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The ultimate guide to designing for print

Designing for print can be a challenging task, but with the right knowledge and planning, you can create high-quality designs that will look great when printed. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, it’s important to understand the various factors that can affect your final product, such as colour mode, image resolution, and font formatting. In this post, we’ll give you some tips and guidelines to help you create professional and visually appealing designs that meet industry standards. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your designs will be printed accurately and look the way you intended.

When producing your design, it’s important to set your colours to CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) colours unless specified otherwise. This is because most printing processes use these colours to create a full spectrum of colours. If you use RGB (red, green, blue) colours, they may appear differently when printed and can result in a less accurate representation of your design. Make sure to save your design in CMYK format before sending it to the printer.

Using high-resolution images with a resolution of 300 dpi (Dots per inch) or greater is also crucial. This will ensure that your images look sharp and clear when printed. If you use low-resolution images, they may appear pixelated or blurry when printed. Vector graphics are another great option for printing because they are created using mathematical algorithms and can be resized without losing quality. They will maintain their sharpness and clarity no matter how large or small they are printed. If you use raster graphics, which are made up of pixels, they may become pixelated or blurry when resized.

Make sure to add a margin to keep your main content away from the edge. The margin around the outside of your design is where to avoid including text or logos, this is both good practice for designing and also to keep it well away from being cropped. A good rule of thumb is to give your design a 5mm margin all the way around.

You’ll likely need to add a bleed area as well as the margin, most printers require it. When you stretch your design elements past the edge of the page, a bleed is needed to ensure that you can crop the final design neatly. This is required since the trimming of your materials may vary slightly as a result of the printing process. You may make sure that your design components extend past the final trim area and eliminate any white space around the edges of your printed product by inserting a 3mm bleed.

When you’re ready to send your design, make sure to save it as a PDF (Portable Document Format). PDFs can be saved from most software either directly, through export options or sometimes as a print-and-save setting. Most commercial printers (like us)will use PDFs as they keep the colour, font and quality information in them even if they were produced in software that the print company doesn’t have. This way you will have a consistent result. When saving your design as a PDF, be sure to choose the “Press Quality” or “High-Quality Print” option (if available) to ensure the best possible print quality.

There are many different software options available for designing for print, and the right one for you will depend on your specific needs and skill level. Some well-known software options that are commonly used for designing for print include: Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and Canva. Consider your skill level and the type of project you are working on to determine which software is the best fit for you.

When designing for print, it’s important to make sure that your fonts are properly formatted. This is because not all computers and devices have the same fonts installed, and if your design uses a font that is not installed on the printer’s computer, it could cause issues with the final printed product. To avoid this, you can either outline or embed your fonts. Outlining fonts means converting the text in your design into a series of vector shapes, while embedding fonts means including the font file with your design file. Consider your specific needs and the requirements of your project to determine which approach is best for you.

It’s worth us briefly discussing spot colours and Pantones. Spot colours are specific colours that are created using a single ink rather than a combination of colours. They are often used by big brands to maintain consistency in their branding and are usually identified by a specific code, such as a Pantone colour. Pantone colours are a widely recognized system for identifying spot colours and are used by many printers and design professionals. While spot colours and Pantones can be an important consideration for big brands, they generally require specialist printing equipment and may not be necessary for most projects.

By following the tips above, you can create professional artwork without getting nasty surprises when your print company doesn’t accept the artwork or worse delivers your print and it doesn’t meet your expectations. Use these as a rule of thumb no matter what you are designing, these will work with most UK printers but always make sure to read any artwork specific guidelines.