ART OF GRAPHIX: How to become ‘camera ready’

Have you ever heard the term, ‘Camera Ready’, kicked around in the design or print community, and wondered what it meant? If you did, do not feel left out. It is an old term that hardly applies today. In fact, many people who use it probably cannot provide its proper definition

People tend to use ‘camera ready’ to describe files in any shape or form, with the only requirement being that the finished text and images are placed in their final positions somewhere on the art board.

That is usually due to a lack of pre-press experience. They have never really been taught, or told how, to properly set up a computer-generated file for press. Why? Most have never had to do it. One of the most common problems created by clients is providing art which is not camera ready.

This is one of THE major disconnects in today’s graphic design world. It used to be that the designer had to know how to set up, and create, print-ready documents. Now, ‘it is the printer’s job to make it print’.

There seem to be many definitions of ‘camera ready’. Designers sometimes receive working files from clients and make the changes, while computers now come with lots of pre-installed software: Word processing programs for creating documents; layout programs for creating templates; drawing and art programs that enable one to design things. And photo editing software to manipulate images.

Software alone hardly makes someone capable of designing pieces properly for print purposes. Some people have been enrolled in school for years just to learn it. Others learn by working under the supervision of experienced designers.

However, the term ‘camera ready’ means that a document is, from a technical standpoint, ready to be printed. The requirements will differ from one printing company to the next based upon their software and hardware set-up.

Of course, if you really want to design things that are ‘camera ready’, I recommend using programs such as those found in the Adobe Creative Suite (Illustrator, InDesign).

Document size

and set-up

Your document should be set up in the exact size and orientation as it will be printed. So, for example, if you are designing a business card, creating it on a letter size sheet will not work. For a standard size card your document size should be two inches by 3.5 inches. Also, if you are going to print a tri-fold brochure, the panel measurements must be set up correctly as well.


Documents created with word processing software, such as Microsoft Word, are never camera-ready. Formatting can be completely different from one to the next. However, for ‘camera ready’ purposes, use a standard font and print it to your .pdf driver. Then convert.


They may be last on our list, but fonts can be a real problem since there are thousands of them, with more created every day. If you create a Word document on your computer with a particular font, and then try to open your document on a computer that does not have that font installed (such as the one at your print shop), the second machine will often substitute a font. The result is the document can change completely. Meaning your perfect 12-page booklet may just become a 13-page debacle.

This is why it is clever to either embed/include all fonts in the art package you submit, or convert all fonts to paths. By doing the latter, you essentially change each letter into an outlined image, eliminating the need to have the font installed.

The easiest way to submit a ‘camera ready’ file is to create it in accordance with the standards outlined in PDF/X-1a. If you have Adobe Acrobat 7 or higher, your Adobe Distiller can easily create a PDF/X-1a file.

A ‘camera ready’ document is created with the right software, colours are set up appropriately, the document set-up and size is exactly as it is to be printed, and all fonts are embedded (or they are converted to paths/outlines)

In desktop publishing, ‘camera ready’ ultimately refers to the final state of a publication before it is ready to print. Until we meet again, fill your life with memories as opposed to regrets. Enjoy life and stay on top of your game.

• NB: The columnist welcomes feedback at deedee21bastian@gmail.com

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST: Deidre Marie Bastian is a professionally trained graphic designer/marketing co-ordinator with qualifications of M.Sc., B.Sc., A.Sc. She has trained at institutions such as: Miami Lakes Technical Centre, Success Training College, College of the Bahamas, Nova South Eastern University, Learning Tree International, Langevine International and Synergy Bahamas.


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