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Sending Files to Your Service Bureau

Getting files, fonts, graphics, disks ready for commercial printing


When you send a digital file out for film or printing more goes along than just your InDesign or QuarkXPress document. You may need to send fonts and graphics too. Requirements differ from one printer to another but if you know the basics for sending files to your service bureau (SB) or printer it will elminate most common problems that might prevent them from processing your job. After doing a full preflight on your document, you will usually send your service provider:

Application File

This is the actual digital file that you created in InDesign, PageMaker, QuarkXPress, CorelDRAW, or some other desktop publishing or graphics software program. Before you send an application file:

  • Be sure your SB or printer has the same software, same version.

  • If you've upgraded before your SB, you may have to save down your file to the version they use.

  • Insure that the shop can handle files from your platform.

  • Few SBs accept Microsoft Publisher (.pub) files or files from anything other than the Adobe programs, QuarkXPress, Corel, and other major professional graphic design applications. This can vary by region. Ask first.
A properly prepared PostScript or more commonly PDF is the norm and the preferred file type for many commercial printers. Some service providers may want to receive both the PDF and the original application file. If in doubt, ask.


Even when you use common, classic typefaces you'll need to send the copies of the actual font files that your document contains. Fonts can vary from vendor to vendor and differences exist between the TrueType and Type 1 versions of fonts. If you don't supply your own fonts the SB may substitute their own version. This might work. Or it might result in subtle or obvious differences in your document including text reflow.
  • Check your font license agreement. Generally it is an acceptable practice to supply a copy to a printer in order to output your job.

  • Send both screen and printer fonts (for Type 1 fonts).

  • If you have embedded EPS files that include text not converted to curves, send the fonts for those images as well.

  • Avoid mixing TrueType or OpenType with Type 1 fonts in the same file.

  • Send the same version of the font (that is, if you used TrueType or OpenType fonts but send the Type 1 version of that typeface you may see errors).

  • You could embed all your fonts or convert text to curves to avoid having to send font files. However, this isn't always possible or advisable.

Learn more about sending fonts to your service bureau in this in-depth look at font problems and font collection.


Send copies of all your images used in your document. If you've practiced good file size management then most of your graphics are linked, not embedded in your document. The SB will need to have access to those graphics, otherwise your application file may have only low-quality preview images in the file or no graphic at all.
  • Use EPS and TIFF images. If you must use other formats, check with your SB.

  • Convert RGB images to CMYK.

  • Save graphics in uncompressed formats.

  • Don't change graphics file names unless you first re-link them in your application file.

  • In some instances your SB may want you to also send original format graphics (Freehand, Illustrator, Photoshop files) in addition to the placed EPS/TIFF images in your page layout application — for troubleshooting purposes. Ask them.

To ensure that your include all fonts and graphics needed for your output it is a good idea to use the collection capabilities of your program (such as PageMaker's Prepare for Service Bureau utility) or third-party programs for Preflight Collection.

Learn more about sending graphics to your service bureau in this in-depth look at graphics formats and common output problems (and how to fix them).

Next > Non-Digital Items and Delivering the Files

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