Proper Packaging of Design Files

Author: Mary Schilling, Inkjet Insight

Design files can be pretty complex. A typical file could contain hundreds or thousands of detailed elements such as font families, lines, vignettes plus drawn and linked elements such as logos and photos. These may be created in multiple formats housing extremely detailed dither and color data. Designers sometimes go to painstaking detail to create a particular effect.

Of course, the more complexity that designers create, the more potential there is for results that don’t meet their expectations: areas that don’t flatten or convert properly into the dithered format needed for your printing process. You can ask the designer to provide the native design files, and for complex projects, this is always a good idea, however, this can place the cost and responsibility for diagnosing problems and providing custom “processing adjustments” on your organization instead of the designer. The better solution is to create guidelines that help you get files from designers that are production-ready.

Help Designers Learn to Package Files Properly

There is an easy way for users of Adobe products to package their design files. (This represents the vast majority of designers.) This function is called “packaging” and it’s available in both Adobe Illustrator and Adobe InDesign programs.

Below is an example of the guidance that you should give your internal designers or design customers for packaging their files. Create your own documentation using this example, or simply direct them to this post.

6-Steps to PrePare an Adobe File FOR PRODUCTION
Adobe InDesign Packaging Summary Screen
Step 1

To start Packaging Files, within Adobe InDesign or Adobe Illustrator go to the  Adobe menu >  File >Package. 

This launches a dialog box that shows all the information which is to be included. This process will pull and organize all the files supporting native elements being used by the graphic file. These native items include any vector or bitmapped images, links, fonts, Pantone colors, as well as a copy of the original native InDesign file.

Work through each tab on the dialog, reviewing Fonts, Links, Colors, Print Settings, and Plug-ins, to assure all elements are included correctly.

Step 2 – FONTS

Review the “fonts” to assure none are missing. Missing fonts is one of the biggest headaches printers have with processing design files. Also, check to see that you have not included any unused fonts.

Checking “Show Problems Only” helps show only fonts that are missing and not the entire font list the design file contains.

Adobe InDesign Show Problems Only
Step 3 – LINKS & Missing Images

The “Links and Images” settings are also quite important. This compiles all the elements which have been created from outside programs and placed them into the final layout program. These placed files are called links.

Just like with fonts, if you check the “Show Problems Only” button it will highlight any images which are missing from your design file and will not be included in the final package.  Uncheck this button will show all elements which will be included.


Checking the “Colors and Inks” option will show the colors used for the elements contained in the design file. This helps to point out any RGB or spot colors that may convert differently based on the device’s RIP and that should be adjusted before sending it off to print.

Note that “Print Settings” lists what printer the software was set to as default and does not represent color management or print settings of the native files or linked images.

Show Problems Only – Links and Images
Step 5 – PLUG-INS

“External Plug-ins” is a listing of plug-ins which the design software uses for special tasks or effects and should be included when packaging to ensure proper effects are applied if images are edited or reproduced.

Once all packaging tabs are confirmed and there are no missing fonts or links and the inks used to represent the correct printing method you are targeting, select the “Package” bottom. This will take the designer to a Printing Instructions window.


It is a good practice to enter all of your contact information so your supplier knows who to contact with any questions. The “Instructions” area comes in very handy if the job requires any special printing or finishing needs.

Click “Continue”, to finish the packaging process, and to choose the location to save.

The design file and all the supporting elements are now copied into one organized folder on your computer to be zipped up by the designer and sent to the printer.

Contact and Printing Instructions
Use these instructions when communicating to your internal and external designers and you will be receiving organized, packaged files. Easy, peasy.

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