Digital Printing Knowledge Base & FAQ

Digital Printing

CEC’s File Setup Guidelines
Our Prepress guidelines will help you to bypass common pitfalls associated with preparing digital artwork for print such as embedding fonts and unlinked images.
Other File Types
  • The Adobe Creative Suite
    • InDesign
    • Photoshop
    • Illustrator

We also support:

  • The Microsoft Office Suite
    • Publisher
    • Word
    • Powerpoint
    • Excel
  • Adobe Postscript (.ps)

*Remember to include all of the support files (images, fonts, etc…).

When submitting artwork online it is best to combine your files into a .ZIP, .RAR, or .SIT (Stuffit) archive first. You can download 7-Zip, a free file archiving tool from our Downloads section above.

High resolution requires all photos to be 300 dpi (dots per inch) and bitmapped images to be 1200 dpi. If you design a job at 72 dpi or lower, your image will be pixelated or fuzzy and will not reproduce correctly.
Coating Options
UV High Gloss Coating:
Gloss Coating offers a high-sheen finish, similar to professionally developed photographs. Aside from the shine, this also offers a layer of protection against scratches that can occur in shipping, storage or mailing.
Text Safe Zone
The Text Safe Zone refers to the area of a design where all of the important information should reside. Basically the opposite of bleeds, this is the information you definitely do not want to get cut off. This should be 1/8″ inside your finished dimensions.

The image below is a template illustrating the proper setup of a 4″ x 6″ postcard with bleeds:

4x6 postcard guide

PDF Settings and Guidelines
  • If it is an option in your software, you will generally get more options and better results when “Saving As” or “Exporting” to a PDF instead of printing to a PDF Printer
  • When creating a PDF file for CEC, it is preferred that you save it using the “PDF/X-4:2010” standard
  • You can reduce file size by Optimizing for Fast Web View, Compressing Text and Line Art, and Cropping Image Data to Frames
  • When compressing images, do not go below 300 dpi for color and grayscale images. Monochrome images should be at least 1200 dpi
  • Bleeds should always be extended (we can remove extra space if needed) and turning Crop Marks on is helpful
  • Do not convert colors during the PDF creation process. This is best handled on our press, if needed
  • High Resolution is usually the best setting when flattening transparency

And to save time in the proofing process, we highly recommend opening your PDF file before sending it to CEC to make sure everything looks the way you expect it to. The above settings and more are saved in CEC’s PDF Job Options file, which you can download here and install on your system for use whenever you are creating a PDF for CEC Document Services.

Image Formats
Good: EPS

      Encapsulated Postscript language file format can contain both vector and bitmap graphics and is supported by virtually all graphics, illustration, and page layout programs. EPS format is used to transfer Postscript artwork between applications. EPS format supports Lab, CMYK, RGB, Indexed Color, Duotone, Grayscale, and Bitmap color modes.


      Tagged-Image File Format is used to exchange files between applications and computer platforms. TIFF format supports CMYK, RGB, Lab, Indexed Color, Grayscale, and Bitmap mode images.

Bad: GIF

      Graphic Interchange Format is commonly used to display Indexed Color graphics and images in HTML documents over the World Wide Web. GIF only supports Indexed Color.

Bad: JPEG or JPG

    Joint Photographic Experts Group format is used to display photographs and other continuous tone images in HTML documents over the Web. JPEG format supports CMYK, RGB, and Grayscale color modes.
Color Matching
In order to maintain fast turnarounds and competitive pricing, CEC adheres to a “pleasing color” standard. While there is no guarantee that your finished piece will be an exact match of your printed sample, we will make every effort to create an attractive, professional grade digital print.

There are often widely varying results from different output devices. Even from one commercial printing firm to another, there can be significant differences in results. In particular, inkjet and laser prints are known to look substantially different than true offset lithography.

If you require precise color match, please contact us to arrange for a digital color proof. There are additional charges for precise color matching service. Also, if you request color correction or other changes after you see your proof, there will be a minimum of $60.00 charged for color correction time and a new proof.

Bleeds refers to items that are to print all the way to the edge of the finished piece. Most digital presses/printers do now allow printing all the way to the edge of a sheet of paper. So when designing a piece with bleeds it is important to remember to extend the elements that bleed at least 1/8″ beyond the finished edge.

 Digital Printing Questions

I have an RGB file. Does this mean CEC will not be able to match the colors when printed?
Not exactly. While CMYK is best for digital printing, CEC’s digital color press does have the ability to compensate for files that are composed using an RGB color profile. The important thing to remember is that there may be some trade off. The press is still using Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black to recreate the image. But if you specify which colors in the document are most important for us to try and match, we can usually come to a pleasing result.
Can’t I just convert the file from RGB to CMYK in Photoshop?
Yes, you can. However, this often results in very muted tones and ‘flat’ images with little contrast. We have found that is usually best to leave the conversion to our digital press.
How will your printed piece be handled?
Always keep in mind the potential wear and tear that will be put on your paper of choice. Obviously, postcards that go through the mail system should be on a strong cover weight. Books that will be used daily in a classroom should be on a strong enough paper that the pages will be intact by the end of the semester.


