Inky Little Fingers

Help - Artwork

Table of Contents


There are extensive artwork preparation guides for nearly all products.  When you are on a product page (a page where you can work out prices) look on the right hand side, near the top.  You will see a link to the relevant Artwork Preparation Guide.  Click on that to view the artwork preparation guide for that product. If you need help finding the guide or you have any questions at all after reading the guide, just ask the helpdesk.


This is an explanation of how automatic online soft proofing (autoproofing) works, not a general explanation of what proofing is and why we do it. For general information on proofing, please read this section:


Want to watch a video instead? We have a video tutorial that explains how to use automatic proofing. You can watch it here:

HELP > TUTORIALS open link in new window  (opens in a new window)

Automatic proofing vs manual proofing

Automatic proofing. Also known as online soft proof (automatic). This is the recommended proofing method for more experienced users and is the fastest and cheapest option. You MUST read the artwork preparation guide before using this option. Your file will be checked and corrected (as far as possible) using our sophisticated automatic systems and you should get a report back within minutes. You MUST read your report! If your file passed the "preflight" checking, you can view and approve your proof through your admin > proofs area of the Inky web site. If you have read the artwork preparation guide, you should get a good clean printable file very quickly. Remember: we also autoschedule most orders when you approve your proof, so you can submit, proof and have your order scheduled in the production queue literally within minutes. If you need to fix your artwork, don't worry, if you use autoproofing there is no charge to proof your artwork again, you can do it as many times as you need. Automatic proofing is not available for all products.

Manual proofing (online soft proof). If you'd like a human to check your artwork, select this option. Your file will be checked and corrected (as far as possible) by a human and you should normally get a report back within four working hours, though this can take longer during our busy periods. You still need to read the artwork preparation guide and you still need to read your proof report! Your first soft proof is included in the price of your order when you select manual proofing. If you find that you need to make alterations and resubmit your artwork, there is a small charge for each additional soft proof. See the help for each product for the amount. It is very important that you review your soft proof and the pre-flight information that we send to you carefully. Manual proofing is very useful for inexperienced users, or if you need us to make minor changes like resizing your pages.

Disadvantages of automatic proofing

It's very smart software, but it is just software. That means that you have to supply your artwork the right way according to the artwork preparation guide (you were going to do that anyway, right?). It also means that you can't argue with it, plead with it, insult it or threaten it. It's just software.

HELP, your *!?*!!* software has got it wrong!

In the early days of automatic proofing (years ago), we did fix software bugs left right and centre. However, since then, autoproofing has flawlessly processed (at the time of writing) well over 40,000 artwork files. Don't immediately assume it has gone wrong! Read the report that was emailed to you again and call the helpdesk if you are stuck. Although automatic proofing can't always tell you exactly what you've done wrong, the warnings are usually very good clues. For example, we had a gentleman who was most upset that automatic proofing kept trimming off part of his artwork, despite the fact that he had uploaded the same artwork many, many, times. He expressed himself in a most forthright manner in his emails to the helpdesk and when he phoned us, he was kind enough to point out our various incompetences and personal deficiencies. Eventually he ran out of steam and we did manage to read his report to him. It warned him that the page size supplied was too big and had been trimmed to fit. It warned him to check the resulting proof very carefully and correct the page size if it the proof was not correct. I would love to report that he immediately and profusely apologised and sent us a nice box of chocolates, but that would be a lie.


One of the topics that we get asked about most frequently is "bleeds". A bleed is an "extra bit" of artwork that extends past the edge of your design and is usually expressed in millimetres, i.e. "2mm bleed". The bleed area normally contains part of the background images and colour. The example below shows one of our templates overlaid onto a leaflet so that you can see the bleed area (as well as the trim, safe area and crop marks). The bleed area is the bit of artwork between the black trim line (this shows you what you end up with after the item is finished) and the red bleed line. The bottom picture shows the leaflet when it has been finished. Note that the bleed area has been trimmed off.

bleed diagram

Why are bleeds necessary?

