Designing for Variable Data Printing

Our process

In our variable data workflow, we create variable data templates based on your designs. Using your design files, we create image content to place within custom variable data templates. The variable elements are hidden on a different layer, a PDF is created and used as the background art in the variable data template.

To  ensure a rapid, high-quality print run, we recommend that you follow these tips:

Creating your design files

•   Use the preferred, industry standard design software: InDesign or Quark

•   Document Settings:

         Create a custom page size that matches the final trim size of your piece.

         Include a 3mm (1/8”)  (9 pts) bleed.

         Artwork that does not bleed should be within a minimum distance of 3mm (1/8”)  (9 pts) from the trim and folds.

Choose the right fonts

•  Not all fonts are created equal.

         A font downloaded for free from a website and used in all of your designs may not be usable in our system.

•  It is strongly recommended that you use only OpenType fonts from Adobe’s Font Folio.

         Our variable data composition engine are both Mac-based and Windows-based platforms. Because OpenType fonts are cross-platform, they are preferred.

         However, not all Open Type fonts are created equal! Fonts can be converted to the OpenType format, but we cannot guarantee that they will function without error. We can only guarantee that Adobe’s OpenType fonts will function without error.

•  If no OpenType version is available, then we must substitute a Windows Postscript Type 1 version (if available).

         If we do not own the font, it will have to be purchased.

•  All fonts used for variable text need to be permanently installed on our system.

•  Replace stray fonts found in empty paragraph returns, periods, etc.

•  Use your program’s Find Font feature to replace strays with one of your design’s main fonts.

          InDesign:  Type > Find Fonts

         Quark:  Utilities > Usage

Handling variable text

•  Submit your Variable Data using Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

•  Place variable (and associated) text on a separate layer in your layout file.

         e.g., If a paragraph contains one or more variable data fields within it, the entire paragraph is considered variable and should be on the separate variable layer.

•  Clearly indicate all variable text with brackets “<<  >>”.

         e.g., “Dear < < FName> > ,< < LName > >, please call to receive a . . . “

•  Use the exact field name from the data source when indicating variable text in your designs.

•  *This applies specifically to products that use a data source file instead of an online form for data entry.

         e.g. < < FName > >, < < LName > >, < < City > >, < < Zip > >, etc.


Notes on graphics

•  Please do not embed image files; link all graphics instead.

•  Make image changes before importing into your layout program.

         e.g., Do not place a 250mm x 250mm image in a 50mm x 50mm image container to “clip” the portion that will print.

         Create the 50mm x 50mm image from the 250mm x 250mm image in Photoshop (or Illustrator) and save as a new file.

         If made in the layout program, these adjustments will take up more computer memory, will take significantly longer to RIP, and may cause    output issues.

•  Bitmap Graphics

         Bitmap graphics should be at least 300 dpi. Please do not use web graphics (72 dpi) in designs intended for print.

         PSD (Photoshop File) – Native Photoshop files can be brought directly into InDesign but they may increase file size significantly. Also, be wary of adding effects that include transparency, like drop shadows. These effects should be added in InDesign as opposed to including them in the Photoshop file.

         TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) is the preferred image format because it retains image data id the image size is adjusted.

         JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) is more prone to loss of image quality if the image size is adjusted.


•  Vector Graphics

         It is preferred that any text within vector graphics is converted to outlines to eliminate any possible font issues.

         PDF (Portable Document Format) is the preferred format for vector graphics because they render well in both the on-screen preview and in print. These are typically created by saving an Adobe Illustrator file as a PDF.

         AI (Adobe Illustrator File) – Native Illustrator files can be brought directly into InDesign. If drop shadows are used, apply them in the InDesign file rather than in the Illustrator file.

         EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) created from Adobe illustrator. Files must  be saved with an 8-bit TIFF preview in order to be seen on-screen. Be aware though, this 8-bit preview may not render well on-screen.

•  Colors

         Use only CMYK and/or Spot Colors. Do not use RGB.

         Be sure to check both the design file and linked graphics.

         CMYK total ink coverage should not exceed 250%.

            Total ink coverage is calculated by adding the sum of the CMYK values.

            e.g.: C - 60%; M - 40%; Y - 30%; K - 100% = 230% Total Coverage


         Notes on Black

            Do not use True Black (C 100%; M 100%; Y 100%; K 100%) as these values far exceed the total ink coverage limit.

            A Rich Black formula (e.g. 60 / 40 / 40 / 100) will yield better results.


File submission

Please include the following items for each print job.

•   Clearly name your files.

         Please name files clearly. Use a format that begins with the client’s name and includes file type, version, etc. If you know the product ID number, that would also be a good option.

         e.g.,  ClientName_9x6PC_March11.indd

         Use underscores instead of spaces.

         Do not use the following symbols; they can be problematic: / . : ; * # &

•  Complete, packaged design files.

         Include all fonts and linked images.

•  Low resolution PDFs of each design.

         Include all variable text and graphics (This is for our reference).








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About Us

Established in 1989, Nitto Printing is a dynamic, full service commercial printing company, well recognized in industry circles for its commitment to premium quality, prompt delivery, honest service and outstanding value.

The company specializes in offset lithography, digital offset, letterpress and large format printing with powerful pre-press and post-press capabilities.

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