Preparing your design for the print process
Print is an incredible word. It has made its mark on all aspects of our lives. It is the end of one process and the start of another, replicating finished articles and etching them into the pages of history. Its fascinating origins and immense power have given humanity the chance to communicate thoughts and ideas right across the globe, effectively clearing the path for what is now a global civilization.
But enough of print’s romantic past, are you ready for the challenge of sending your graphic designs to print? If so, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at how to prepare graphic design projects for the printing process. From dos and don’ts to less obvious techniques, you’ll have all the confidence necessary to get your own print files up and running. So let’s dive into it!
Problems often encountered when printing
When you’re getting ready to send your designs off to the printer, there are a few common issues that can arise. Things like:
- Unexpected color output
- Low resolution
- Pixelated images
- Images that have disappeared
- Inadequate bleed margins leading to white borders around artwork
- Replaced fonts
- Sabotaged artwork
- Dealing with huge file sizes
In order to avoid this, you need to make sure that your design is properly prepared before sending it off. Let’s take a look at how you can do just that!
Steps into creating perfect print
Keeping color under control
The first step in preparing a design for printing is assuring that the colors you’re using are correct and the color space you’re using is compatible with the printer’s output device. If your file is using an RGB color profile, make sure it’s converted to CMYK before sending it off. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key. It is a four-color printing process that uses the primary colors of pigment to create different shades and hues. In order to get accurate prints from a printer, it’s important to make sure your color space is set up correctly.
Knowing the difference between RGB and CMYK color systems is crucial to understanding the print process. This will ensure that the colors you see on the screen match those of the printer. However, using your screen as a reference is not going to guarantee 100% accuracy, and for those on-brand design projects, you may need to run test prints to get the color right.
In addition to making sure that the colors you’re using are correct, it’s also important to use Pantone (or spot) colors for logos and other special elements. This will ensure consistent color reproduction across different printing devices. Brand guidelines will often have color references such as Pantone and CMYK numbers to ensure these constraints are met. Perhaps you will create your own guidelines one day, in which case, have a look at this article on How To Pick The Right Color For Your Brand. You will be clued up in no time!
When printing is a fundamental part of your day-to-day projects, it is advised to have a physical Pantone swatch at hand as a reliable reference to colors in the real world. Pantone libraries or books are no longer freely available on Adobe’s programs. However, they are still available via a subscription. Perhaps this is something to consider when taking print seriously.
Preparing your fonts
Convert any text in your design to outlines. This will ensure that the fonts you use stay consistent, even if the printer doesn’t have the same typefaces installed on their machine. It also helps keep your file size down, as outlined fonts don’t need to be embedded into the document.
If you are able to provide the fonts used in your design, do so. This allows the printer operator to use precisely what you’ve used and ensures that everything is as it should be in any case where they need to change something at their end.
Check your design and clean up your artboard
Before sending your design off to the printer, you need to check everything is in order. Seeking out any spelling or grammar errors, as well as ensuring all of your text and graphics are properly aligned, keeping all elements at least 3mm from the edge of your artboard. Additionally, it’s important to clean up any extra elements on your artboard that may not be necessary. Take a look at this in-depth article on how to keep your designs clean. This will help keep the file size down and speed up the printing process.
Make sure your artwork has the correct bleed and cut marks. Bleed is when you extend any background colors or images beyond the edge of your design by roughly 3mm. This will ensure there are no white borders around the edge of your design once printed. Cut marks will indicate where the printer operator should trim off any excess paper in your design. Bleed and cut marks work hand in hand in achieving a flush finish, ensuring your final prints look exactly as intended right to the edge of the page.
Preparing your PDF for print
Once all the above steps are ticked off, it’s time to prepare your PDF for the printing process. This is an incredibly important step, as most printers require a PDF file for printing. When preparing your PDF, make sure to use the correct settings for the printer you’ll be working with. This will ensure that everything looks exactly as you intended once it comes out of the printer.
When creating a PDF for printing, you’ll want to use the correct presets. This includes choosing a ‘Press Quality’ or ‘High-Quality Print’ preset as well as selecting any other relevant settings such as color settings and resolution. It’s also important to make sure that all fonts are changed to outlines or embedded into the file before exporting it.
Checking compression and file types
When working on relatively small projects up to A1 size, it’s recommended that you set the resolution of your document to 300dpi in the PDF settings. Anything over and above, for example, working on billboard projects, you may need to consider working at a much lower dpi since bigger projects won’t be affected by its lack of close-up quality.
Additionally, make sure your images are saved in the correct file format. JPEGs are the most widely used file type thanks to their small file size and medium quality. However, TIFFs can hold more information at a higher file size leading to better quality.
When saving a PDF, you will have total control of the image compressions, allowing you to independently alter compression for Color Bitmap Images, Grayscale Bitmap Images, and Monochrome Bitmap Images. Getting the balance right will ensure that all of the graphics and images in your document are sharp and clear when printed out.
Preventing Illustrator editing capabilities
This is entirely optional. Preserving Illustrator editing capabilities will mean that recipients will be able to open and modify your artwork. Of course, this is welcome in some cases. However, to keep 3rd parties from altering artwork, it is advised to untick this option in the general PDF settings.
The last step before sending your design off to the printer is to run a test print. This will allow you to check for any color defects, errors, or issues that might have been missed during the design process. This is highly emphasized when printing off multiple copies or a batch. Once you’re confident that everything looks good, then go ahead and hit that print button!
Sending your print file to a 3rd party
Once you’ve got your design ready to go, it’s time to send it off to a third-party printer. Often the file will be too big to send as a standard email. However, these days, there are many different methods of sending files, such as:
- Email (files under 20mb)
- FTP servers
- Google Drive
Depending on the printing service you’re working with, they may have their own preferred method of sending files. It’s always best to check with them beforehand to reassure that your file is promptly received and processed.
Many printers will require you to compress or zip up your print file before sending it off. This helps keep the file size down for easier transfer and also helps protect against any corruption during transit. Be sure to follow their instructions carefully when doing this.
When providing any fonts or other assets with your print file, make sure to include them in the zipped folder when sending it off. This helps keep everything organized and ensures that the printer has access to everything they need for successful printing.
Once all of the files have been sent, check in with the printing service to finalize the order on their end. This will ensure that they have everything they need and provide you the opportunity to address any last-minute changes and clear any questions before they begin printing.
Why it is important to count on a reliable printing company
It’s important to make sure that you’re entrusting your design with a reliable printing company. This will ensure that the quality of the final prints are up to standard and that there aren’t any unexpected delays or errors in the process. Taking the time to do your research on different printing companies can go a long way toward guaranteeing your design looks great once printed out.
One way to help make sure your design looks perfect when printed is to use a printing file review service. Professionals will check your files for any potential issues before they’re sent off to the printer. The reviewers will also provide helpful feedback and advice on how to improve the overall quality of your print files.
Sending your design to print can be an intimidating process, but it doesn’t have to be. By following these steps and using a reliable printing company, you can ensure that your design looks perfect when printed out. So take the time to do your research and make sure your file is properly prepared before sending it off. The results will speak for themselves!