Embark on a thrilling journey from the digital realm to the tangible world of print, where pixels meet paper and precision is paramount. Whether you're a seasoned graphic designer or a print production expert, mastering the art of print design isn't just a skill—it's a necessity.
Picture this: flawlessly executed prints that mirror your creative vision, every time. Success isn’t just in crafting exceptional designs; it’s seamlessly translating that artwork into its printed form.
Without these printing techniques, there's a risk of inconsistency between your digital vision and the final product. By embracing these insights, you not only optimize your process but also amplify efficiency, delight clients and foster seamless collaboration with every project contributor.
No more crossing your fingers and hoping for the best! With these 7 tips, you’ll kickstart your journey toward print perfection, nailing every single detail and transforming each print project from good to extraordinary.
How to Produce Flawless Print Design Projects
1. Lay the Foundation with Proper File Setup
Mastering file setup is the first step in ensuring your digital creation mirrors its tangible counterpart. It's a universal principle that applies whether you're fluent in design software or navigating print design from an office environment.
Proper file setup means using the right file format, setting the appropriate resolution and considering other technical specifications.
Be aware of which design programs you have and how that translates to print production. For Adobe Creative Suite users, exporting files as PDFs is highly recommended when sending them to print shops.
Refrain from resizing or distorting images to maintain their clarity and visual integrity.
With attention to detail in file setup, you pave the way for print perfection.
2. Choose Your Colors Wisely – RGB vs. CMYK
Understanding color modes is essential in achieving accurate and vibrant prints. Knowing when to use each ensures your colors translate seamlessly from screen to paper.
RGB (Red, Green, Blue) is used for digital displays, while CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) is the standard for print.
Using the RGB color mode is recommended when designing anything to be viewed on screens. This is because screens emit light, and RGB directly relates to the way light combines to create colors.
When preparing designs for print, CMYK is the go-to color mode. Printing involves applying ink to a surface, and CMYK corresponds to the four drums used in the printing process.
Beware! Using RGB for print can lead to unexpected color shifts, as it encompasses a wider range of colors than what can be replicated with ink, or CMYK. For a wider CMYK color gamut, choose the "GRACoL" profile, the US industry standard and our default setting for Fiery servers. Most programs default to SWOP, which limits color options, so this adjustment is recommended for creative suite applications.
Understanding the distinction between RGB and CMYK is vital for maintaining color accuracy and consistency across various mediums. Failing to convert from RGB to CMYK before sending files to print can result in dull, slightly different hues on the final product.
3. Seal the Deal with PDF Export Perfection
When exporting your PDF file, check your presets such as High-Quality Print, bleeds and marks.
Make note: each print shop may have specific preferences for PDF exports due to their unique software or workflows. Early communication with the print shop to confirm their preferred settings is crucial!
The "High-Quality Print" preset is a reliable choice and should be set at a minimum of 300 DPI (Dots per Inch) or higher. The larger an image needs to print; the higher the DPI needs to increase in order to look high-quality. In other words, if you need to print a large image, you’ll need a high DPI to accommodate the size.
If you’re expecting your final printout to not have a white border, adding bleed is a crucial step to your design.
Bleeds refer to the extra space beyond the final cut size of your design, allowing for any elements that extend to the edges to be safely included in the final product. It is recommended to set a .125-inch bleed for your file.
Crop and trim marks serve as clear guides for the printer, indicating exactly where to make precise cuts for accurate sizing and scaling. They allow ample wiggle room to trim out the actual design, ensuring there is no unnecessary white space in the final print.
However, most print shops use layout software, such as Fiery Impose, which provides more precise crop marks on print sheets. It's generally best to omit crop marks unless specifically requested by your print shop.
Lastly, remember to verify the color tab settings to ensure colors do not inadvertently convert from the original document when saving as a PDF. It's essential to include the designated color profiles within the file for accurate reproduction.
4. Package Your Artwork Files
The "Package” feature involves gathering all the necessary elements of your design, including images, fonts and linked files, and organizing them into an easily accessible folder.
