The process of bringing a design to life on paper can be both exciting and challenging.
Whether you’re a seasoned graphic designer, a marketing professional, a small business owner or just curious about the art of design, you may benefit from knowing the basic rules of designing for print.
Designing for print isn’t just about aesthetics; it involves understanding the printing process, color management, file formats and more. You have to consider how large or small the final printed item will be, how much space to leave for the margins and whether it has a high enough resolution to print clearly.
Here are some tips from a graphic designer for anyone looking to create a stunning brochure, business card, flier, poster or any other print project.
What Design Application Should You Use?
Adobe programs are designed for professionals but can also be used by marketers with enough practice. The thought of learning general Adobe platforms, especially in a time crunch, can be very intimidating. While it may be difficult to learn Photoshop and InDesign in a short amount of time, Adobe Express is a great option for those unfamiliar with traditional professional design programs and is very intuitive. Adobe Express is an app that provides all the capabilities of Adobe Spark with a format that is simple, intuitive and fast, which allows you to create graphics in a matter of minutes.
Most printers prefer files created with Adobe but are fine with files from a user-friendly option such as Canva.
Canva offers many tools that make the design process easier, such as customizable templates. These give you a starting point for designs that you can customize to fit your needs. Canva also offers options to show crop marks and bleeds that help with the printing process.
Margins play a crucial role in designing for print, as they define the space between the content of your design and the edge of the paper. Margins create a safe zone within which essential elements like text and important graphics should be placed.
Properly setting up margins is essential to ensure that no vital information is accidentally trimmed off during the production process.
The larger the product, the more margin there should be. For example, on a business card, you should allow a margin of 0.125 inches, but you should allow 0.5 or 1 inch for large posters and signs.
Another important component to understand when designing for print is bleed.
Bleed refers to the area beyond the actual dimensions of your printed piece that is intentionally left to ensure that the design extends all the way to the edge of the final trimmed product. In other words, it’s the extra space that accommodates any slight shifts during the printing and cutting process to avoid white space around the borders.
Without bleed, you risk having unwanted white edges or borders around your design.
If any design elements go to the edge of your design, whether that is a picture or block of color, they must extend past the edge of the file by 0.125 inches. For larger products like signs, the bleed may need to be extended farther.
Note: Typical office printers cannot accommodate bleeds and produce finished products with white borders around all four edges.
How many times have you been handed a flier only to see that it is pixelated and blurry?
When designing for print, you’ll want to prioritize a high-resolution image to increase the detail and sharpness of your visuals.
The ideal pixel size for your project depends on the final size of the product. This means that a large foam board sign will require more pixels than a brochure printed on 8.5” x 11” paper.
As a general rule: The more pixels, the better. For print, the final resolution should be at least 300 dots per inch or dpi.
With countless file types to choose from, you might be wondering which one is the best to send to your printer.
For most situations, a high-resolution PDF is the best file type for print, but most printers will also accept JPG, TIFF and EPS. Vector files are preferred for large format jobs because they can be scaled up and down with no reduction in quality.
A vector file can be scaled up to any size, while a raster file cannot, as it will quickly lose quality and become pixelated. This is because vector graphics are made of dots that are connected by lines and curves, whereas raster graphics are made of individual pixels, which will be more visible when zoomed in. Raster files are generally used for digital photographs, whereas graphics are best suited for vector files.
You should avoid sending a Word or Publisher file, as they tend to have font and formatting issues when opened on a different computer than the one used to create the file.
Need help making sure your project is print ready?
Target Print and Mail has a professional graphic designer on staff to help you create the perfect design. Even if you choose not to utilize our graphic design services, we are happy to help with ensuring that your project is ready for print.
From business cards, to fliers and brochures, we are here to help with all of your printing needs.
Click here to contact our team today.