Designing for Print

Designing your first print project? Not to worry. Here are some of the most common questions we see in our day-to-day for print design specifications:

RGB and CMYK IllustrationRGB and CMYK Color

Why doesn’t the color match what I see on my computer screen?

There’s a difference in the way colors are created on your screen and on a printed sheet of paper. What you see on your screen is additive color. It starts with a black screen, then adds pixels of red, green, and blue (RGB) to create color. A 100% combination of RGB actually creates white on your computer screen.

In contrast, print color is a subtractive process. A white sheet of paper reflects 100% of the background colors. Ink tints of cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) subtract from the reflection to produce color. As you add ink, the colors get darker.
Design software, like Adobe Photoshop, will allow you to convert the color mode of your photography from RGB mode to CMYK to get a better idea of how your images will appear in print. If you’re designing with the Adobe Creative Suite, we recommend that you make this conversion before submitting your files

Spot Colors

Pantone BookHow can I make sure my brand colors are always the same?

Process or CMYK colors are built from a combination of inks, but sometimes you’ll want a very specific color. Spot color is an exact mix of ink that produces colors defined by the Pantone Matching System (PMS). That’s why spot color is frequently called Pantone Color or PMS color.

If you don’t know the exact Pantone colors for your brand or logo, it is possible to convert colors from RGB images on your website. Because of the difference in appearance between the RGB color you see on a computer monitor and CMYK color used in print, a better way is to actually select the correct color from a Pantone swatch book. If you need assistance with color, just ask your Print House representative.

Image Resolution


Why do the photographs in my brochure look blurry or jagged?

The answer has to do with the difference in the way images are produced on a computer screen and on paper and the way your eyes see the images. On a screen, what you actually see is pixels (dots) of light that constantly refresh. Your eyes can recognize a clear image with only 72 pixels of color for every inch of the screen.

On paper, your eyes require more dots to put together a clear image. The dots are made with ink, not light. They’re smaller and packed together more tightly than the pixels on your screen. For print, a resolution of 300 dots per inch (DPI) is required for clarity.

Small images downloaded from the internet won’t print clearly. For best results, photos and raster (that means dots) art should be provided at 300 DPI resolution at the final printed size. Again, large images or photographs can be converted and sized in Photoshop and other design software.

Crops and Bleeds

How do I get the image to go all the way to the edge of the paper?

Crops and Bleeds Illustration

Actually, the image has to go over the edge of the “finished” sheet of paper. The effect is called a “bleed” and it’s produced when the paper is trimmed to final size after printing. When bleeds are required, we print on a sheet of paper that’s larger than the final size of your finished product, then cut into the printed area to produce the finished product.

Crop marks provide an indication of where the printed sheet should be trimmed. If you use layout software like Adobe InDesign, you’ll be able to easily specify crops and bleeds in the art you provide for printing. If you’re using other software, you’ll need to work with a sheet size that is ¼” taller and wider than the final size of your document.

PDF Files

What’s the best file format to send for printing?

PDF Logo

PDF is always a good place to start, especially for documents and brochures produced in Microsoft applications. At the very least, the PDF files will include the selected fonts and “freeze” the formatting so the organization of the printed document matches your layout. Always check the PDF files to make sure that they’ve converted correctly from your original layout.

Is there a way to make all of this easy?

If you’re uncomfortable about the technical aspects of print design, we hope that you’ll talk with one of the Print House’s graphic designers. They can help with tips for preparing files or work with you to translate your ideas into beautiful and effective print design. If you’re interested, read more about our Graphic Design services.

Use the Send A File form on this website to submit your art. We’ll run a preflight check and let you know if any potential problems are indicated and how they can be resolved. For a complete list of formats and instructions, see our list of digital file recommendations and specifications.

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