We print on large sheets of paper with multiple sets of artwork "imposed" on each sheet. These then need to be cut up on a large guillotine and may go on for further finishing. Very slight variations in the positioning of your job on a sheet may creep in during the printing and finishing processes. For instance, we might get paper "stretch" on a litho print or paper shrinkage on a digital job. Now imagine a leaflet with a solid green colour all the way to the edge. Without bleeds, your eye would be drawn to a thin white line on one or two edges. Your eye will pick up even fractions of a millimetre! With bleeds you get blue solid colour all the way around.

How much bleed?

We recommend that you supply artwork to us with at least 2mm bleed all the way around. More doesn't matter, less does.

How do I create bleeds?

This depends on which application you are using to create the artwork. If the application "understands" about bleeds, then there will be a write up in the manual or or a section of the help facility. If you are using an application that was not designed to print from, i.e. Microsoft Word, then you will need to "cheat"! A trick that works for most word processors, i.e. OpenOffice Writer and Microsoft Word is to create a page size that equals the desired page size PLUS bleeds.

Here's an example of how to do this in OpenOffice Writer. We are going to make the page size 2mm wider all round than the finished size in order to make the bleeds.

  • Set the page size. Go to Format > Page, select the Page tab and then select User as the Format. You can then override the height and width sizes. For example, if I want an A5 (finished size 210x148mm) I input sizes of 21.40cm and 15.20cm.
  • Set the Paper Size. This depends on how you're going to create your PDF. In OpenOffice writer, you would simply use File > Export As PDF... and that will take care of the paper size automatically for you. However, if you are using a PDF writer, then you may need to set the page size explicitly. Here's an example of how to do that in CutePDF. Open up the printer Properties (normally, File > Print.. and then click the Properties button) and then click on the Advanced... button. At the Paper Size: option, select "Postscript Custom Page Size". You may have to scroll down to see this option. You will then be able to input the exact Paper Size that you want, in our example that is 214 and 152mm for A5 plus 2mm bleed all round.

If all else fails, then we can simply enlarge your pages for you to make bleeds. You'll need to ask the helpdesk for assistance with this and currently you must select "manual proofing" (not automatic proofing) when you place your order. We enlarge the artwork to create the bleed and your text ends up closer to the edge, which is crude but effective! Of course, you will need to make sure that text and any images that you don't want cut into are quite a long way from the edge for this to work and it won't work if you have fancy spreads over multiple pages.

Don't forget to also check our tutorials, we are adding useful step by step guides for specific products here regularly.


If your artwork is split over multiple PDFs, but the artwork preparation guide says to submit only one file, what should you do? One simple solution is to merge the PDFs. If you have the full version of Acrobat (not Reader), then use that to merge the files. Otherwise there are upteen free utilities on the internet that allow you to merge PDF files, just google it. One of the best that we have seen is PDFsam (PDF Split And Merge) from: open link in new window

We've used it, it's very easy and takes seconds to merge your PDF files.

A note about Open Source software. The people who develop this are volunteers who do it for the love of writing code and sharing it for free. If you want to support them and help cover their costs, a small donation is usually welcome (but not required). There is a donate link on the PDFsam web site.

wikipedia - Open-source software open link in new window

Update #1: a few customers have reported problems to us with PDFsam. Things like the program asking them to purchase it and placing watermarks on the first page until they do this. Here's what's going on: this is NOT PDFsam! What has happened is that a company called Essex Software, LLC has purchased some paid for google advertising which is being displayed on the the PDFsam web site ( on the left, near the top. This has a big "Download Now " button, which takes you OFF of the PDFsam web site and on to a different web site called " ". This is NOT PDFsam. To download PDFsam, click on the green "Download " link towards the top left of the page. The advertisers paid-for software may be perfectly fine, but the advert is easy to mistake for the PDFsam download link. In the immortal words of Gomez Adams: "Dirty pool, old man! "

Update #2: The nice people at PDFsam say that they will wrap the google adverts with a banner saying "Sponsored links " or similar, so hats off to them for making that clearer.

Update #3: People are still getting confused, so we've altered the link so that it lands you directly on the right download page.

