If you’re having a hard time reading through this section, please consider number 7.
1. Think through your project.
It sounds simple, but a very sad and common problem that we see is that someone will spend many hours working on a project, and when it comes time to print, some aspect of printing has been forgotten, and the project needs to be re-done, or time intensive fixes need to be undertaken. Hopefully the following tips will aid you in setting up your project correctly.
2. Budget your project
How much do you want to spend on printing? Work on designing a project that will reach your intended audience, and still fall inside your budget. Our pricing is readily available at our Pricing page. Give us a call or stop by if you have any questions.
3. Use the tool that suits the job.
For example, if you plan on having a two-sided postcard and a poster, design in a program that allows multi-page editing, such as Adobe InDesign. (Photoshop is not always the appropriate tool, especially when text is involved.)
For example, if you design a postcard in a raster editing program, and decide that you want to make it into a poster, image quality will most likely suffer dramatically. If the project had been designed in a vector editing program, such as InDesign, the project will scale larger.
4. Decide on a project size.
Another common problem that we see, are projects that are either too large, or too small for us to print correctly. For example, if you designed a poster on letter sized paper (8.5″x11″), and want us to print that on Tabloid (11″x17″), we will be unable to scale that proportionally. Please keep in mind that we do not stock non-US paper sizes, such as A4.
5. Avoid transparency whenever possible
Adobe has made several transparency options available and easily accessible. (Drop Shadow, Opacity, Effects, etc) These effects look great on screen, but if the effects are not rasterized prior to going through our RIP server, there is a good chance artifacting will occur, especially when involving Spot colors.
6. “Full” Color (CMYK), 2-Color, 1-color, Black & White?
Cost, speed, and quality are considerations here. If you are unsure which option you would like to go with, please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss available options, and design considerations for each.
- Keep in mind that images will appear slightly darker in print than on screen, depending on how you have calibrated your display device. (eg: Display devices print with light, our output devices print with ink.)
- Proofs done on most RGB output devices (regardless of quality), will not likely match what we produce on our CMYK devices. The gamut of RGB and CMYK output devices do not match, especially in the deep blue, red/orange, and vibrant color areas. (Think neon)
- Avoid large solid areas, and ink coverage higher than 300%, or lower than 30%. (Total Area Coverage) (eg: C:100, M:100, Y:100, K:100 is frowned upon, and depending on the effect you’re going for, usually will not look very good.) “Rich Black” is actually dirtier than “Pure Black” on our output devices. Use 100K when possible for blacks. A typical side effect of printing with digital devices is banding/streaking in areas with solids.
- If you need color accuracy, use Spot colors (Pantones) where possible. We can color correct spots on our RIP individually. Please note that there is a color correction fee for each color used.
- We typically attempt to do some manual color conversion to make unsightly images (due to them being out of gamut) seem more pleasing. If you do not wish for us to perform this manual calibration, please specify when placing your order.
- For black & white / spot color only jobs, avoid designing in RGB/CMYK color spaces. Use Spot colors, grayscale, duotones, etc. Grayscale images can have a Spot color applied to them in several design programs. Consult the manual of your chosen application to find out how. Grayscale images also print more accurately (less dark), quickly, and are much smaller, than their RGB/CMYK counterparts. Convert your images to Grayscale where possible!
- If the intended output device is an offset press, it can be helpful to include both a composite file and a separated file.
7. Hire a professional
If this information seems daunting, consider enlisting the help of a professional. The up front cost may seem hard to justify, but the time and headaches saved in the long run can be well worth the cost. It’s likely that this route will be cheaper than trying to design a project yourself, if you have had little or no design experience.