A poor print experience often begins with an improperly set up file. Yet submitting print-ready files to your printer can seem like a nebulous task at best. Files are frequently cobbled together in a word processor with images copied from the web. A couple of magic words are whispered, fingers crossed, and the send button is pressed. It doesn’t have to be that way! Keeping a few tips in mind when creating artwork for print can go a long way toward avoiding delays and receiving printed materials that you are happy with.
Resolutions You Can Keep
Submitting files created in the proper resolution is key to receiving quality prints. For the most part, print jobs with images and other raster artwork should be created at 300 dots per inch (dpi). Artwork on the web tends to be 72 dpi. Using images from the web usually results in poor quality, pixelated prints. Always try to use the highest quality images when designing a project. For objects such as logos, a vector file is even better. You’ll be rewarded with clear, crisp printouts.
Be Fond of Your Fonts
Choosing the right fonts for your design can be an adventure in itself. Once you’ve gone through the trouble of picking the perfect fonts, it’s important to keep proper font management in mind. Ideally, the printer will accept a pdf file created to the proper specs with the fonts embedded in the document. Unfortunately, things don’t always go smoothly and the printer may need to make changes. Creating your fonts to outlines may be an option in that case. Creating fonts to outlines turns the text into vector objects that retain their size and shape when opened in an editing program. If you are unsure that your artwork is print-ready, sending an additional file with fonts created to outlines may save your printer time and frustration if simple edits are needed.
As a general rule, the design world is divided into two color modes. RGB is used for digital artwork while CMYK is used for print. It’s important to design your pieces in the correct color mode. RGB is able to display a wide spectrum of color variations. CMYK, on the other hand, relies on mixing 4 colors, cyan, magenta, yellow and black to produce other colors. As a result, the color spectrum of CMYK is much more limited and colors can appear duller compared to artwork designed in RGB. Designing in CMYK from the start can help ensure that the final printed pieces appear as close as possible to your original artwork.
Calculate Your Margins
Despite advances in technology, variations in printed pieces still occurs. It’s important to follow the specs set by your printer and keep all important information within the margins. Artwork placed outside of those safe zones runs the risk of being cut off from print to print. If you’re unsure what the margin specs are, a good rule of thumb is to set margins at one quarter of an inch (.25”) on all sides.
To Bleed or Not to Bleed
On a related note, deciding whether to incorporate bleeds is just as important as keeping artwork in the safe zones. If you plan to have your design cover a full page, it’s important to run a bleed. Your printer will print your artwork on a larger substrate and trim the excess to get full page coverage. If your artwork ends at the final size, borders can appear where prints shifted during the print or trim processes. Extending your artwork one eighth of an inch (.125”) beyond the final size of your design will help avoid unwanted borders on your printed pieces.
Wrap It Up
You’ve finally made it to the end. You’ve created your design, kept a few tips in mind and are ready to send your masterpiece off to be printed. Now is definitely not the time to take shortcuts! Too often, a printer will receive a low-res jpg even if the artwork was properly created. Be sure to save your file in the correct format required by your printer. If you’re not sure, a high-res, CMYK pdf with fonts embedded or created to outlines is a good starting point. If your printer requires something more specific, you’ll be able to quickly make changes and send a new file saved to the correct specs. Good luck with your next printing project!