Update #4: We've been asked if there is a version for Mac. There is, but we haven't tried it. If you look at the download page, you should see a heading: "Other platforms or versions". Under this heading is a link to another download page and the Mac DMG file can be found there.


Please also make sure that you read the artwork preparation guide for the product that you are ordering.

Why send a PDF?

Why is it necessary to send my artwork as a PDF, why not just send it in the file format of whatever you have created it in?

PDFs are the closest thing we have to a "stable " format. That means that what you see on your screen is the same as we see on our screens and is the same as we print for you. That's not the case if you send anything else. What fonts you have installed, how you have your software configured, software versions and so on all conspire together to break your lovely artwork.

But what if I don't have Acrobat?

Don't worry, most applications now have the built in ablity to create PDFs. If yours doesn't, then there are lots of free ways to create PDFs, just Google it. For example type "best free pdf writer" into the Google search box. If you haven't already started creating your artwork, have a read of the section: WHAT SOFTWARE SHOULD YOU USE TO CREATE YOUR ARTWORK? All of these are good options that have PDF creation built into them.

We have a growing number of tutorials that take you through step-by-step in creating your printed item (booklets, brochures, calendars, book covers, etc.) using these free applications.

For PDF creation from applications that don't natively support this, we suggested many years that people try cutePDF Writer™, by Acro Software Inc. However in recent times, we've had a small number of reports that the cutePDF download has caused problems. We've researched this and there are some accounts that cutePDF may be installing the Ask Toolbar without the user's express permission. The Ask Toolbar may be very useful, but that's not the point. In our opinion, if you didn't request it, it shouldn't be installed. Anyway, this may or may not be true, but we can't recommend cutePDF until that issue is cleared up. Other than that, at the time of writing, MacAfee (which we use for virus prevention) reports cutePDF to be free of any viruses or malware. If you have ended up with the Ask Toolbar, and you don't want it, just google for "uninstall ask toolbar". Don't worry, there are plenty of others out there, just Google it!

Always embed fonts

When you create your PDF, make sure that you embed your fonts (or convert them to outlines). This means that if you use a font which we don't have installed on our computers here, it will still print properly. We will always check this and tell you if the fonts are not embedded. Tip: many software applications enable this by default. Remember, we will always warn you if your fonts are not embedded.

About Printer's Marks

They must be useful right? They're called printers marks because they are used by the printer, i.e. us. Please don't turn them on. Best case, we ignore them. Worst case, they interfere with your artwork and cause problems with your final product. Just the 2mm bleed please (if you need bleeds).

What Preset should I use

Some programs let you choose a Preset, which is a set configuration options, predefined for a specific purpose. If you have this option you should select PDF/X-1a (Commercial Print) if it's available.

And finally...

ALWAYS open the PDF and double check it before you send it to us. Does it look right? Is the page size set right? You wouldn't believe the number of times a simple check before submitting artwork would save time during the proofing process.


All of our printing equipment (lithographic, digital and large format) is computer controlled and calibrated to a pleasing colour balance If you are using correctly calibrated desk top publishing software (i.e. Quark or InDesign) and display hardware, the colours you see on your screen should be a reasonably close representation of the final printed product. Otherwise, you will find that the colour corrected proof that we send you will be closer to the final printed item - although the type and configuration of your display monitor will limit how close this match is.

We are sometimes asked whether you can send in a previously printed sample to "match". Unfortunately, we can't do this at these prices. Many times our litho (lithographic) printed jobs will be "batched" (or "ganged" as the American printers call it) with other customer's jobs. Either your job was printed right last time or not Sending us a hardcopy won't help as we can't alter the whole print run, or this would effect everyone else's colours!


This sounds like a harmless little fluffy bunny of a topic, doesn't it? If you're not a fully paid up colour management expert, this is in fact the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on. Run away! Design your artwork in RGB and let the nice people at Inky convert it to CMYK for you.

