Whether you’re a business owner, graphic designer, or student, chances are that you’ve had to get a not-so-standard document printed. If you’re a graphic designer, you should have had plenty of formal training on the printing process, but you’d be surprised how many people lack this basic knowledge. So without going into too much detail (I don’t want to bore you to death), here are the basics that I think you should know. #1. Make Sure You Give Yourself Plenty of Time
Just like any other assignment or deadline, you need to make sure you give yourself enough time before rushing any print job! Printing your document never goes as planned when you’re not a professional. Sometimes it’s hard enough to print a term paper correctly, not to mention a postcard. Another thing to keep in mind is that your computer usually converts colors to RGB format (Red, Green, Blue) where printed documents are converted to CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black). Sometimes the color you see on your screen doesn’t match exactly to what physically comes out on the paper. Your choice of paper is also incredibly important. Things print differently on glossy paper compared to a thick card-stock. You want to make sure you have all your ducks in a row in plenty of time before you need your final copies.
#2. Check out Your Options of Online Printers
Unless you know of a fantastic mom and pop shop that you’ve been loyal to for years, try a variety of online printers! I say this because turn around time is usually quick, there’s plenty of templates to choose from for my non-graphic design friends out there, and you don’t have to worry about picking up your proofs and copies before the shop closes! I’m all for supporting local businesses, so if you know of a great printer I’m all for it, but if you don’t definitely see what the world wide web has to offer! Yes, you’ll have to worry about shipping costs, but usually it pays off in the long run. The only problem with going the online route is that you won’t get a physical proof, but there are usually preview proofs that you’ll need to approve before hitting the daunting “submit” button. My personal favorite online printer is Vista Print.
#3. Familiarize Yourself with Margins, Bleeds, and Slugs
This is really important when you want a high-quality print job! There are three things you should know when printing any document. First of all, make sure you have margins on all of your documents. You should NEVER EVER EVER put text all the way up to the edge of your document! Why, you ask? Because, no matter how great of a printer you are using, your page will never print exactly centered, which means your text WILL get cut off. Now bleeds are only necessary when you have an aspect of your document that is meant to go all the way to the edge of the page. Let’s say you have a blue horizontal bar at the top of an invoice you are designing that you want to stretch across the entire width of the page. In this case you’d set up bleeds, which are invisible margins that go past the actual length and width of your document that the colorful bar can “bleed” onto. This prevents any edges of that space from not having the color printed on them. So what the heck are slugs? Slugs are designed as a publisher’s tool to pass production notes to the printer. Slugs aren’t usually necessary, but sometimes they come in handy. In any case, bleeds and slugs are designed to be cut from the final document, where margins are actually on the final document. You can learn more about these elements and more here.
#4. Use Vectorized Objects Whenever Possible
There are two kinds of objects in graphic design: vectorized objects and rasterized object. Photographs are raster objects based on several dots or pixels. Anything such as text or icons are vector objects based on lines. Photographs can only be enlarged to a certain point, because they then become blurry or pixelated. Anything that is vector-based can be scaled as small or large as the designer chooses without loss of visual quality. When you can, make sure you use vector objects! This is why you should never create text or icons in Photoshop since the final outcome will be a pixelated graphic! To learn more about raster and vector objects click here.
#5. Use High-Resolution Images
I know I just said that you should try to use vector objects whenever possible, but amazing images can have a huge impact on the end-viewer. It’s always a good idea to work with high resolution images when you’re intending to put them on a printed document. Generally speaking you want to work with images that are 300 ppi. This means that there are 300 pixels per inch of the photograph, qualifying it as high-resolution. For digital media, you can get away with 72 ppi, which is low-resolution at 72 pixels per inch. My general rule of thumb for print is the higher ppi, the better!
#6. Make Sure You Print a Test Copy
This is sooooo incredibly important! I seriously cannot stress this enough. You never truly know what something will look like until you print a test copy. Most printers you go to in-person will do this free of charge. If you’re printing something yourself OR are using a printer online, do your best to print yourself a sample copy before verifying your actual prints. Sometimes you won’t have this option, so in this case do your best to review the digital proof as many times as you can! Nothing is worse than having to pay for something 2-3 times in order to get your final desired results.
I hope these tips help you! Setting things up to print can be very tricky, so make sure you take your time and double-check everything.
Infographic of the Week:
Question of the Week:
What is the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to print?