File/Art Guidelines (How to preflight files)

Preflighting is the process of checking if the digital data that is required to print a job are all present and valid. Usually PDF or Illustrator files are most common. Working with files like Microsoft Word or Excel will require studio work and will need a design/ rework quote.

The PDF file format is an industry standard ranging from single label to multi label file. Using PDF is however no guarantee that the received file can actually output as intended. To make sure that a file matches the requirements to reproduce correctly, it needs to be checked or ‘preflighted’.

The following information provides an overview on how to preflight files.


Why preflight art files?

Checking art files is done to avoid problems in processing or printing content. If you look at the list of the most common problems with ART files, half of them can easily be avoided by Preflighting the file.

Preflighting can catch the following errors:

Non-embedded/Outline fonts Missing images
Low-res images
RGB use instead of CMYK
No Bleed
Corrupt Fonts or Missing fonts Incorrect spot colours or naming Incorrectly saved PDF
Die size or bleed
No white Layer or ink indication (printing on Metal or clear)


How to preflight files?

There are a number of preflight solutions depending on file format.
Adobe Acrobat Professional includes a preflight engine.
NEO (esko PDF editor) best used for missing fonts and images and re-saving for final output.
Adobe Illustrator CC is best for fixing or working with the original art. (In most cases this is needed)

Which software you choose depends on:
The level of automation that is needed
The different types of files that the engine needs to handle
The platform on which the application should run on. (It is a good idea to use a solution that has been certified by GWG and appears in their application list. This way you are certain that the preflight system can correctly handle general software requirements)

*Note: we can supply a PDF preset that will easily load into any Adobe application and output a great uncompressed and unflattened PDF.


Who should preflight and when?

The earlier problems are detected, the easier and cheaper it is to fix. Therefore we highly recommend all designers preflight their own art files prior to sending to our prepress department.
There are two technologies available to ensure that files only need to be preflighted once. These are Enfocus ‘Certified PDF’ and the Ghent Work-group ‘Universal Proof of Preflight’. Both systems allow a preflight application to embed meta-data in a checked PDF to document how the file has been checked. The receiver of such a file only needs to verify if this ‘seal’ is present.


What needs to be checked during preflight?

What needs to be checked in a file depends on its intended usage. If you need more help, please contact our prepress department.


General file settings for PDF format.

The GWG-specs recommend that the PDF is PDF/X-1a:compatible. This means that the file must be a PDF 1.3 or 1.4 file.
Please note that if using transparency in a layout,  a file that has not been flattened will be required.
Most times PDFs cannot always be used for Output, as usually there will be editing necessary for printing. In this case, the original layout document will be needed along with support files and fonts.


Die-line specific settings

The Die-line size and copy orientation will need to be set and finalized before die can be ordered. Die-line dimensions should be made and coloured with a spot colour called “die-line” or “die”.
Page boxes should not be used to describe the size of label.  It is not always possible to make sure that the PDF trim box equals the finished trim size of the actual label

  • Extend artwork past die-line 1/16 (.0625 in) 1.5875 mm.
  • Set die-line in file to overprint or darken in illustrator.



Files should not contain black screen text that is smaller than 4 points and set to knock-out. Text Under 4 pt should be solid black.
Check if the PDF contains white text set to overprint. Such text may be visible when the text is watched on-screen but it disappears in print.
Very small text quickly becomes either illegible or difficult to print when it is colored cmyk. When it is colored with 2 or more colorants, text should not be smaller than 4 points.



All fonts should be included in the PDF file. This is done to avoid an incorrect font, which could lead to text becoming illegible or part of the text disappearing. The GWG-specs are based on PDF/X-1a and font embedding is a requirement of this file format. PDF/X-1a also dictates that Open- Type fonts should not be embedded directly. Designers can use OpenType fonts in their layout but the application that generates the PDF should embed these fonts as either Type1 or TrueType (CID or simple fonts).
When a certain font is not available during the PDF creation, it typically gets replaced by Courier. To avoid printing a PDF with missing fonts, check that no Courier font is present in the file. Designers who want to use Courier on purpose, can use variants like ‘Courier New’, which are not flagged during preflight.



Images that have a resolution that is too high lead to bloated files that take longer to transmit or process. For Digitalabels set the maximum resolution to 400 LPI for color or grayscale images and 1200 LPI for 1-bit images.
By checking if white line-art is set to overprint, you avoid that such images disappear on the final output. In Illustrator set White line art to Darken in the Transparency box.

Please note:
Digital Labels will reject files containing colour or grayscale images with a resolution below 150 LPI offset work.
For 1 bit images anything below 200 LPI is unacceptable.
Low Res RGB images copied from the internet will prove poor quality for digital print.
Set the maximum resolution to 400LPI for colour or grayscale images and 1200 LPI for 1 bit.
By checking if white line-art is set to overprint, you avoid that such images disappear on the final output. In Illustrator set White line art to Darken in the Transparency box.



Digital Labels requires a minimum line thickness of .15 points.  Anything smaller and visibility becomes an issue.



Please ensure that all process colours are CMYK and not RGB.  Please put restrictions on names for Spot colour.


Sending Files

To transfer larger files please visit our FTP site by clicking below.

All emails with artwork (10mb file size limit) should be sent to your appropriate customer service representative.  Please do not send directly to our Prepress department.  This will ensure proper work order and prevent any possible delays.


77 West Beaver Creek Rd, Unit 2
Richmond Hill, ON, Canada
L4B 1K4
1 (647) 847-2433

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