I want to print simple business cards and I have my design ready in PDF format which I made with Adobe InDesign, but one printing service is asking me for the original file, along with all the fonts and images I used for my design.

I called a different print service to ask if it was necessary for me to give them them editable files, and they said all that they needed was my PDF file with good print quality.

I understand that if I give them my master file, they can claim ownership of it and use it as their own. Should I give them my editable file? Do they really need it to for print? Why are they asking for it?

  • "I understand that if I give them my master file, they can claim ownership of it and use it as their own." Why would you think that?
    – Cai
    Oct 21, 2016 at 19:19
  • Because they can do anything with the file once they have it.
    – Andres
    Oct 21, 2016 at 19:30
  • They could do anything with a PDF, or a printed business card or some design they see on internet. Do not overestimate your own design. ;o)
    – Rafael
    Oct 21, 2016 at 21:03
  • Depends on who is dealing with the prepress, if you chose the printer and your dealing with prepress then i dont see a problem. However if your client chose the printer and prepress i wouldn't give the native files. Though, as a different take every time i have dealt with prerpess requesting this they later told me that i was right the original files were NOT easier to deal with than the PDF, but that might have something to do with how i make stuff: getting a python file is still a bit confusing to the prepress.
    – joojaa
    Oct 22, 2016 at 7:36

3 Answers 3


I've worked in the PrePress department of several print shops. More often than not, hi-res pdfs with printer's marks were all we needed, but there were times that we asked for the native files so that if there were any last minute changes needed, we could make them without having to go back to the designer. These changes were typically simple ones, i.e. if black needed to be rich black, or if a spot color needed to be changed to CMYK. Or, if the client requested a minor text change last-minute, we could do it and not significantly slow down the workflow. Any design/text changes more than the minimum would be sent back to the designer, however.

(Many Prepress departments now have software that can make almost any change needed right in the PDF file.)

That said, if you do provide the native files to the printer, I'd think there is very little chance you'd have to worry about them stealing your work. They have a reputation to uphold as a business; You will also still retain a copy of the native files as well, so any possible claim they might try to make later could easily be disputed. I just don't see that happening, although nothing's impossible. But overall, I'd say that's not something to be concerned with.

  • The company could also need the 'layered' file in order to create/include/add bleed, if your file didn't already include it or have enough. Also, if the output quality of your PDF wasn't print worthy, they'd need it to output it properly for printing.
    – iAmBentley
    Oct 21, 2016 at 19:17
  • I agree with Dlev answer. One aditional thing they could need is some specific bleed margin, and as a courtesy they could make thoose adjustments for you. Ownership has nothing to do with this request.
    – Rafael
    Oct 21, 2016 at 21:01
  • I see, but I would rather -as the designer- to be the one in charge of any change, even if minimal. So if they contact me asking for changes I would be more comfortable doing that myself.
    – Andres
    Oct 21, 2016 at 22:15
  • Yep, those are also good examples of what kind of edits the print shop may need to make, typo-joe and Rafael! @Andres, reputable printers will usually respect your wishes to make edits yourself if you request that... but keep in mind that deadlines may be missed if you require to make the edits on your end and send new files back to the printer. They will have other jobs to print, and letting them make the edits could allow your project to remain priority, whereas if you need to re-send files later, you could be put at the bottom of the list again.
    – DLev
    Oct 24, 2016 at 13:16

If you can't trust your print shop, find another. (This, from a prepress guy in a print shop.)

Sometimes prepress needs your editable "source" file or "live" file to adjust/repair things for output. It is common for prepress to ask for those files. PDFs are often good enough, but sometimes not, and more difficult to work with than source files.

It is standard ethics to protect the property of clients, to abide by privacy and discretion, to treat files as you would want them to be treated of they were your own. Like I said, if you don't trust your print provider, there's plenty more of them fish in the sea.

  • Only once in my career I received a manuscript with an accompanying note "please take due care not to distribute inappropriately " - and I felt quite insulted by that...
    – Jongware
    Oct 22, 2016 at 10:35

I'm also having this kind of dilemma. But for me, we shouldn't share any of our native file to anyone. We should respect our work.

But if they insist, I usually limit the possible editing and for reuse without permits. If your page has layered PSD, just flatten/merge them. The text should be outlined. Crop any extra image outside the page, complex vector shapes must be merged, etc. I know even just a PDF file can be modified, the image can be extracted, the vectors can be copied and edited, etc., but at least we limit the even wilder possibility. It takes an extra work, but worth it.

If they keep on asking the very raw design file, all the graphic asset associated with the file, better forget them and print somewhere else. It shouldn't be this difficult.

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