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Photoshop File Preparation Guidelines

Adobe Photoshop: Versions 4 - CS2
Return to Photoshop Guideline Templates

Please take a minute to also read our Common Errors and Solutions page, which lists the most common errors that has with digital files received from customers.

To get started, please either use one of our Free Photoshop Layout Templates or follow this Step-by-Step Guide:

Step 1: Create a new document (File / New) for each side of your project.

For this example we would create one Photoshop document for the front side and another file for the back side.

Step 2: Enter the following document information

This example uses a 4” x 6” Postcard as the final, finished size

  • Width:6.25
  • Height:4.25
  • Resolution:300 pixels/inch
  • Mode:CMYK Color

These specifications apply whether you are creating a new image, scanning, or resizing an existing image.

Step 3: Set Bleed Guides

Drag four guides from the rulers exactly 1/8” (.125) on each side. This will be where your printed piece will trim and will leave you with the final size that you ordered (in this example, 4” x 6”).

Be careful, as text, borders, or images that are too close to the edge may appear uneven or get cut off. Also be sure to allow “full bleed” images to extend into the bleed area or the white of the paper may leak into the postcard image.

In the example above, the text "TYPE TOO CLOSE!" will get trimmed off, and the image will have a small strip of white on the right-hand-side.

Step 4: U.S. Postal Regulations for Postcards

If you plan on mailing your postcards or having us mail them for you, the back-side layout must meet U.S.Postcard Postal Regulations

Step 5: Check Image Resolution, Quality and Color

Please keep in mind that only prints EXACTLY what is sent to us. We do not have the time or resources to alter or color correct your files. Image resolution, quality and good color all will affect how your final printed piece looks.

High Resolution 300 dpi Image   Low Resolution 72 dpi Image


To prevent bad looking images your file(s) should meet some basic standards of quality and color:

  • Resolution: 300 dpi (dots per inch)
  • Front or Outside Color Mode: CMYK
  • Back or Inside Color Mode: CMYK
  • Other image quality/color issues: JPEG Compression, Adobe Photoshop Color Settings, Digital Camera Settings.

Step 6: Make Large Black Objects and Images "Rich"

For black borders, headlines, and large black text to appear dark and saturated (or rich), you should set your CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black) values to:

Never use a Rich Black for any small graphic objects or text that is smaller than 18-20 points in size.

Step 7: Flatten Image

Flatten your Photoshop document by using the menu in the layers palette and choosing "Flatten Image". Or go to the Layer Menu / Flatten Image. This will remove all layers and reduce the size of your file significantly.

Step 8: Save and Prepare for Upload

Save your file(s) in .TIF format. To save as a TIF file, go to the menu File and then Save and select TIF from the list. Be sure to save with no compression and in IBM PC Byte Order.

After saving your files, you are ready to Upload them after placing a successful order using our Online Ordering System. Look for the UPLOAD FILES Icon at the end of the ordering process and follow the provided instructions.