1. Watch your ink coverage With digital design you can play around with RGB levels to create the exact colour you want. With print however, things aren’t so simple and you need to keep an eye on the on the total ink coverage you’re putting down.
Paper can only absorb a limited amount of ink; too much causes paper to bruise and crack. To avoid this always check your printer for its ink tolerances and keeping things below 240% is a good place to start.
2. Always include bleed Printing technology is improving and becoming more accurate by the day. However, while guillotines are incredibly precise these days, it is possible for them to be a millimetre or two out on your print.
A millimetre isn’t a problem if your artwork includes bleed. Without bleed, though, you could end up with a thin white border if the guillotine blade comes down just outside your design. By extending your design another 3mm beyond the finished page size, you will protect your print from those pesky white lines.
3. Leave a safety zone For the same reason that guillotines can sometimes cut a little outside the line, they can also cut a little inside the line too. If you only put abstract design elements at the edge of your artwork, you’ll be fine. If you put important information there, though, you might want to consider moving it further in.
The general rule is to leave a 3mm clear margin around the edge of your work. You may need to leave more on certain products. For example, booklets will need a bigger safety zone on the binding edge. Always consult with your printer for their specifications.
4. Use CYMK, not RGB RGB and CMYK are different colour spaces. That is, they cover a different range of colours and, while they mostly overlap, you can’t always create the same colours in both ranges. RGB is used for digital designs and includes slightly more colours than CMYK, which is the range that can be printed.
If you make the mistake of designing in RGB, you may use a colour that is outside the CYMK spectrum and your design will look different in print than it does on your screen. To avoid this, keep your colour settings on CYMK when designing for print.
5. Set the correct resolution Getting a sharp image is so important when creating professional print. Unfortunately, you can’t increase the quality of an image if it’s bad to begin with. So think about the resolution of images before you start and make sure your design software settings match your printer’s dpi requirements.
The standard resolution for small-format print is 300dpi but it can go lower for bigger products. Some printers only ask for 150dpi for large-format and some even go as low as 72 dpi for really a big print, for a billboard.
6. Don’t let text get too small The ability to zoom on the screen makes it hard to estimate what text will look like when printed. To keep text legible, try not to go below 6pt and ensure there are some thick strokes in the typeface to boost visibility. It also helps to keep your colours simple.
Text is so fine that it can become tricky to make multiple passes of colour and ensure that the ink is deposited in the exact same spot. For fine, small text, it is best to use as few colours as possible, such as 100% black.
7. Flatten your artwork When a design element that’s supposed to be transparent isn’t flattened, your print may end up with white boxes. Instead of showing through the design, opaque white boxes get printed. This can be avoided by flattening your final artwork before printing it.
8. Remember to use pre-flight tools Sending off incorrect artwork can cost you time and resources. You don’t want to receive your print and realise you need to do it all again because of one mistake. Pre-flight tools can save you all that by catching mistakes as you go to export the file.
Simply input the settings that you want all your artwork to adhere to and your pre-flight tool will know to check your work against these requirements. In some cases, it can only remind you to make the changes yourself but in others in can sort everything out for you.