Get your artwork right first time by following our detailed explanation of the process and specifications. If you're a complete novice you may want to look at our Novice Guide
Here are the essentials. Get these right and you should be fine.
When you have finished your artwork, print it out and assemble to make a mock-up of how it will look when printed. This will give you the chance to double check your artwork before you send it to us. Give your print out to the three most fastidious people you know - they might spot some mistakes that you haven’t noticed. It is better to find the mistakes before you print hundreds or thousands of copies.
There are a number of ways to send your artwork to us.
You can use a filesharing website such as the free WeTransfer.
Please make sure to send the notification to the Account Manager who sent you the artwork templates.
FTP software is needed to upload files to the Key Production ftp server.
If you are using a PC then you can use Filezilla or Core FTP which are both free to download.
If you are using a Mac then you can download a free trial of Fetch.
All of these programs come with instructions.
Please inform the Account Manager who sent you the templates when your artwork has been uploaded.
Use the ANONYMOUS option (no password needed).
Upload your artwork into the INCOMING folder.
File names must only use letters, numbers, underscores and hyphens. Do NOT use special characters as it will prevent your file from uploading.
We will endeavour to make your product to the highest standards. We know your release is important to you and it's important to us that your completely satisfied with the end product. Within a few days of receiving correctly set up artwork we will send you a set of PDF proofs.
It is important that you check your proofs very thoroughly as it is your last chance to make sure that everything is correct before your release is printed. The PDF is not for colour approval due to variances in screen settings and resolution.
If you notice anything that is incorrect then please let your Account Manager know immediately. If you are happy with your proofs then email your Account Manager to let them know that you are ready for us to proceed with printing. Production will not start before your approval.
To view overprint you must use the Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, download it for free at www.adobe.com. In Adobe Acrobat preferencers go to Page Display then choose Overprint Preview.
Some shops or distributors may insist a barcode is included on your artwork.
The barcode box should be at least 32mm wide and 10mm high and there must be a clearing space of 3mm either side of the edge of the barcode. Barcodes should not be less than this minimum size.
If you would like us to place a barcode on your artwork then indicate the required position, leaving a space of at least 32mm x 10mm for us to place your barcode. We recommend a black barcode on a white background, preferably vector art or 1200ppi and single colour 100% black.
If you choose to have a colour barcode then it's important understand that some colour combinations will not be read. Be sure to adhere to the below acceptable colour combinations if you choose to have a colour barcode.
Booklet artwork should be supplied set out in printers pairs as illustrated below.
It is not always obvious to us what the page order is! Please help us by marking the page numbers on the pasteboard or outside the crop marks, or supply us with a print out of your booklet, with page order clearly indicated.
When printed parts are trimmed to the correct size there is a chance that the cutter will shift slightly. Most printers have a cutter tolerance of 3mm. This means that the cutter could cut 3mm either side of the crop line. In practice it is rare that the cutter is out by more than 1mm. By adding bleed (extending images and background to extend 3mm all around the edges of your artwork), keeping text in the safe area (3mm away from the edges) and making borders at least 6mm means that it will not be noticable on your finished print if the cutter trims the artwork slightly off the trim line.
Bleed is the area outside the trim line that will be trimmed off when finished. It is usually 3mm but may be more. It will be indicated on the template supplied to you.
The safe area is 3mm inside the edges of the artwork. You need to keep all text and important graphics within this area.
In the illustration above the dotted line represents the bleed of 3mm added all the way around. The solid line represents the crop where the finished print will be trimmed. The grey area indicates the area within 3mm of the crop line; don't put text in this area.
All images must be at least 300ppi. We recomend that images with fine lines or text should be 600ppi. Bitmap images should be at least 1200ppi.
If images have a lower resolution than recommended there is a danger that the quality of the finished print may not be as good as expected.
Remember that if images are placed into a layout program such as InDesign or Illustrator at more than 100% then the actual resolution will be lowered. For example, if an image is 300ppi and then used at 200%, the actual resolution will be 150ppi.
In Illustrator the colour mode and PPI can be seen on the top bar when the image is highlighted as shown in the screenshot below. Open the the Links palette for further information on all the images used in the document.
