Top 10 Tips On Preparing Your Artwork For Print
Without artwork, there can be no print.
Understanding how the print process affects the way you design and can really enhance how you prepare your artwork.
Print and design are inextricably linked.
Plenty of businesses still don’t have access to skilled graphic designers but this may not be essential.
Help is usually available in the form of templates and advances in software technology and online print order processes.
Submitting artwork carries less risk these days with a range of help and support services.
But what you see on your screen might not always be what it looks like when printed, so it’s important to correctly follow these top 10 tips on preparing your artwork for print.
Top 10 Tips On Preparing Your Artwork For Print
1. Call your printer before you start your design.
The first of the top 10 tips on preparing your artwork for print is asking for advice before starting yourdesign.
This would be the most time-efficient way of checking you’ll produce the correct layout of your artwork.
Seeking professional help from a designer is also advised if you are unsure or have any doubts… it might not seem worthy at the time but once it’s checked there is less chance of problems.
This could be either free of charge or a very small cost.
Alternatively, if you lack the skills or confidence use a graphic design service and supply the designer with a clear brief.
This could save you time, money and offer you better results for your printing, so it is well worth it.
2. Check the file format and try and create a PDF.
You should recognise or learn which file format is best for the printing job you’re requiring.
By calling the print centre for advice beforehand it could make this easier for you.
There are many file formats available, the main ones being JPG, PDF, PNG and EPS.
Often you can typeset the text in Word because it can be easier to apply a spell-check at the early design stage – and proof checking is cheaper when in text format only.
If you are using a specific design programme like Quark, InDesign, Corel Draw or Publisher – always save as a “print-ready” PDF file
If you can export your printing to a high quality PDF file, this should be fine to get the exact results you’re hoping for.
Remember, before saving to a PDF to flatten any layers, convert all text to curves and remove transparencies.
This will also reduce the file size when you need to upload the file for printing.
And always embed your fonts when you create a PDF.
This means even if the person opening your file doesn’t have that font, they are able to process and proof the file correctly.
PDF is the safest file format for sending any work to a printer.
Free PDF creating software is available to download online and simply become another printer option on your computer.
3. Use Quality images wherever possible.
Images require s a high PPI (pixels per inch) in order to be good quality when printed.
Usually the image needs to be round about 300ppi at the size you want it to print at.
The DPI (dots per inch) is what is seen on output devices such as printers when it is produced from a computer to a physical thing (like on paper).
DPI is the output resolution of a printer and needs to be considered even more when designing for print than for web.
Downloading online images may result in blurry or pixelated images when printed. The image may look fine on screen, but when it is printed, the resolution could be poor.
By sourcing the right images at the right resolution you will save time and effort when it comes to print.
If the image looks blurry when you zoom in then it will more than likely be blurry when it’s printed.
The leap between how a bad picture looks on screen to how it looks on paper is huge.
Every dot you can fit into each inch will help improve how crisp and clear your image is.
Vector illustrations are always recommended, followed closely by original digital images that haven’t had their quality or size compromised.
4. Convert the colour to CMYK.
To help ensure the colour of your printing stays as accurate as possible, you should calibrate your computer before starting the artwork.
This can help to avoid your printing being too light/dark or different contrasts to what you’re expecting.
Most printing devices use CYMK colours (Cyan, Yellow, Magenta and Black (K)).
If there is one rule designers are told about designing for print, it’s that you should use CMYK instead of RGB.
All images are captured using RGB (Red, Green and Blue) and therefore if the printing output is different to this, the colours may slightly change, so it’s best to get it converted before printing.
Large runs of print are produced with an offset lithographic printing press, which lays down a coverage of ink from plates in the four colours cyan, magenta, yellow and black on the stock.
Of course, the more colours that are mixed, the darker the colours will become.
Colours with a high percentage (over 280%) of cyan, magenta, yellow and black in your design programme will become oversaturated.
This results in dark, muddy colours as the ink doesn’t dry and transfers from one sheet to another.
This also means you shouldn’t mix too many colours when dealing with fine artwork and fonts.
Keep colours simple to avoid a “fuzzy” look as the ink saturates the paper stock, blurring lines and making it difficult to read.
5. Dealing with spot colours – and especially black and blue colours.
Again, it may be worth getting advice from your printer on converting pantone colours to process colours.
