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I am designing a 4x6 postcard. It consists of 2 blocks of text (headline and descriptor line) on top of a photo that takes up the entire background. It will be printed by a professional digital printer.

It is currently laid out in Photoshop as a 300 dpi CMYK file. I'm wondering if I can just save as Photoshop PDF and send that to the printer. Or will I get better/different results by doing the following?

  • save the photograph as a TIFF
  • Place TIFF in InDesign
  • Re-create the text in InDesign
  • Save (or export) as PDF from InDesign

If the end result is the same for both quality-wise, should the Photoshop file be flattened and type layers rasterized before saving as PDF? or again, will that not have any effect on the final product?

And final question: would any of this be different if it were being printed on an offset press?

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There's little difference overall, provided you have live type layers in Photoshop and don't flatten things.

Ultimately, both applications create a file with vector data for shapes/objects, pixel data for any photographs, and type data (hinting, vectors) for any live type.

InDesign often makes things a tad easier in terms of workflow, such as bleeds and marks, editing, etc. But in general, generating a PDF from either application can be suitable for press (yes, offset too).

The major difference with Photoshop is bleeds. You need to manually account for any bleeds with a Photoshop document. There's no "bleed guide" to show you and there's no "bleed setting" in Photoshop. So you have to increase the canvas size to accommodate a bleed.

Just ensure the Photoshop document has the proper resolution and that you use correct PDF Job Options when generating the PDF, that's all.

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It depends somewhat on the printing method. If a printing press is involved, that means there are intermediate steps that are resolution dependent, and I would want to use fonts and vector objects where possible, so that they are rendered at the highest possible resolution -- such as 1200 to 2400 dpi or higher for film or direct to plate output.

As mentioned by Scott, there's things you must do to ensure those don't get rasterized when creating output from Photoshop.

But if you're simply using some digital printing that's not very high resolution, a photoshop PDF and InDesign PDFs are going to produce essentially identical output -- subject to color and output settings, of course.

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