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Submitting a Print-Ready PDF for a Color Book

If you are publishing a color book and would like to submit your manuscript as a print-ready PDF there are very specific requirements it must meet. I’ll go over these requirements, but first a few words about print-ready PDFs.

About Print-Ready PDFs

Please be aware that ‘print-ready’ means just that. We will not be making any adjustments to your content or design. So you will need to submit your PDF exactly as required for publication. This includes page numbers, table of contents, fonts and font size, page margins, and image resolution. We will not be able to correct or modify your PDF. After submitting your PDF to us, if you need to revise your text or change the design, you will need to submit an entirely new, complete PDF and additional fees may apply.

There are only three things we will do with your file before submitting it to the printer.

  1. We’ll add the copyright page.
  2. If you’ve submitted your color PDF in RGB (Red-Green-Blue) color mode, we will convert it to CMYK (Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black) color mode. I’ll talk more about RGB and CMYK a little later.
  3. If necessary, we will insert between 1 and 4 blank pages to the end of your book to make the final page count divisible by 4 and to ensure that the last page is completely blank. I’ll talk more about this later too.

Document Page Size

When submitting your color PDF, you will be submitting it on page sizes that are slightly larger than your chosen book size.

  • If you’re publishing an 8 ½ by 8 ½ book, your PDF’s pages should be 8 ¾ by 9 inches.
  • If you are publishing an 8 ½ by 11 book, your PDF’s pages should be 8 ¾ by 11 ½.

Bleed Space & Full Bleed Images

In a color book, you have two options regarding the placement of images. The first option is to keep your images within the text margins. The second is to let your images reach all the way to one or more sides of the page. When an image goes all the way to the edge, it is called a ‘full bleed’ image. When the printer prints and cuts your final book, there is a slight variance in where the blades will fall. For this reason, full bleed images are required to extend beyond the edge of your final page size by a quarter of an inch. This quarter of an inch is called the ‘bleed space’. Since this outside quarter inch of bleed space will be cropped off at the printer, you’ll want to make sure there is no vital information in the outer edges of your full bleed images. If there is, you may not want to make the image full bleed.

Color Book Margins

The best way to explain color book margins is with a visual aide. For purposes of this demonstration, I’m going to use an 8 ½ by 8 ½ book but the principles also apply to an 8 ½ by 11 book.

Here [on screen], you see two pages, left and right-hand facing, from an 8 ½ by 8 ½ book. Lets zoom in on one of the pages and take a closer look at the margins. First of all, since this is a PDF for an 8 ½ by 8 ½ book, the PDF pages are actually 8 ¾ by 9 inches. These dimensions allow for a quarter inch of bleed space at the top, bottom, and outside edge of the page. Bleed space is not required on the inside edge.

Around the outside of the 8 ¾ by 9 inch page, you’ll see a couple of guidelines I’ve created. The outermost guideline identifies the bleed space. This line is a quarter of an inch from the edge of the document. Everything outside this line will be cut off at the printer. For this reason, you may hear this line referred to as the ‘cut line’. You need to include a quarter inch of bleed space in your document, even if your manuscript does not contain any full bleed images.

The second guideline is the text margin. All text needs to be contained inside this line. The text margin is located ¾ of an inch from the edge of the PDF and ½ inch from the cut line. If an image is not full bleed, it needs to be contained within the text margins. Images that fall between the text margin and the cut line may cause your PDF to be rejected.

There is one more requirement related to margins that you need to be aware of. The inside edge of the page, where the left and right-hand pages meet, is called the ‘gutter’. The gutter is treated differently depending on how your final book will be bound. So let’s quickly review the page count and book binding options.

  • If your final book’s page count is between 4 and 24, it will have saddle stitch binding, where the page spreads are folded in the middle and attached to the cover fold by staples.
  • If the final page count is over 48 pages, it will be perfect bound, where the pages are glued to the inside spine of the cover.
  • If your final page count is between 24 and 48, your book can be bound either way.

For a saddle stitch book, on the inside margins of the page where the gutter is located, you can take images all the way to the edge of the PDF document.

For a perfect bound book, the inside edge of the PDF needs to contain a clean, white 1/8th inch of gutter space. Unlike the bleed space at the top, bottom, and outside edge of the page, you do not want any images to extend into the gutter space of a perfect bound book. This is because the glue that holds the pages to the cover will connect with the gutter space. If there is any ink in the gutter space, the glue will not properly dry and your book may fall apart.

RGB & CMYK Color Modes

Any images submitted for publication need to be CMYK, not RGB. RGB stands for red, green, blue -- the primary colors of light. CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, black -- the primary colors of pigment. RGB images cannot be printed because they involve emitted light to achieve their tone, hue, and brightness. You can view RGB images on a digital camera, television, or computer monitor because these devices emit light. Obviously, the printed page does not emit light, so RGB images need to be converted to CMYK color mode before they can be printed.

If you are preparing a color print-ready PDF, it is best if you convert your images to CMYK color mode before inserting them into your document. Otherwise, we will perform a standard color mode conversion on your PDF file to make it CMYK printer compliant.

CMYK images usually don’t look very different from RGB ones, but bright colors or colors that approximate a neon affect will probably look more subdued after the conversion.

Copyrighted Images

Finally, you need legal permission to reproduce your images. If the images are not your own, written permission will need to be included with your submission. Examples of copyrighted images that will require written permission include photographs or illustrations from books, magazines, or newspapers, most images from the internet, any and all forms of clipart, and portraits taken by a professional photographer or a photography studio -- even if you paid for the photograph to be taken.

Prepare for Publication

Call a publishing consultant today at 844.688.6899 or e-mail Your publishing consultant will assist you along the publishing process, make sure you read the terms and conditions, and take your payment. (We accept credit card, check, or money order). After the submission of your materials, you’ll be on your way to having your book published. Are you looking to sign up for additional marketing services? Call your Marketing Consultant today at 844.688.6899 to get a free consultation on the services that would work best for your marketing campaign. You may also send an e-mail to

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