Over the last few weeks I’ve had to redo a ton of work for printers who have been sent ‘print ready artwork’ from clients’ designers and the work has been in 72dpi, RGB and with no bleeds or crop marks. In discussion with these printers, I’ve learned they are seeing an increasing amount of work come in for print that has not been designed for this medium. It seems people aren’t being trained to design for the four colour print process anymore.

Why is this? I’m not sure. Maybe there is such a focus on designing for web, that the old techniques are ‘going out of fashion’ as it were. Maybe, with the introduction of digital printing, people just assume everything will look as good as it does on the screen without thinking about the processes involved. I read recently in one forum that designers should always sent the hi-res proofs in RGB and let the printers sort out the colour in the rip as they know their print systems better than anyone. Maybe – but there can be such a colour difference from RGB (screen colour) to CYMK (print colour) that I think the client needs to sign off the final design as it will appear on the printed page.

Now, I’m not complaining about getting the work (by no means) but it is incredibly frustrating for everyone to have to redo work that’s already been done, just because it wasn’t designed for the correct media. The worst scenario I’ve come across was a printer client of mine sent me a magazine to see if I could work on it. The accompanying .pdf showed that every image was in RGB, 72dpi and there was not a single crop mark or bleeding image anywhere to be seen. And the original InDesign file wasn’t even packaged correctly so I couldn’t access the file! The work that needed to be done to get it into printable shape was so massive that the end client missed their print deadline and 100,000 magazines never got printed!

My background is in designing for print (I did, after all, graduate from the London College of Printing!) and so it’s so natural for me to design for this medium – it’s one of my specialties. As much I enjoy web design (and I’m a big fan of WordPress), I really love designing for print. I love the technicality, the detail, the preciseness, the challenge of it. I love holding the final product in my hand – a really tangible way of seeing the end result of my hard work. It somehow seems more satisfying in some weird way. But maybe that says more about me than anything else!

Anyway, I want to finish with a bit of a public service announcement. If are needing some print work designed, here are some great tips to helping your designer and printer supply with excellent print-ready artwork:

1. Ensure any artwork (logos, photos etc) are of really good quality and size so they won’t distort if enlarged. Please don’t use images you’ve lifted straight from Google Images! Thank you.

2. If you can send your designer the .eps or .tiff version of your logo, so much the better. If you don’t have them in that format, why not? Your designer should have supplied you with the final vector artwork on completion of your design work.

3. Check your designer knows how to design for print. Become familiar with the terms used and throw them into your conversation. Here’s a basic glossary:
– dpi: Dots Per Inch: Standard print quality is 300dpi – 300 dots of ink per square inch of paper. In these days of digital printing, PPI (Pixels per Inch) is also used. Standard screen quality is 72dpi/ppi. As you can imagine, 72dpi images won’t print as well.
– CMYK: the inks used in the print process: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black or Key.
– RGB: screen colours: Red, Green, Blue. Print machines can’t print RGB so it’s vital to check that the images are going to be rendered in the correct ‘format’.
– Bleed: when an image goes off the edge of a page, it’s bleeding off. Designers need to allow for an extra 3mm of image beyond the edge of the printed page to allow for page trimming. See this article for more info.
– Crop Marks:┬áthe marks off the visible page that allows the printer to trim the page accurately. These are usually added to a document when it’s being converted to a hi-res .pdf.

4. Ensure that the final version of the print artwork you are being asked to sign off is the CMYK version. RGB colours are generally brighter and more ‘glossy’. Converting them to CYMK with invariably dull the colours slightly. I’ve had new clients bring me their existing print work and comment that it’s not as bright as they saw on the proof. One of the reasons is that the final pdf they saw was rendered in RGB. Also, be aware that screen colours look brighter then print colours due to the direction the light is coming from. There will nearly ALWAYS be a difference from what you see on screen to the final printed result.

Anyway, I hope that helps. Any thoughts or comments? Let me know.