Still here? Then you must be an expert. For Litho jobs, Inky uses FOGRA29 for uncoated paper and FOGRA39 for coated paper. For all work printed on a digital press (colour, high-quality black & white) Inky emulates FOGRA39. Wait, what weasel words are these? "Emulates" you say? Yes, FOGRA39 is a data set used for sheet fed lithographic printing using matt and gloss coated paper under ISO12647. At the time of writing this guide, there is still no clear ISO standard for digital printing that we can adhere to. Hence, we emulate FOGRA39 for all paper types. For standard quality black & white (printed on a production black & white machine), we do not recommend colour management. Whatever you do, don't turn colour management on and leave the default profiles in place. You'll most likely end up with U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2, which really isn't that close. Yes, we have had about a million jobs sent to us with an embedded profile of U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2.

If your job is colour critical, always get a hard copy proof.


The web site prices are from your print-ready electronic original and do not include any design work, or manipulation of your files. We do offer a graphic design service, including book covers, newsletter and brochure design, folder design and much more. Please contact the helpdesk for a quotation.


Please always read the artwork preparation guide for the product that you are going to order. This will give you the detailed information you need and save you time.

In general, you should always supply your artwork as a PDF file. We can work with many other formats, but there will be an additional charge and your proof will take longer to generate. Creating a PDF is easy and free! Please also read the "Creating a PDF " section above.


Please always read the artwork preparation guide for the product that you are going to order. This will give you the detailed information you need and save you time.

Useful terms:

  • Artwork. The electronic files that you upload to us to print. It doesn't matter if it's just text, it's still called Artwork.
  • Online soft proof. The prepared file that you check and approve before we schedule the job to print.
  • Hardcopy proof. A printed copy of your artwork that we mail to you. This is not finished, just the printed sheets and is primarily useful for checking colours and the type of paper you have chosen.
  • Mock up. Sometimes you want a fully finished (i.e. made up into the actual product, for instance a book or brochure) proof to check and show other people. With digital printing you simply order a single copy. With litho printing, you need to speak to the help desk and we will work with you to get the closest approximation possible.

What is proofing?

Once you have uploaded your artwork to us, there are several stages to proofing.

  • File preparation. We correct many fixable mistakes in your artwork and prepare it for print. This involves converting any RGB colours in your file to CMYK*, so that you have a more accurate view of what the final item will look like.
  • Report creation. If there are mistakes that can't be fixed that are show stoppers, we can't prepare a proof. These are shown as errors in your report. In addition, there may be warnings. These are things that won't stop us printing, but that we think you might want to check. This report will be emailed to you and stored online in your admin area (proofs section) as well).
  • Proof creation. Most people opt for a soft proof, but you can also request a hard copy proof for most products. A soft proof is a specially prepared PDF that you view online.

* We don't do an RGB to CMYK conversion for Large Format printing. The reason for this is that Large Format is not printed in CMYK, it uses an extended version of CMYK (CcMmYK). This has a wider colour gamut than CMYK, so we would "lose " colour information if we did a CMYK conversion. By keeping your file in RGB right up to the RIP we give you the most accurate colour possible.

Page order

The page order of your proof is especially important when you are ordering a booklet or brochure. Your proof will be in printer's spreads. These are the actual pages as we are going to print them. We do this so that there is absolutely no room for miscommunication! If you have multipage spreads, you also get to check that they are lined up perfectly.

What's a printer's spread? Pick up a booklet and open it out flat. Now place that down on a table with the outside cover facing up. What you see there is a printer's spread. The last page of the booklet is the left hand side of the spread and the first page of the booklet is the right hand side of the spread.

Here's how an 8 page booklet will be proofed back to you. Each page of the proof file is one spread:

Spread 1: Page 8 / Page 1
Spread 2: Page 2 / Page 7
Spread 3: Page 6 / Page 3
Spread 4: Page 4 / Page 5

If that's still not clear, just phone the helpdesk up and they will be happy to go through it with you.

