It’s a phrase I have heard hundreds of times over the years, and yes, you have guessed it, the majority of the time that is not quite the case. Designing something that looks good and has the right message is only part of the process; it also needs to be fit for purpose in terms of creating a file to be professionally printed.
Here are 7 basic things to think about when designing for print:
1. Are you using suitable software?
If you are sending something to be professionally printed, then ideally it needs to be designed in software that is suited to the task. The industry standard is Adobe Creative Cloud which includes InDesign and Illustrator, which are both suitable for creating print-ready files. Generally speaking, applications such as MS Office (Word, Powerpoint, etc.) are not suitable for creating print files as they don’t have the level of functionality required for certain aspects of file preparation.
2. Is your page size correct?
It is best practice to design at the size you are going to print. For example, if you are designing an A5 leaflet, make sure it is set to the correct paper size from the off – rather than say designing at A4 and reducing down at a later stage. Likewise, with items like business cards, ensure you have the correct dimensions from your print supplier before starting your design. Some suppliers require things a little differently, particularly with large format printing. For example, some will require files to be set at a percentage of the full size, so again check before you start your design. Like many print suppliers, we are able to supply correctly sized templates in Indesign format should you require it. You can check out the standard paper sizes HERE. When setting up your document also think about what “bleed” you will need…
3. What is bleed?
More often than not, your design will be printed right to the edge of the paper. To achieve this, your design needs to be slightly bigger than the trimmed finish size – this extra part is called bleed. This is then trimmed off to give you your finished size. As well as giving us a nice finish to our print, it also allows for movement of the paper during the print and trimming process. On small format items such as flyers and leaflets, 3mm bleed is normally sufficient, whereas on large format items such as banners, posters, etc. it can be anywhere from 5mm upwards. Professional design applications such as InDesign allow you to add a specific bleed amount to your paper size as you set up your initial document.
4. Have you used a safe area?
It is always good practice to leave a small gap between important elements such as text and the trim edge. Elements that are designed to be trimmed off can, of course, be left in the safe area as long as they have enough “bleed” (see above). On smaller items such as business cards, leaflets, etc., we recommend a 4mm safe area, and on large format items such as posters and 10-15mm, but if in doubt check with your print supplier.
5. Are your images good enough to print?
Requirements again vary, depending on what is being printed. For small format items such as business cards and flyers, images should be 300dpi at 100% size. For large format print such as Roller Banners and Fabric Display Stands, then 72dpi at 100% size is normally sufficient.
6. Colour is colour….right?
You will need to make sure you have set up your artwork in the correct colour mode for the item you are having printed. The majority of print is now produced in CMYK process colour (there are of course some exceptions so check before you order). If you are ordering an item that is being printed in CMYK, but you supply your file with RGB or Pantone elements, then it is likely that a colour shift will occur and it will not print as you expect. It is worth noting that Microsoft Office only works in the RGB colour space.
7. Is your print file in the correct format?
Like most suppliers, we prefer to work with a Press Quality PDF with the appropriate bleed and crop marks, which can be created easily from within InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop. “Native” files may also be acceptable along with any associated links and fonts where appropriate, depending on what is being printed.
Those are just a few of the things to think about when setting up and supplying a file for print. Requirements will vary from product to product and, of course, supplier to supplier. If you are supplying a print-ready file to us at Green Umbrella, we are always happy to do a free file check before anything goes to print and advise if anything needs changing. Alternatively, if you are not able to supply print-ready files, then please contact us for a competitive design quote using the form below.