Designing for Print: 5 Lessons You Need To Learn
Print design revolves around the creation of a graphical image or set of images which are specially set up for printing. The preparation includes various actions related to making your design recognizable for printing machines. Doesn’t matter if you’re making a design for stationary, printed banners or a restaurant menu. In order for a printer to be able to reproduce your design in the exact way you want to them to look, first, you need to be aware of the main principles of designing for print.
Know Your Enemy: Get Familiar With How Printers Operate
Don’t get me wrong, printers are not a secret organization which tries to make each day of your designer career a living hell. Although, it might feel this way, at a certain point. And believe me, most often, the designer is the one to blame. No knowing how printers work is in the main core of most print design problems.
The way a printing machine works isn’t rocket science at all. In fact, it can be easily related to drawing with crayons. Yet, in this case, the drawing gets done by a programmed machine so the actual image gets precisely transferred onto the printing material. You’ll learn more about how printers works in the next lines, as well, so let’s move along.
Rich Black vs Print Black: The Difference Between RGB & CMYK
It’s hard to break it to you in this way, but in print design, black is not actually the black you know from Photoshop. While graphic images use the RGB color system, which consists of red, green and blue, printers don’t really work this way. In order to reproduce a clear image, they need a different set of colors, which consist of the following: C (cyan), M (magenta), Y (yellow), K (black). While it’s clear how the other colors work together, being a print designer rookie, you might ask yourself why do you need another black when you can mix all colors together to create a black color? Here’s the reason.
Mixing a ton of colors on a paper will make a big mess and if you’re lucky enough not to smear the ink, you’ll need to wait for it to dry at least three times longer than you usually do.
When your printer starts layering the ink to make a darker color, it will inevitably move the paper a bit away from the target position every time it reaches its new destination. Therefore, your designs might look out of focus, or in the worst case, will be hardly readable.
Cropping & Bleeding: Not Your Typical Horror Story
As strange as they may sound, these terms refer to some of print design’s main principles. Leaving an appropriate amount of bleed for your image is an essential part of creating a quality project.
The bleed is the additional 2 or 3 millimeters of each side of your design which provides an appropriate space for cutting the graphic out of the large paper sheet. This is important when you’re trying to fit your designs into the paper. If your business card design is a standard 9 x 5 cm., you need to count at least another 4 millimeters for each business card you get placed on the sheet.
Image Resolution: The Key To Quality Print
When creating a design for web, you’ll usually need no more than 72dpi. The DPI number is the amount of dots the printer will be able to create on one square inch of the printing material. The maximum is 300dpi, so whenever your printing and design software allows it, try to stick to this resolution for your print design projects.
If you’re dealing with a low-class computer and you’re designing, for example, a big-scale banner for print, you might notice a certain slowing in your computer’s performance. In this case, you can try setting up your design to 150dpi to avoid lags in rendering.
Mind Your Type: Scaling Your Design Appropriately
Creating a brilliant design that looks as great on print as is it does on your 4K retina display is sometimes a tricky task. When designing for print, you always need to be aware of the real size of your designs and scale your graphic elements and texts appropriately. When it comes to small-size designs, such as business cards, for example, you need to avoid thin fonts and make sure the text will be readable before you send it to print. Just print out an example on your office printer and adjust sizes and elements accordingly.