Setting up your files properly for print can save yourself and your printer from getting a headache, and will help your prints come out in a quick and timely manner. I'm sure nothing is more inconvenient for you than having your files stuck in the Proof process because your files were not set up properly.
There are some things to do, though, to make sure that your files will print just as you want them. You may have noticed in some of my earlier posts that I try to stress the importance of images being 300dpi and in CMYK. If you're unsure of the resolution of your image, you can either test print in on your own printer, or you can open it in Photoshop. If at any point you remember sizing UP your image, it will probably be low resolution.
It is also very important to make sure your file is in CMYK. This is also something that I have mentioned in a earlier post, but if your images have Pantones or is in RGB, digital printers (which print in CMYK) will convert those colors to their CMYK equivalent. There are true conversion values, but the printer itself, when converting, takes a guess.
Most of them time we do not have all of them typefaces that you are using, so when we open your files in our programs we lose all your typefaces. There is a couple ways around this: if you are sending a file in it's original format (InDesign, Illustrator, etc) you can send in your typefaces as well (Refer back to Sharing InDesign Files on packaging images and fonts). This is extremely helpful for both parties, because then we have the ability to change information in your file without you having to worry about fixing it yourself and then resending it. Remember, most of the time we are still able to open and edit PDFs. The second way, in Illustrator and InDesign, is to outline the fonts. In order to do that, simply highlight all of your text, and in the menu bar go to Text and select Create Outlines. If you set your type in Photoshop, well, just hope for the best.
Make sure your margins are correct (Refer to Margins and Bleeds)! The preferred margin size is a fourth of an inch (.25) away from the edge of the page, but absolutely NO LESS than an eighth of an inch (.125). This is especially helpful when pages inevitably shift while going through the printer and when it is necessary to give booklets a face trim.
If your file has bleeds (which means the color goes all the way to the edge) be sure to export your file WITH the bleed settings. When you click Save As, the Export Adobe PDF window will pop up, and under Bleed and Slug, make sure you select the Use Document Bleed Settings box.
This will make it so when we print and cut down your piece there will be no white lines around the edge. It is not necessary to have the crop and bleed marks in your file, but at the same time it doesn't hurt. You can find those in the same area as the bleed settings, but under the Marks section.
If your file does NOT have bleeds, then that step is not necessary, and simply exporting to PDF will do just fine. But still be sure to double check that everything else that was mentioned is correct.