Another tip is to use your PDF to check for any unwanted spot colours that may have crept into your design with (Advanced > Print Production).
Certain colours do not convert well – and in particular the two most common colours in print – black and blue.
What may look like a deep black on screen may come out as a washed out grey on paper.
Therefore it’s important when you convert RGB to black to ensure it’s as dark as possible.
You would think the process colour ratio of 0,0,0,100 would logically make a clear black.
Yet when applied to print as a background colour, it will appear a dark grey.
Then if you press D on Photoshop and reset the foreground, the automatic black is more of a 75, 68, 67 and 90 mix.
This makes up to an almost 300% coverage which is a lot of ink to transfer to paper!
The perfect solution for a rich black that can be spread across as a solid background colour use C30 K100.
This is true of many other process colours.
The more accurate and refined your colour percentages are, the better quality your print will be.
It can be a case of trial and error if you’re struggling to achieve a certain hue, but there are quick fixes you can use straight away.
Are your blues being printed with too much purple running through?
Increasing your cyan to 30% more than your magenta value will help cancel out the pesky purple for a clearer blue.
6. Adding bleed & trim marks.
Bleed and trim marks are usually only required if you want to print to the edge with no white border.
We regularly get artwork with crop marks but with no bleed added.
Bleed is the area around a document where images running up to the edge of the document need a white margin to trim down.
This avoids cutting down the actual images and makes sure the image is the exact size without having to zoom in/out to adjust it according to the paper size.
The bleed is usually 3mm from each of the outer edges of the document.
This should be applied on all artwork as a safeguard.
Simply make adjust the dimensions of your document to allow for this.
Trim marks are not essential but can serve two important purposes.
They allow both for accurate positioning and accurate trimming.
They can usually be added automatically when the document is exported as a PDF (depending on the design software you use).
And remember the importance of a “quiet area” near the borders of your document.
This area should have no text within about 5mm of each edge or border.
This is particularly important for the production of booklets and brochures where margins need to be generous and you should allow for how adjacent pages will work when collated together.
7. Use the printer templates available from your printer.
Templates are an essential tool for designers to use.
They give guidelines for size and layout.
They are sometimes – but not always – universal.
Our own range of digital templates can be downloaded from our online digital print website.
Folded items can be particularly tricky – so always use the template recommended by the printer rather than one from your own design software.
Beware of fold lines and try and avoid borders which would amplify any layout problems.
Remember that heavy ink coverage over a folded line can cause cracking.
A high-density colour means a large volume of ink is absorbed by the stock which when folded, can crack and cause unwelcome breaks that highlight the stock colour.
A seal over the ink can help to prevent cracking – but this is usually at additional cost and is not an option with digital printing.
A useful design tip is to try to use lighter colours that aren’t mixed too heavily for a faultless finish.
8. Selection of fonts
Some fonts work better than others.
The printing presses control how much ink is placed on the paper by using a lower density of dots in those areas which don’t actually need much coverage.
This does mean that really tiny text can become faint and blurred.
To avoid this, use fonts no smaller than 6pt so your design is sharp and clear when printed.
If your chosen font uses very fine, delicate lines, it’s vital to add thicker strokes just to boost visibility.
Converting your text to outlined during the process will help avoid blurring and help the text to keep its shape.
This is especially important with large format items such as Roller Banners and posters.
9. Consider the stock you are printing on.
Get your printer’s advice about the texture and colour of the stock.
The actual stock will also affect the way your colours are printed.
For example, if you use a cream stock, a light colour will sink in and become much darker so take this into consideration.
With digital printing all forms of stock can be used – although the range is slightly more restricted with commercial printing.
Here we have successfully printed on linen, recycled, hammer embossed stock and laid stocks of almost any colour and thickness.
10. Check the Preview for Mistakes
Finally, the last of the top 10 tips on preparing your artwork for print is check absolutely everything many times over.
Spelling, colours, layout – in fact, everything.
Fixing an issue on the web is easy.
A typo can be changed in a split second online or a misplaced box moved in moments.
Often it is only when the printing is delivered a mistake is spotted.
Anyone who has opened a box of 5000 booklets, only to spot a spelling error or poor colour reproduction would not wish the sinking feeling on their worst enemy.
Our job at Direct2Print is to reduce the risk – so we hope these top 10 tips on preparing your artwork for print will give you some help.