Use Your Own Design File
Create your own design in almost any common format, then upload it for free!
- Easy-to-follow file specs & downloadable starter files
- Accepts most common file types...including Adobe PDF and Microsoft Publisher
- No annoying file upload charges
Before You Create Your File: Print Specifications & Starter Files
Preparing a print-ready file can seem intimidating, but it's really not hard at all! Our new and improved upload utility includes everything you need to ensure that images, fonts and colors print as intended. Or, set up a phone training session and Customer Support will happily help you upload your first design.Exact dimensions for each product and easy-to-follow starter files (in .pdf, .pub and .png formats) are available within the utility itself, or on our Print Specifications pages:
Preparing Your Own Files for Upload
If you plan to upload your own design files, rather than utilizing our customizable online templates, please review the following specifications carefully to ensure that images print sharply, fonts and colors display properly, and that layouts adhere to the correct print specifications. If you are using one of our customizable online templates, read no further! The design process will guide you through everything you need to know.Acceptable File Types: When you upload a native file to create your order, it will be automatically converted to a PDF (Portable Document Format) for printing. Please make sure your design program is set up as close as possible to the specifications detailed below. If you are using a design program not listed here, please contact customer support for assistance.
Creating Your Own PDF File: Many design applications, including the Adobe Creative Suite, allow you to save or export your file as a PDF. If you are converting your native file to a PDF on your own, check the output settings to make sure that:
- Image compression and/or downsampling options are turned off
- Any rasterized graphics or type are saved at at least 200 dpi
- All of your images are embedded in the file
- Fonts are embedded (or rasterized/converted to outlines)
- Color is set to CMYK (not RGB)
Using Photos and Other Images: The first thing to remember when using photos, logos, and any other graphics in your designs is that low resolution images that look great on your monitor may not look that way when printed. To avoid this, expresscopy.com advises that all images/graphics within your print file be a minimum of 200 dpi at the size at which they are to be printed. Low-resolution images (less than 200 dpi) will appear fuzzy or pixilated when printed.
When taking your pictures with a digital camera, be sure to adjust the camera to the highest resolution/quality setting, usually "enlargement quality" or similar. Consult your camera's manual for instructions.
When scanning original photographs, set the scan resolution to a minimum of 200 dpi at the actual size that you want the photo to appear in the final print product. If you plan to enlarge an image after placing it in your document, you will need to increase the scan resolution accordingly.
Color Models and Matching
CMYK Color: Commercial printing uses CMYK color. Set up your design program for CMYK color mode, as documents created in RGB may cause colors to shift when printed (for example, blues will often appear purple). Images downloaded from the Internet, unless from a dedicated marketing library, are almost always in RGB color and low resolution. Other factors such as monitor calibration mean that colors may print differently than they appear on your computer monitor. The only way to ensure color is to order a printed shipped proof.
Color Matching: We print to a "pleasing color" standard. Pleasing color is defined as satisfactory, even though it may not precisely match the original sample. Because we print using CMYK process, we are not able to precisely match PMS spot colors or printed originals.
Instructions for changing to CMYK color:
Embedding Fonts: If your design program has a setting to embed fonts, make sure it is turned on to avoid unwanted font substitutions. If you are creating your own PDF, check the output settings to make sure you have selected the option to embed all fonts.
In addition, be sure to review your online PDF proof for any character substitutions to make sure you haven't used any non-standard characters in creating your design.
Instructions for embedding fonts:
Print File Dimensions and Specifications
Both sides of each print file must be set up with our specified trim size and inner margin. If your graphics extend to the edge of the design, you must also include a "bleed". If you are using our Addressing & Mailing service for postcards, there are additional requirements for the address side of your postcard.
The measurements that determine the actual size of the finished product, also known as "cut size." It is not necessary to provide crop marks to indicate trim size unless you have special instructions for cutting. If this is the case, please contact customer support for additional specifications.
Because cut lines can vary slightly, all content that is not intended to print to the edge (bleed) must remain inside the inner margin to avoid being trimmed off. It is important that all text and vital graphical element are arranged within the bounds of the inner margin.
The term "bleed" is used in the printing industry to describe a design in which a background color or image extends to the very edge and no white border is desired. Any bleed background images or colors in your print file must extend beyond the trim size.
Postcards and USPS Postal Regulations: In order to meet United States Postal Service requirements, certain areas of a postcard must be devoted to addressing, return address and postage. These are detailed on the Postcard Specifications page.
Reviewing and Ordering Proofs
Reviewing your PDF: PDFs serve as our "digital proofs" and are sufficient for the vast majority of orders. When reviewing your PDF, we recommend that you zoom to 200% to check the resolution of all images and rasterized elements in your design. Look carefully for the following:
- Sharpness of text, clarity, jagged edges and images/graphics that are pixilated (little squares/not sharp). These are indicators that you may have low resolution within your design.
- Font substitutions, character replacements, or missing text. These are indicators that your fonts were not embedded or that your text includes non-standard characters.
- Remember when checking your PDF, the colors you see on your computer monitor do not accurately represent what they will look like when printed. True color can only be checked by ordering a shipped proof.
Ready to Upload?
Once your print file is prepared according to the above specifications, you are ready to Upload Your Design!