If you are using InDesign, use the Preflight function to check if the images you are using are of a high enough resolution and are CMYK or greyscale.
Window > Output > Pre-flight > Basic Working Profile
It's importat to be aware of the limits of ink coverage. Having high levels of ink that exceed the printers maximum coverage may make it impossible to print your product.
Printers are unable to print items where the ink is too dense.
The total maximum ink coverage for standard stock (paper) should be less than 320%. This means the CMYK value of any colour used should not add up to more than 320%. If part of an image includes dark areas with values that add up to more than 320% then the ink level is too high.
The area in the centre above adds up to ink levels of 360%; too much to print.
If your artwork has areas that have very light colours then there is a possibility that the ink will not print. Ink coverage should be over 4% for cyan, magenta and black, and over 10% for yellow.
The percentages circled in red are the minimum ink levels. Any lower and the ink may not show when printed.
This is a general guide and in some instances these amounts may differ. If you are using uncoated stock or reverse board then the maximum ink levels will be lower - please check with your Account Manager for details.
If you have been told that areas are below the ink level limits then you will need to look at the lightest areas of your artwork and adjust them accordingly making them denser.
If you have been told that your artwork has ink levels that are above the limits then you need to look at the darkest areas of your artwork reduce the density of the ink.
Careful use of spot colours, spot varnishes or foil blocking can really make your finished design really stand out. If you are supplying your artwork in Adobe Photoshop then please use a separate, clearly indicated layer for the parts of the artwork which will be printed as pantone or have a special varnish or foil block.
Pantone colours (also called spot colours) are specific coloured inks, some of which are fluorescent or metallic. If you would like a very bright colour then you might wish to use a fluorescent pantone.
If your design includes some special spot colours (this could be a bright fluorescent green, a specific shade of red, or a metallic gold), or you would like some parts of your artwork to appear more glossy, then please indicate the pantone reference number of the ink.
Beware of using metallic pantone inks on record labels, as the manufacturing process can distort the finished effect.
If you are supplying your artwork in Photoshop then please use a separate, clearly indicated layer for the parts of the artwork which will be printed as pantone or have a special varnish or foil block. If you are using InDesign or Illustrator then please colour up the parts using the program colour swatches or use a separate layer and make a note regarding this on the pasteboard.
Care should be taken with the space between varnished areas. Spot UV is more viscous and has a tendency to spread and so fill in. Line work should be more than 0.5pt, anything less than this will not print.
Emboss is where an area of the print is raised. Deboss is where an area of the print is recessed. Die Cutting and Laser Cutting involves cutting out an area of the card or paper to leave a hole. Foilsadded to the print surface by heat and pressure.
Artwork should be supplied as vector and set up as a spot marked up as Emboss or Deboss and set to overprint.
Careful consideration should be taken in to the practicalities of the design.
Generally, foils are metalic sheets applied to a print surface using heat and pressure to create gold or silver areas, but are now available in an increaing range of materials including mirror and hollographic effects.
Designing for a CD or DVD onbody label is different to designing for paper. The way the design is printed on to the disc means that some designs work better than others. Look at some of the CDs in your own collection and think about what makes them good or not so good!
Please use the template supplied to you, do not change the size or layout of the template. Remember that there is a central hole, but do not mark this on your artwork. CD label artwork is different to paper print in that it does not need bleed. Remember to include a catalogue number on your artwork.
Use images that are 600ppi. If you are using a design with a lot of fine graphic detail then it is best to use vector artwork (Illustrator eps) rather than bitmap images (Photoshop). Avoid subtle tonal shades and tints that are less than 15% or over 85% and gradients which do not print well on to discs. Due to specialist print techniques, inks and media surface it is not possible to colour match to paper parts.
CD onbody artwork can be set up as either full colour (CMYK) or using spot (Pantone) colours. When using Pantone colours please select colours from the Pantone Solid Coated library. For photographs or images with mid-tones it is best to set up as CMYK, even if the image is a black and white photograph. If you have a full colour design then it is recommended that a white base is also used. List the colours that you use at the edge of the template and indicate if you want a white base or not.
