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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. 

Guide to getting artwork ready for print

If you’re looking to print anything, it’s essential that your artwork is set up in the correct way. This guide will go through everything you need to know about getting your design ready for print.

Ensure your document is set up to the correct size, including a 3mm bleed around all edges

When you’re ready to print your artwork, it’s important to ensure that your document is set up correctly. The most common issues we see include:

  • Your document isn’t the correct size. This can cause problems with printing and may necessitate reprinting the job at additional cost. If you don’t know what size your print job should be, ask your designer or check out our guide on how to determine print size here!
  • You don’t have a 3mm bleed around all edges of the design file(s). If you’re asking for a full bleed (meaning no white space at any point), but do not have 3mm bleed around all edges (so as not to get ink on the outer edge of each sheet), then this could result in poor quality prints or even blank sheets being printed out due to misalignment between sheets of paper in a booklet or coil binding product such as an annual report or brochure. Note: if you’re going with perfect binding (stapling) instead of saddle stitching (stapling through holes punched along two sides), then there will likely still be some slight bleed area on either side outside those staples since those are part of what holds everything together. So while perfect binding doesn’t require any extra edge around its spine as saddle stitching does, it still needs some space between each page when folded into book form so everything lines up correctly when opened back up again after being closed tightly together during the binding process.”

Double check that all your colours are in CMYK

When preparing your artwork for print, it’s important to make sure that all your colours are in CMYK.

CMYK is short for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black: the four colours that make up a CMYK colour space. These are the inks used by printers to create printed matter (as opposed to inkjet or laser printers which use pigment-based ink).

A very useful fact about CMYK is that it is an additive colour mode while RGB is subtractive. This means that when you’re dealing with pure white on screen (255/255/255) in RGB mode the result will be different from how you might expect when using CMYK mode as we’ll see later on.

Convert your texts to outlines/paths

Converting your text objects to outlines is a great way to make sure they’re legible and scalable, while also making them editable. You can do this in most graphic design software, but Illustrator and InDesign are the most common options for text conversion. After converting your text object, you’ll have access to all sorts of extra control like font integration and kerning.

Include print marks and bleeds

Print marks are the lines on a printed page that mark where to trim off the image. It’s important for print marks to be included in your artwork because it will help prevent you from cutting off important parts of your design.

Bleeds are lines that extend past the edge of a printed piece, into its borders. Bleeds ensure that there is “wiggle room” in your artwork so that when you cut it out, nothing gets lost or damaged by being trimmed too close to an edge.

Check you have enough resolution – at least 300dpi, preferably higher. We recommend setting up at the largest size (e.g. if you’re creating A3 posters, set up at A0) and then scaling to the required size.

Resolution is the number of pixels per inch. It’s measured in dpi (dots per inch). The higher the resolution, the more detail your artwork will have and the better it will look when printed. The minimum resolution for print is 300dpi; however, if you’re creating large-scale or very detailed artworks, it’s best to aim for 600dpi+ as this gives you room to scale up or down without sacrificing quality.

To check your image’s resolution:

  • Open your image in Photoshop (or whatever software you use)
  • Click File > Image Size
  • Change Resolution from 72ppi to 300ppi

Save as a PDF and then send it over for us to check!

If you want to save it as a PDF, there are two ways to do it. One is by using the “Save As” function in your software, which will create a .pdf file that you can then send us if you wish.

The other way is by making sure that in all of your applications (for example Word or Photoshop), you have set up your default save format to be PDF when saving documents. In this way, every time you use those programs and click “save” or press CTRL+S on your keyboard, they will automatically save as a PDF instead of another format like DOCX or JPEG etc., which would mean that we would not be able to open them!

Print-ready artwork is essential for getting a good quality print job.

When you’re looking to get printed artwork, it’s important that the file is print ready. Print-ready artwork is not just a matter of making sure the image looks good in your image editing program—the file itself must be prepared correctly. If you don’t follow these instructions, you will get a low-quality print job and possibly have to do it all over again!

If any of this sounds intimidating or confusing, don’t worry: most printers have their own set of instructions for creating print-ready artwork (or they can help explain it). Just call up your preferred printer and ask them!


Good print-ready artwork can be the difference between a great print job and one that falls short. The key thing to remember is that the details are what really matter and making sure everything is set up correctly. Once you’ve got that down, everything else will follow suit!