Proofing FAQS

Q. When do I see a proof?

A. If you have selected an automatic soft proof, the proofing process should be over within a few minutes. You will get an email from us that contains your report. If a proof has been generated, you can view and approve or reject your proof through your admin > proofs area of the web site. Please note that autoproofing is not available for all products, or for custom quotations. If automatic soft proofing is not available as an option, then the default will be a manually processed soft proof. If you have selected a manually processed soft proof, then this will normally be processed within 4 working hours. During our busy periods, this may take longer. You will get an email from us once the artwork has been processed that contains your report. If a proof has been generated, you can view and approve or reject your proof through your admin > proofs area of the web site. If you have requested a hard copy proof, you will still get a report and a manually prepared soft proof, but please do not approve this until you have received and examined your hard copy proof. We will normally send out a hard copy proof within 1 working day via first class post.

Q. What if I spot a problem with my proof or need to alter something?

A. Just reject your proof. You can then upload new artwork through your admin > uploads area.

That applies before you approve your proof. If you spot a problem after you have approved your proof, please contact the helpdesk as quickly as possible so that we can help you sort the problem out.

Q. Is there a charge if I need to resubmit my artwork and get another proof?

A. If you selected automatic soft proofing, there is no charge. Just upload new artwork and away you go. For each extra manually processed soft proof we make a small charge. This charge depends on the product, please read the specific help for that product for the exact amount. Extra hard copy proofs are charged at the same rate as the original hard copy proof. You'll need to contact the helpdesk to arrange payment for this, at this time you can't do that through your admin area.

Q. Do you check the content or layout of my artwork for me?

A. Proofing should not be confused with proof reading. We make a series of technical checks and corrections to make sure that is suitable to print for the product that you have ordered. We don't look at the content, the layout or anything else.

Q. How can you possibly manually process a soft proof for such a low price, are you cutting corners?

A. We work very hard to make the proofing process as efficient as possible and use an advanced automated workflow. One of the reasons that we have the artwork preparation guides is so that customers supply properly formatted files in a consistent manner. We figure the more work we put into that, the better artwork we get, the more efficiently we can process files. We don't cut corners, every file is run through a series of checks and conversions.


AKA the "Safe Area". This is a general "rule of thumb" that is widely used when designing artwork (Desk Top Publishing) and it's a REALLY good habit to get in to. Most of the time when you are designing your artwork, you will have set up a margin all round each page. The Safe Zone is similar in many ways to this and it's basically the area in which you put your text and main graphical elements. A rule of thumb is that the safe area should be around 4-6mm inside the page (trim). It has 2 main purposes. One is to do with style, but the second and most important reason is to do with function. With commercial printing, the tolerance for where the printed content ends up on the physical sheet is not precise down to thousands of a millimeter, rather the "worst case" is plus or minus 1-2mm (approximately). That's why we have bleeds (see previous topic).  For example: if you have the start of your text 0.5mm from the edge of the page (trim) and the content is 1mm out, some of your text is going to be chopped off.  Take another example: you have a business card (or any other very small printed item) and you have a line of text centered at the bottom, 2mm from the sides and 2mm from the bottom.  In this example, take the case where the content is out by 1mm in both directions (this is well within normal tolerances).  The net effect is that the text ends up 1mm from the left, 1mm from the bottom and 3mm from the right.  What experienced designers know is that the eye is immediately drawn to this level of imprecision.  However, if the designer observes a "Safe Zone" of 5mm, the text would end up 4mm from the left, 6mm from the right and 4mm from the bottom and this looks much better.

If you have designed your artwork with bleeds (see the previous topic), then it's perfectly normal (and in fact necessary) to have your background colour or images outside of the safe zone.

We sometimes don't show a Safe Zone in our templates as it can over complicate them, but it's well worth remembering and following this simple rule of thumb.

You can see an example of a Safe Zone in the picture shown for the BLEEDS section above.


Before you can send us your artwork, you need to register on the web site and place an order. Registration is pretty straightforward and there is a tutorial to help you (HELP > TUTORIALS). You normally upload your artwork as part of the order process using the standard Inky Uploader. If you miss this step for any reason, or you need to upload new artwork, log on to the web site and go to ADMIN > UPLOADS and use the uploader there. Please do not email us artwork. There's also a "getting started " link on every product page (look for the blue question mark button on the right hand side page).

