Creating crop marks for a photo

If you have a photograph that you would like to print and cut out to a specific size using proper crop marks, you will quickly find out that Photoshop is not much help. This is because it cannot export PDFs with crop marks and drawing them in is a pain in the ass.

Photo with proper crop marks

These crop marks extend 3mm into each side of the photo.

What to do? A little pre-work in Photoshop and the rest is InDesign magic. Here are the steps I use:

  • Resize the image to 6mm more than the final desired dimension on the side that matters. Link the other side’s dimension so the image retains its aspect ratio (don’t worry if this side doesn’t increase exactly 6mm).For example, if your image is originally 409,79×274,32mm and you want the final result to be 200mm in width, just resize the image so the width is 206mm and the height is whatever Photoshop decides it should be to retain the image’s aspect ratio (137,9 in this case).
  • Create an InDesign document where both the width AND the height are 6mm less than the image’s new dimensions. Add a 3mm bleed to each side of the document.Following the example above, your InDesign document should be 200×131,9mm and a 3mm bleed.
  • Place your image in the document and center it. It should fit like a glove.
  • Export the document as a PDF (File -> Adobe PDF Presets -> [PDF/X-1a:2011]. In the dialogue box under “Marks and Bleeds” check off “Crop Marks” and “Use Document Bleed Settings”.
  • Click “Export” and you’re done!