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Aug 2013 Branding

5 things graphic designers need to know to design for print

Rare Form’s Managing Director gives her top five tips that graphic designers need to know about designing for print.

For over fifteen years, I have had a lot of ‘just out of university’ graphic design interns through our door. Some with excellent portfolios of work, some with potential.   Every time they have started, I have been /facepalm astonished as to their almost non-existent knowledge of designing for print.  What we found is that they knew the fundamentals of typography, white space, colour scheming, etc. However, they lacked in basic pre and post design stages.

We have compiled a list of the top 5 things that 90% of our new designers did not know when designing for print.  If you’re junior, read and remember the following, as it will help turn your next interview into a job.

1.  True Black.

When you’re designing, and you pick black, even when working in CMYK, it reverts to *almost* black, (#000000 or 75/68/67/90 in CMYK) which is a default in the colour picker. When this almost black goes to print it comes out looking grey, which means unhappy clients.

Here’s the solution.  Go to the colour picker, and change the CMYK values to C50  M40  Y40 K100.  True black for print, every time.

2.  Bleed.

When you design for print, remember that when finishing the project, the printers will be cutting the edges off of whatever you are designing.  The standard for the ‘bleed’, the edge around the document that will be trimmed,  will be 3mm.  This means that every side of your document needs an extra 3mm added on to it.  If designing in Illustrator, this is easy peasy.

Illustrator, open a new document and you will see that there is a space for ‘bleed’.  Make sure that this is set to 3mm for each the Top, Bottom, Left and Right, or that the link button is pressed.


3. DPI.

Better known as Dots Per Inch, it is the measure of the resolution for printers.  When sending something to print, you want to make sure that your dpi is set to 300. In Illustrator, this can be found on the New Document settings page.

4.  PDF Formats.

Most printers will want you to send the final as a vector PDF document.  Using a JPG or PNG will make it so that your text is fuzzy and your images less sharp.  If you are using a  combination of photos and art, then ensure that the photos were 300 dpi when you brought them in.

Printers have different requirements for formats (moo.com for example states in their preparing artwork section: ‘Make sure you pre-flight your PDFs using the ‘Adobe PDF/X-1a’ preset. This option can be found in Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign and more recent versions of Adobe Photoshop.’)  Make sure you ask your printer before sending the artwork what they prefer.  Below you can see the selection for PDF/X-1a.

5. Exporting PDF With Marks & Bleeds.

Your art should have been started with the 3mm bleed on each edge.  To make sure that all of the appropriate crop and printers marks are on the final PDF here is what you do.

1.  go to File > Save As, and make sure that PDF is selected in the bottom drop-down box.

2.  Name your file, and hit Save. This will bring up the PDF dialogue box.

3.  On the left-hand side, hit the tab for ‘Marks & Bleeds’  Make sure the boxes are ticked for ‘All Printers Marks’, and under Bleed, ‘Use Document Bleed Settings’  Hit Save PDF and you’re done.

Voila!  Now you should have an exported PDF that has all of the pretty printers marks like this one.

Jean Paldan is the Managing Director of Rare Form, a full-service marketing studio in Oxford, UK. Rare Form specialises in logo, graphic, print & web design, SEO and marketing.  She has been creating designs for print and web since 1998.  Get into Rare Form. It’s fun here.

Posted by: Jean Paldan

Aug 18, 2013

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