If the disc does not have a base colour then the silver of the disc will show though where there is white (or tones) on your artwork . The silver part of the disc does not go right to the centre of the disc, there is a ring around the centre which is clear plastic. Be aware of this if you are planning to have the silver of the disc as part of your design.
Text must be bigger than 5pt. Small text prints better as 1 colour (ie single channel 100% black or a solid pantone colour). If using fine text or white out of coloured text then it should be bigger than 7pt.
For the best results make text vector. Text that is part of an image (ie done in Photoshop) may not print clearly and should always be at least 600ppi.
Inside or reverse print can be added to card packaging so that there is print inside the sleeve which is usually left blank. It can be used on digisleeves or digifiles so that there isn’t the white strip on the inside spine of the digi.
If you're supplying inside/reverse print please ensure the opposite side of any glue flap is covered with the required image or colour, they have bleed and are correctly orientated.
It's important to remember that ink will absorb in to the reverse side of the board more than the coated side of the board and will therefore look darker or duller. Ask your Account Manager about how this might affect your artwork.
Above image shows the print artwork for a 4 page digi file with the outside (left) and the inside/reverse (right).
Below image shows the inside of the finished digi file.
Sleeves can be top opening or side opening. Most LP sleeves are side opening, and the inner sleeves are top opening, but you can choose to be different if you prefer. Please clearly indicate which you would like for your sleeve.
The record label needs to be ‘baked’ when it is fixed on to the record. This means that heat is applied to the labels which can cause an alteration of colour. Be wary of using metallic pantone colours on labels. Please make sure that the label sides are clearly marked.
If you're working in Photoshop then you will have been supplied a PDF template.
It is important to design your artwork in CMYK rather than RGB. To print your design the images need to be CMYK. When images are converted from RGB to CMYK the colours often appear more dull. If the image uses spot colours (Pantones), a varnish or has a cut out, mark this on a separate, clearly labeled layer or chanell.
Black can be just black ink or can be made up black with some cyan, magenta and yellow. Black which is just black ink will not be as strong as a rich black which contains cyan, magenta and yellow.
If you are using a lot of black in your design then make sure that the different blacks match. If you have blacks that don’t match then you could end up with unwanted boxes and lines on your artwork when it is printed. Mismatched blacks are very difficult to spot on screen, so it is important to check for mismatched blacks. You can easily do this by opening the channels palette and viewing each channel individually.
It's important that you check the ink levels in your design documents. To check the ink levels in Photoshop:
Open the info palette -
Window > Info .
Click on the small arrow on the top right of the palette and select Info Palette Options.
Change the First Colour Readout to Total Ink, and the Second Colour Readout to CMYK Color.
Hold your cursor over the darkest parts of the image and check the Total Ink Readout.
When you have finished your design, you can send us your artwork in any of the following formats.
PSD: Supply either flattened or in layers. If in layers please supply fonts.
TIF: Save without compression, either flattened or unflattened.
PDF: Save at the highest quality, with no compression.
JPG: Save at the highest quality.
If you supply an unflattened file with the layers still in place please delete any empty or hidden layers. You must also include all the fonts that you have used and zip the fonts to avoid them corrupting.
If you have used spot colours or varnishes in your artwork these should be marked clearly on a separate layer. For more information see spot colours.
Open the template supplied to you and work on the artwork layer or make a new layer for your artwork if needed.
Use the Preflight feature, Window > Output > Preflight, to check the fonts and images.
Use the Package feature, File > Package, to collect all of the fonts and images used in your artwork.
Open the PDF template supplied to you in Illustrator and create a new layer to place your design on. Check that the colour mode is CMYK and not RGB. To print your design the images need to be CMYK.
If you are placing images into your design then make sure that the images are at least 300ppi. Embed your images or send us the images that you used along with the Illustrator files.
Send us the fonts used in your design, or turn the fonts to outline. To do this select all the type, go to Type in the top menu, and select Create Outlines. Avoid using cloud based fonts such as Adobe Typekit.
Make sure that all colours are CMYK or greyscale or spot colours if required.
If the image uses spot colours (Pantones), a varnish or has a cut out, mark this on a separate, clearly marked layer.
You can supply your files as ai, eps or PDF.