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Making your photos and images look good in print ads, posters and magazines

You'll Discover:

  • Recommended specifications for exporting images for advertisements.
  • What to send to publications when taking out Ad space.
  • The best file format for exporting posters ready for printing.

Posters and print media are still a great way to promote events and special promotions (e.g. venue food specials) outside of social media. As most venues appreciate, posters can be effective within a venue and out on designated poster areas in your community. But it’s a costly and frustrating exercise if your files result in a poor quality print run.

This guide focuses on physical print, and compliments our guide for ~ using images online ~.


Specifications for print advertisements

It might sound obvious but, art specifications for print advertising vary depending on the publication, and the size of the advertisement that you would like to publish. So of course the best course of action is to consult each publication’s art specifications before finalising any design work.

Generally speaking, this information can be found on their website. For example, here are ad specs for The Music, The Brag Magazine, Pacific Mags and News Corp.

Never assume that one file specification will also work for all publications. However, as a general rule, here are some common requirements and concepts for submitting material:

  • Material must be in a finished PDF/TIFF file. JPEG or PNG can run the risk of quality loss when printed.

  • If advertisement is in colour, make sure the elements are in CMYK.

  • Most A4 print publications will ask for an image DPI (Dots Per Inch) to be between 200dpi-300dpi.

  • If it’s a full-page or double page spread that you wish to take out, a bleed of around 5mm is required (to ensure that everything remains within the print area).

  • If your file is too big to be sent via email, you can use free file-sharing platforms such as WeTransfer, HighTail and SendSpace.

These specifications can be met by most market image-editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop or InDesign. There are some free software options too, including GIMP.

Print specifications for Aus publication The Music. Shows specifications for a double paged spread, full page spread, half page, quarter block and quarter strip.
As an example, here are the print specifications for The Music.

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Printing posters

There are a number of sources that you can consult for pointers on how to design and export your posters for print.

Before printing, there are multiple steps to consider in the design process.

Here are some of the most common suggestions:

  1. Design or convert the file to CMYK: According to Creative Bloq, working in this mode will “give you a more accurate representation of how your colours will print.”

  2. Consider creating your poster in a vector-based format: Posterbox breaks down the differences between pixel-based graphics and vector-based graphics in detail, and specifies that vectors can allow for higher resolution and detail in your images. Programs like Adobe Illustrator allow you to do this successfully.

  3. Add bleed or trim to your document: The image below (courtesy of Fast Print) gives a visual example of this. These two elements are required with most print jobs, including posters, leaflets, business cards and many more. According to Fast Print, trim “acts as the edge of the final printed product.” and so all elements should be kept within the trim like as a rule. Bleed “is a few extra millimetres outside of the trim line and gives you a little extra 'room for error'.” Different printing organisations or media organisations will require different measurements of bleed or trim, so make sure you know what it should be before submitting the work to print.

Image shows the Bleed area of an image, and compares it to the trim line and the safe area of an image.
Bleed area outline, image courtesy of Fast Print.

  1. Export the document into a PDF: the most widely accepted format is PDF, however depending on the printing company you choose, they may also accept EPS, TIFF or JPEG. But many sources, including Fast Print and Creative Bloq recommend against submitting JPEG files so to avoid quality loss or variations with colours in your final product.

Once you have finalised your design, next decide what size you would like your poster to be printed on. This should be determined by what you intend your poster to be used for.

Sydney Posters outline the following dimensions for outdoor posters (including trim size & bleed):

  • Pole poster (351mm x 1006mm)
  • 1 sheeter (706mm x 1006mm)
  • 2 sheeter (1006mm x 1406mm)
  • 4 sheeter (1406mm x 2006mm)

Here are some of the most common indoor sizes:

  • A2 (594mm x 420mm)
  • A3 (420mm x 297mm)
  • A4 (210mm x 297mm)

Once you are ready to print, you will also have multiple options for the type of paper you want to print on. Creative Bloq recommends “170gsm Silk or Gloss Art FSC or 150gsm” as good options to consider, but of course it depends on the budget for poster printing and intended placement of the poster (e.g. indoor/outdoor). Consult the printing agency to get their advice on what would work best for you.

Following these basic pointers should enable you to successfully print posters for use.

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Below are a list of links that could provide extra information and tips on poster design and format. You can also enlist the services of Sydney Posters and other organisations to distribute the posters on your behalf if your budget allows.

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