By consolidating all the necessary components in one location, you eliminate the risk of missing or broken links. This is especially important if you're working on a collaborative project or if the design files are transferred to another designer or printing professional.
Packaging ensures that everyone involved in the project has access to the exact resources needed for future adjustments and edits.
5. Use Spot Colors for Precision in Printing
Spot colors are a cornerstone of achieving exact and consistent colors in print!
Unlike process colors that rely on the blending of four ink hues (CMYK), spot colors are pre-mixed, standardized inks specified using systems like the Pantone Matching System (PMS).
When a spot color is specified by its name (e.g., "Pantone 287C"), it provides a clear reference point for both designer and printer, eliminating any confusion or ambiguity regarding the intended color.
While digital printers can't replicate a true "paint bucket" spot color, they can mimic it using a CMYK equivalent. Brands like Pantone offer specialized guides (such as Pantone Color Bridge) that provide the most precise representation of how the spot color will appear when recreated in CMYK.
Spot colors enable the precise replication of specific color values, guaranteeing that critical elements like brand colors remain uniform across diverse printed materials.
For print projects where color accuracy is paramount, such as branding, marketing materials and packing design, this level of control and consistency is essential.
6. Install Fiery Technology for Enhanced Spot Color Matching
Fiery technology services as a powerful controller software that acts as the bridge between a designer’s digital file and the actual printing process.
It’s a game-changer for spot color matching! With advanced algorithms and color management systems, Fiery ensures spot colors are reproduced with unparalleled accuracy.
Having Fiery technology in print production is imperative for minimizing color discrepancies. By fine-tuning the printing process, it eliminates unexpected color shifts.
Additionally, Fiery streamlines production, reducing the need for manual adjustments and enhancing overall efficiency. This not only boosts productivity but leads to cost savings!
To elevate your print production, we provide comprehensive Fiery training and resources, ensuring you have all the tools needed to attain flawless print results.
7. Set Realistic Color Expectations
Setting realistic color expectations means understanding and accepting the limitations and variations that can occur in the reproduction of colors from digital screens to print. You must acknowledge potential differences in color appearance due to factors such as color mode, variations in printing technology and the specific capabilities of the printer or printing process.
Keep in mind that computer screens utilize RGB to display colors. Therefore, don’t expect the printed colors to perfectly mirror what’s projected on the screen because printers and computer screens operate on distinct principles for color display.
Calibrating screens and referencing printed proofs help manage these variations.
Another key aspect is understanding the distinction between CMYK and Pantone colors. While CMYK offers versatility, it may not perfectly replicate specific hues, making Pantone colors essential for precise brand or design shades.
By having a clear understanding of these potential discrepancies, you can make informed decisions about color choices and adjustments to ensure the final printed result aligns as closely as possible with your intended vision.
Elevate Your Print Projects with Loffler
With these 7 tips for achieving high-quality print results, you can prevent common printing issues that may lead to costly and time-consuming reprints.
Utilizing these print best practices promises not only consistent excellence but also enhances your reputation for producing top-notch work, whether it’s for clients or within your organization. Moreover, it’s the key to streamlining printing processes and optimizing workflows for maximum efficiency.
If you're seeking a reliable ally for print design and production, look no further than Loffler Companies.
With a deep understanding of print technology and an unwavering commitment to quality, your designs will be brought to life with impeccable precision. Entrusting your print projects to Loffler grants you access to a wealth of expertise and resources that will propel your designs to new heights.
Excited to take your print projects to the next level? Connect with a Loffler representative today and master the art of print production for you and your organization.
Molly Zarins is a Production Training Specialist at Loffler Companies. Her area of expertise is in production printers and Fiery systems (Fiery Certified Expert). She is also the team Color Specialist, counting down the days each year until the next "Pantone Color of the Year" announcement! Molly spends her free time exploring local restaurants and breweries with her husband, gardening and spending time with her daughter.