Welcome to the guide on preparing InDesign documents for commercial printing. In this shortened version, we'll focus on essential steps to ensure your designs are print-ready. 

If you have no prior experience with Adobe InDesign templates or if you're purely interested in editing instructions for InDesign templates you may want to read "10 Easy Steps to Edit a Magazine Template with Adobe InDesign: Your Ultimate Guide".

Table of Contents

Preflight Process Overview

Let's dive into the preflight process. Start by opening your template/document in Adobe InDesign. 

The ‘Preflight’ panel shows possible mistakes in the document and therefore should be consulted last when checking the document. For instance, broken links, missing fonts, or overlapping texts will be indicated as ‘error’.

  1. Open the panel by clicking ‘Window’, ‘Output’, and then ‘Preflight’.
  2. In case of an error message, double-click the message to solve the problem.

Understanding CMYK

Most commercial printing uses CMYK color mode. Ensure that images you import into InDesign are in CMYK format. While InDesign can convert RGB images when creating PDFs, it's best to use CMYK images for quality printing. 

Checking Resolution

Resolution matters for print quality. For on-screen work, 72ppi is fine, but for printing, aim for around 300ppi. Inspect image resolutions in the Links Panel. Low-resolution images may need replacement or resizing to avoid poor print quality.

You can check the resolution of the images used by following the next steps:

  1. Go to ‘Window’ at the top of your screen and select ‘Links’ to open the link panel.
  2. Select your images and search for the ‘Effective PPI’ of each image.
  3. The effective PPI should be higher than the minimum of 72dpi for digital purposes and 300dpi for printing purposes.
  4. If an image has a lower effective PPI, you either replace the image with an image of higher quality, downscale the image, or contact your printing company to let them check the image.

Font and Image Issues

Address font problems and missing links. Install missing fonts and relink images. For RGB images, consider converting them to CMYK using Photoshop. InDesign can handle this during PDF creation.

  1. To replace one or more fonts click ‘Type’ at the top of the screen and then ‘Find Font’. A new window will open.
  2. Select the fonts to be replaced in the box at the top of the screen. Select the desired font and style under the heading ‘Replace With:’.
  3. Click ‘Change All’ to replace the font throughout the entire document.
  4. Click ‘Done’ to close the ‘Find Font’ window.

Creating Bleeds

Bleeds ensure your design extends to the edge of the page. Set up bleed guides if your design elements touch the page edges. Don't forget to include printer's marks for trimming during commercial printing. Most printing company's ask for a 3mm bleed around each page/spread.

  1. To add bleeds to your template, go to ‘File’ and then to ‘Document Setup’.
  2. A new window will pop up, where you can unfold the ‘Bleed & Slug’ section.
  3. Adjust the surrounding bleeds to your liking.
  4. Hit ‘OK’ to confirm.

You can now enlarge your image frames over the edges of the pages into the bleed areas. This ensures your images to cover the entire image without showing unwanted white areas because of printing errors. 


In conclusion, preparing an InDesign document for commercial printing requires meticulous attention to detail and a thorough understanding of design requirements. By following the essential steps outlined in this guide—from conducting a comprehensive preflight check to setting up bleeds and ensuring proper CMYK color settings—you can significantly enhance the print quality of your documents.

Remember, each element, whether it's resolution, font management, or image setup, plays a crucial role in the final output. With the knowledge and practices shared here, you are well-equipped to create professional and error-free prints that meet commercial standards. Let this guide serve as your roadmap to mastering the art of print-ready designs in Adobe InDesign, ensuring your creative work is not only visually appealing but technically flawless as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is it necessary to convert RGB images to CMYK in InDesign?

A: While InDesign can handle the conversion during PDF creation, it's advisable to use CMYK images for print projects for better control over color output.

Q: What resolution should I aim for in printed materials?

A: Aim for approximately 300ppi for printed materials to ensure high-quality output.

Q: Do I need to add bleeds to my design?

A: If your design elements touch the page edges, yes, add bleeds to ensure they extend properly. Don't forget printer's marks for trimming.

Q: How do I relink missing images in InDesign?

A: In the Links Panel, use the 'Relink' option or double-click on the missing link icon to locate and relink the image.

Q: Can InDesign convert fonts to missing fonts automatically?

A: InDesign may substitute missing fonts with installed ones, but it's best to address missing fonts manually for precise control.

Q: What is the purpose of printer's marks in PDF exports?

A: Printer's marks guide commercial printers for trimming and aligning your document correctly during the printing process.

Q: Can I create bleeds after designing my document?

A: Yes, you can add bleed guides later in InDesign by accessing the 'Document Setup' option.

Q: Do I need to convert images to CMYK before exporting a PDF?

A: While it's not strictly necessary, converting images to CMYK before exporting a PDF gives you more control over the color output.