Common Card Prep Issues & Solutions


Meeting all the specifications for POD can be daunting, and even the most seasoned designer can and miss a step or two. These steps often fall into the most common print errors, listed here to help understand how these errors are made and how to quickly set them right.

In addition to the information below we have created a video series that is super fun and informative. Check out Misadventures in Print: Six most common POD errors, and enjoy a look at some of the how's and why's of Print on Demand!

Safe Area – Don't lose key text or graphics

Do not place any text closer than 1/8" (.125") from any finished edge. This is your "safe zone." If any element (important text or art) drifts outside of that safe zone, there is a chance that element could be trimmed.

No Bleed – Your card PDF must include bleed

A bleed is required. If your art does not bleed, include a white or black border (or a dominant card color) that will bleed to the edge. Make sure your bleed is 1/8" (.125") on all four sides and is built into the PDF. For example, for the U.S. Poker-sized cards (2.5" x 3.5") your final layout size should be 2.75" x 3.75" with the bleed.

If you're using our InDesign template, select export from the File pull-down menu, name the file, and click the Save button. In the window that opens, be sure that PDF/X-1a:2003 is selected and in the menu on the left select Marks and Bleeds. Under Bleed and Slug, check the Use Document Bleed Settings box to allow it to use the bleeds from the template. Click Export.


A bleed is required on card PDFs only. Tuckbox PDFs should not be outputted with a page bleed. To get the tuckbox required specifications, go here

Incorrect File Type – PDF must be PDF/X-1a:2003

To check if your file is PDF/X-1a:2003:

  1. Open the PDF in Acrobat.
  2. Click the PDF icon. This opens the conformance standards. (If you do not see that icon, your file is not PDF/X compliant. Proceed to Resolving PDF/X Compliance Issues below.)
  3. Click Verify Conformance. If all goes well, the Status will change from “not yet verified” to “verification succeeded.” If it fails verification, proceed to Resolving PDF/X Compliance Issues below.


Resolving PDF/X Compliance Issues

Ideally, you'd output your print-ready PDF as PDF/X-1a:2003 directly from InDesign.

However, you can also use Acrobat. Steps and screenshots are from Adobe Acrobat Pro. If you are using a different version of the software, some of the instructions and screenshots may be slightly different.

There are two methods you can use to get your file to be PDF/X-1a:2003:

Method 1: Using Acrobat Preflight

  1. Open the file in Acrobat.
  2. Click Print Production. 2.png
  3. Click Preflight. A window opens.
  4. Click the Standards tab.
  5. "Save as PDF/X" should be the default. Click Continue. 3.png
  6. Be sure "Create PDF/X-1a according to the following PDF/X-1a conversion profile:" is checked.
  7. Ensure "Convert to PDF/X-1a (SWOP) is chosen and the printing condition drop-down is set to "US Web Coated (SWOP) v2." Checkbox "Apply corrections."
  8. Click "Save as..." Rename the file (perhaps just add an "x" at the end). 4.png
  9. It'll do its thing. Might take seconds, might take a minute.
  10. If all went well, a report will give you a green checkmark and state that no problems were found. You now have a PDF/X-compliant file ready for upload.

Method 2: Using Acrobat Distiller

Acrobat Distiller comes with Acrobat. Using it will also reduce a file’s size (without losing print quality).

  1. Open the file in Acrobat.
  2. File>Save As. Rename the file (perhaps just add an "x" at the end). Select Postscript as the Format. A series of status bars will roll through until the file's been converted to .ps. 5.png
  3. Set the "Default Settings" to PDF/X-1x:2003.
  4. Drag and drop the .ps file into the window. It will go through a series of Status bar updates. 6.png
  5. When it's done, it'll output a final PDF (along with a log). You can delete the log and the original .ps file.
  6. You now have a PDF/X-compliant file ready for upload.

Return To the Specifications for Print Cards page

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