If you have any problems uploading artwork, please call the helpdesk as we can usually help you sort this out, or offer alternative ways to send artwork to us. Please do not send your artwork on a disk, via email or through any kind of internet file transfer without discussing and agreeing this with the helpdesk first.

Once you have uploaded artwork, we will prepare a proof for you (see the proof section on this page for more details).

If you need help placing an order, please read the help section Help > Placing an order > How do I place my order?


We do not keep your artwork indefinitely!

If we create artwork for you using our Graphic Design service then we will store it for a minimum of 12 months (this storage does not apply with our low cost Cover Layout service). We keep artwork on a RAID server array with local real time backup to another local RAID server array. Your files are then backed up to another RAID server array at remote location (offsite backup). Although we take good care of the artwork we create for you, we cannot absolutely guarantee it's safe storage. For this reason, Inky will always give you a copy of your artwork on request. If you pay for it, it's yours and we recommend that you store it safely.

If you upload your own artwork for a job then we do not guarantee to store your artwork at all once a job has been printed. If you request a reprint of a previous job, we will use previously submitted artwork if this is still available, otherwise you will have to send us the artwork again. To give you some guidance, we will generally keep your print ready artwork (the final file that we print from) for at least 12 months before it's deleted.

Some products have an automatic "re-order " button (you can find this in admin > orders). If we no longer have your artwork stored (or re-order is not available yet for that product), then you will see "Re-order not possible " instead of the button.


RGB (Red, Green, Blue) are the basic components of the colours emitted by your monitor.  All the colours that you can see on your monitor are made up from RGB in different proportions.

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK) are the ink pigments used to reflect light back to you from the printed sheet.  The full colour images that you see on the printed sheet are actually made up from complex patterns of CMYK.

RGB colours must be converted to CMYK so that they can be printed.  This conversion is usually hidden from you when you are using a desk top printer.  Because RGB has a wider gamut (range of possible colours) compared to CMYK, not all RGB colours can be printed accurately in CMYK.  For this reason, professional designers will usually design their artwork in CMYK and preview it on screen in simulated CMYK.


You may already have your favourite application, in which case you should probably stick with it if it does everything you want.

Professionals will use a Desk Top Publishing (DTP) application.  99% of the time that means Adobe InDesign and that's what we use here at Inky.

For simple things that don't require a precise layout, you can generally use a Word Processor.  Microsoft Word is the most famous of these, but if you don't have a recent version you should take a look at some of the free Open Source applications.  OpenOffice Writer (part of the OpenOffice Suite) and LibreOffice Writer (part of the LibreOffice Suite) are some of the best known of these and of course they allow you to save your artwork as a PDF as standard. open link in new window open link in new window

In general, people also use a word processor to lay out the book block (all of the inner pages) of their book.  It is possible to use a word processor to create the cover as well (and we have a video tutorial showing you how), but given the choice, a DTP application allows you to set out your cover with more precision.

InDesign is extremely good, but also expensive.  There is a very good, Open Source DTP application available called Scribus and as it's Open Source, you can use it absolutely free (although a small donation is always welcome).  Scribus has nowhere near the level of features that you get with InDesign, but it is a perfectly competent and usable DTP application.  Did I mention is is free?  There is more of a learning curve with using Scribus compared with a Word Processor, but if you want precisely laid out newsletters, brochures, covers and so on, it's well worth investing the time. open link in new window

What About Pages?

Pages is a template based application for creating simple items.  It is not capable of working with bleeds and during our testing we couldn't find any way of creating a custom page size.  This means that it will not be possible to create a document with bleeds (see the help section on bleeds for an explanation of what this means).  It should be fine for simple documents that have a clear white border all around each page.

What About Publisher?

We have experienced some problems with PDFs created by Publisher that cause processing delays and in rare cases mean that we cannot process your PDF.

Which Applications Should I Avoid?

In general, spreadsheet applications (for example Microsoft Excel and OpenOffice Spreadsheet) and Presentation applications (for example Apple Keynote and Microsoft PowerPoint) are not suitable for creating print-ready artwork.

Copyright © Inky Little Fingers Ltd. 2017

-V2.1 26-11-2014-

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