How to Create Print Ready Artwork

Create print-ready custom label designs with only 3 tips? “Witchcraft!” you say. “Nay,” I say.'s artwork requirements are easily applicable. So if you think that a) CMYK is some strange texting lingo, b) you have to stab your artwork to get it to "bleed properly," or c) a rasterized image is a picture of Bob Marley and the Lion of Judah, then this is the guide for you. We'll cover:

Along the way, we'll tell you what the terms mean and why they're important. Then, we'll explain how to meet the requirements. Let’s begin.

1. Submit Your Label Artwork at the Exact Size and With the Correct Bleeds

This one is pretty self-explanatory. For example, if you are using a 2" x 3" rectangle label, your artwork should be created on a 2" x 3" canvas. Open your artwork editing software (e.g. Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.) and create a NEW project.

Your software will ask you what size project/canvas to create. Make sure you set it to inches and put 2 for the width and 3 for the height.  


Adjust the Bleed Area on a Label Design:

See, label printers do not print to the edge of the paper. Instead, they print and then cut the label out to meet sizing specifications. Bits of the label image may, therefore, be eaten off. To prevent this, you’ll want to leave some wiggle room around the image. Otherwise, known as bleed. (I know edgy right. Get it, edgy?)

For example, a 2" x 3" label that needs artwork to print to the very edge of the label would need the artwork to add extra "bleed area." Typical bleeds are 1/8" (0.125"). So to add a bleed area to your label, you simply extend your artwork 0.125" past the edges of the label. This way your art is sure to print to the edge of the label.

How to do this: Glad you asked. Open a NEW project in your editing software. When creating your canvas, simply double the 0.125" for both the width and height to account for all four sides. For the 2" x 3" rectangle example, you would need to make sure the measurements are set to inches and put 2.25" for the width and 3.25" for the height.

To learn more about creating bleeds in illustrator click here. Note: This is only to grant the label design a border, around which it can be cut without causing damage to its image. Nothing in the bleed area will turn up in the final label.

2. Use the CMYK, 4 Color Model, For Printing Label Art:


CMYK is a printing process that uses 4 principal colors to create a multitude of other ones. CMYK is a print method uses four unique images for each of the colors, using different screens to control the level at which they are applied. Images are transferred to printing plates and when all the plates have been rolled onto and applied to the paper, the pigments combine to produce secondary colors.

subtractive color method

The colors it uses are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key. Three of those you can probably guess (Cyan=Blue, Magenta=Pink/Red, Yellow=Yellow), but what's "Key" you might ask? It's called "Key," because it functions as the key plate, which adds depth and contrast to the print job. For our purposes, you just need to know that it's Black.


When the printer prints in CMYK, it breaks your entire image down into tiny dots in only these four colors and puts them extremely close together to create the perceived final colors.


Now that you know CMYK means there are four colors that will be printed, how do you use this? The images on your computer are not 100% accurate in their representation of what the printed label will look like.

Computer screens display in RGB color. So when you're designing, you have to double-check that you create artwork that is in CMYK, since that's how the printers print. Using artwork editing software make sure your label is set to CMYK color mode before you begin designing. Then only use CMYK color swatches. This will ensure your artwork prints the exact color you need it to print.

Note: Only more advanced softwares such as the Adobe InDesign, Illustrator and Corel Draw have CMYK color settings. Now if you're not too picky about the exact shading of the color palette in your artwork and can tolerate it being slightly different than what you see on your screen, then go ahead and ignore this step.

3. Be Mindful of File Formats When Printing Label Art: We accept: .pdf, .eps, .tiff, .ai, .indd, .psd or .jpeg files. NOT .gif or .png.

vector  vs. raster label art

Raster: Hey mon! Glad you made it down here. Now, in the world of graphic design, this term is used to refer to an image that is made out of millions of pixels of various colors and shades.

This method is awesome for photographic images. They also work really well for images that employ softer gradients or are of complex and colorful design. The only downside to raster images is that they cannot be scaled without the image starting to blur.

Some of the most common types of image formats used in raster are .jpg, gif, and pdf. Raster images are also called bitmaps, mon.

Vector: These images are made from a series of straight and curved lines. Vector images can be scaled infinitely without blurring if that’s what you’re looking for. Not only do they allow for clean and smooth images, but they tend to allow for smaller file sizes than raster. The only issue with vector is that they have a much smaller compatibility range.

File format definitions for both raster and vector files:

.pdf = Created by Adobe. This format is compatible with a very wide range of software and applications. It can be used to display both raster and vector, but when it comes to vector the image tends to be a bit richer.

.eps = encapsulated post-script: This format is only compatible with vector images. Basically, this is a format that captures all of the information in a piece of artwork so it can be used in different graphic design programs or on printers. It also allows the image to be previewed via a thumbnail. These previews work really well for creating outline pages, without having to open the images and increase the size of the files. They are mostly used with Adobe Suite.

.tiff = tagged image file format: This format stores a lot of data for raster (flat) images and is ideal for physical pictures but not computer drawings or text. It does not compress very easily but it will keep your raster images looking clean and crisp. Layers and tags can easily be applied to files of this format. Again, they’re not good for web-based content, but they’re great for printed images.

.ai = Adobe Illustrator: In Adobe Illustrator all elements are vector-based, including the text. This translates to labels that print text and graphic elements that are crisp and clean. We suggest creating all elements of the label in Illustrator, and embedding raster-based files within the Adobe Illustrator file, when necessary. When creating a label design in a raster-based software (photoshop), all elements are raster, or pixel-based. This means that when the label is printed, your text and graphics will not print as crisp as a vector-based file.

.indd = Adobe InDesign: This file type is created in Adobe InDesign and allows for high-end graphics. It is fully editable in this software, and works very well with artwork that contains a lot of text. This format is most commonly used for layouts of brochures, booklets, books, magazines, and other print-based designs. See Adobe InDesign works by creating “links” of other files, images or designs to incorporate your printed design. These links are “placed” within the InDesign file. Remember, if you wish to send an InDesign file to your printer to package, or embed, all links included within the file. Opening this format in another software, though, may be a bit difficult.

.PSD = photoshop document: Created within the highly popular editing software, Photoshop, this format works with raster images. It contains the layers of the photoshopped document. It’s easily turned into a .png or .jpg file.

.jpeg = a photo-compressing format. Often rendered .jpg, this file format sets the size of a flattened image. It works best with photographs or photo-realistic images. It is great at showing off a color’s subtle shift in tone. It can, however, cause other types of images to appear too blocky. Another issue with using .jpegs for print is that they are not an editable file type. Jpegs strip all editable file information and only export a flattened image. This means if your printer notices a spelling error or your barcode is incorrect - the entire file must be resubmitted for print. If you absolutely must use a .jpeg for your labels (although we don’t suggest it), recognize that the minimum suggested DPI, or dots per inch, for print is 300. If possible, opt for 600 DPI.  

.png and .gif: are both web formats that are, unfortunately, not usable for printing.

See, that wasn’t difficult. Not only will the above steps save you time and energy, they’ll you save a ton of money as well.