Do Not Downsample
•    In Output, change Color Conversion to Convert to Destination, then change Destination to Coated FOGRA39
•    In Security, make sure there are no passwords protecting the file otherwise we won’t be able to open it at our end
•    Click Save PDF


Now you can upload your artwork by placing an order on our site. Once uploaded, our Studio team will act as an extra safety net and check that everything is set up properly before sending your design to print.


About the Author

Hi! I’m James, the Graphic Designer at instantprint. I like helping customers by creating helpful print and designs tips and guides to make sure their artwork looks the best that it can.