How will it be bound?
Cover stocks are great for covers and cards. However, they can become annoying when used as the stock for the entire piece. For example, it may be nice to have a calendar with sturdy, cover-weight pages throughout, but if that calendar is saddle stitched, it can bulge when closed and will resist laying flat against the wall. All that cover stock makes for a heavy finished piece as well – maybe not ideal for hanging.
Is the piece printing in black-ink only, or full color?
While it is possible to print a full color document on a colored paper stock, it is not recommended. In digital printing, unless all four colors – cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) – are used in relatively high percentages each, the resulting color is somewhat translucent. On a white stock, this is not a problem at all. When the stock is a colored however, the stock color will show through and have an adverse effect on the overall printed piece. For instance, a box that looked light blue printed on white paper will look more green when printed on yellow stock.
How spot colors can affect your decision
This may sound obvious, but try to use spot colors calibrated to run on the finish of stock (coated, uncoated, matte) you plan to run the job on. A color such as Pantone 330U, which is calibrated for running on uncoated stock, may not look as you expect it to when run on a gloss coated, or even matte coated stock.

Direct Mail

By combining our variable data digital printing and postal permit, CEC can save you time and money on your direct mail marketing campaigns!
Can CEC mail my postcards, brochures, etc. using my existing mailing list?
Absolutely! For postcards, brochures and newsletters, CEC Document Services will gladly mail your material to a list of mailing addresses that you supply. We can support a number of formats, but comma-delimited text files (.csv) are preferred.

Please keep in mind that your list should be as clean and consistent as possible for the best pricing. For example, if your list has a “Address” field and a “Address 2” field, but “Address 2” sometimes contains a city name, this can cause problems with formatting the list for printing and mailing.

Can you use my mailing permit and mail my material from your location?
Mailing permits are linked to local USPS offices and may only be used in the locality where they are issued. If you would like CEC to address and print your material using your permit and deliver it to you, you could then mail it from your location.

If you have a Non-Profit mailing permit, CEC can use a “ghost permit” process which would allow us to mail the project with our permit and from our location using your permit’s Non-Profit discounts. Please contact a client service representative for details.

Do you have postcard and brochure templates?
Currently, CEC does not have templates designed for client use. We are planning on offering template-based design services in the near future. We may be able to design a mail piece for you though. Please contact a client service representative for more details.
How should I lay out a piece to comply with USPS mailing regulations?
When designing a piece for mailing, generally you need to have margins of 0.25″ on the top, right and left edges and 0.625″ along the bottom edge on the address side. As with any project you are working on with CEC, please call us with specific questions.

Variable Data

Variable Data Digital Printing makes each sheet different
Variable Data Digital Printing makes each sheet different by pulling selected information from a data file to produce personalized or unique materials.

  • Perfect for one-to-one marketing programs
  • Print only what you need to fit the life cycle of the document
  • Increase response rates with individualized mailings that speak to your customers’ interests and needs
  • Print on a wide variety of materials including: paper stocks, paper board, plastic and static cling
  • Reduce waste, avoid over-runs of unused product and eliminate the need for large amounts of storage space
  • Color Digital printing

Variable Data Digital Printing produces eye-catching, personalized products including:

  • postcards
  • posters
  • brochures
  • letters
  • greeting cards
  • labels
  • self mailers
  • calendars

More Coming Soon!

Bindery Services

Perfect binding
Perfect binding allows you to have a sharp looking and more manageable product. Stacking and storing your books becomes less of a headache with a slimmed down cover and having a spine gives the ability to convey more information. The spine also makes finding the right book on a shelf full of books an easier task.

The important thing to take into consideration when designing a book for perfect binding is how thick the spine needs to be. This will of course vary based on the number of pages in the book and what kind of stock those pages are printed on. The formula we use at CEC is: spine widthe = sheet count x caliper thickness. Just take the number of pages in your book and divide that number by 2 in order to determine the number of physical sheets in your book. Then, multiply the number of sheets by the caliper thickness of the paper your book will run on.

Where do you get the caliper measurement? It depends on what kind of paper you’re using, but the calculator below accounts for CEC’s most commonly used stocks. For other stocks, please contact a client service representative and they can provide you with the proper caliper number for the stock you plan to use.

Perfect Binding Spine Width Calculator

Perfect Binding Spine Width Calculator

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