Great print design – takes a good designer with the right tools.

Professional print design requires the use of Adobe’s Creative Suite. The three primary apps we use are: Photoshop (world’s best digital imaging software), Illustrator ( industry-standard vector graphics app lets you create logos, icons, sketches, typography and complex illustrations for print, web, interactive, video and mobile), and last but not least, Indesign (industry-leading page design and layout toolset lets you work across desktop and mobile devices to create, preflight and publish everything from printed books and brochures to digital magazines, iPad apps, eBooks and interactive online documents). Typically good designers will use all three apps when designing for print, Indesign lets you edit objects in the native app, right from the workspace, that’s pretty efficient.

print design
InDesign is Adobe’s desktop publishing software application. It can be used for all kinds of print design, from posters, to  flyers, brochures, magazines, newspapers, and books, anything made up of blocks of text, photos and other graphics. Its purpose is to take elements you create in Illustrator and Photoshop and put them together into a layout. InDesign excels at projects that require multi-page layouts or master layouts and allows for controlled text wrapping. InDesign packages everything for you – all of your fonts and images, so you can hand off these materials to your printer and they can print your layout in the exact way that you intended.

6 Tips for for print design:

  1. CMYK color – most print design (sheet fed or digital) are done with four color printing, C = cyan, M = magenta, Y = yellow, and K = black. So your photos and graphics should be converted to cymk if they are rgb files, it’s not required, printers will convert for you but you may get unwanted surprises, and if you are matching to a pantone color make sure to specify the cymk equivalent for best match.
  2. Resolution 300dpi – 72dpi is the usual resolution for web images, but for print 300dpi is the standard. The more dots or pixels put in every inch the more detail is reproduced by ink or toner. Make sure all your artwork is created at 300dpi, that includes all graphics and photos. You can scale down, but you can’t scale a photo up in resolution, so make sure you buy stock images with enough resolution if you plan to use for print design.
  3. Blacks –there are actually several different types of black when it comes to printing, but the two most widely used terms are “plain black” and “rich black.” When you use plain black in a program like Illustrator or InDesign, the CMYK breakdown automatically defaults to C=0 M=0 Y=0 K=100, where black is fully saturated and the other three are completely absent. If you want a really dark black use a Rich black, (where C: 20, M: 20, Y: 20, K: 100) or (where C: 20, M: 0, Y: 0, K: 100) – this overlays inks and gives you a darker black. So if your print design has large areas of black, you may need to use a mix of “rich black”.
  4. Bleed – Bleed is an extra margin around the edge of the design –you’ll need to extend any background elements that run to the edge. This extra area allows for slight variances when the final printed sheet is trimmed to size. The actual amount of bleed required will vary by printer , so be sure to get specs before sending final files to your printer.
  5. Proof read – Fixing mistakes is easy on the web, but finding a typo on 500 printed brochures is a killer! Mistakes in print can’t be corrected (only reprinted) so take some time to check for ugly kerning, misuse of punctuation, use spell check, but also look for misuses like… there/their/they’re… not picked up by spell check. I seen it more times than not – when a client starts proofing after they receive the printed materials – it’s too late, you just doubled the printing costs, no to mention you’ll need to wait another week to get reprinted.
  6. Outputing files – EPS file or a print PDF are generally preferred. Most people can open a PDF file in Adobe Acrobat Reader, but will not be able to look at or open an EPS, ai, indd (you need an app that can read that format (Illustrator, Indesign, or Photoshop – and the right versions) to open or edit files. When exporting an EPS or PDF file it’s a good idea to outline fonts. Fonts usually cause the most trouble when a file is being sent between computers, so eliminating the possibility of a font mismatch will avoid most font issues. For bigger print jobs in Adobe InDesign, use the package feature to bundle all the pages, placed elements and fonts into a digital package for your printer.

If you want to design - learn the tools

Even if you have the Creative Suite toolset, you’ll need some skills to make them work. You can find some tutorials on Youtube, but I strongly suggest using Lynda.com if you want to be productive. Each app is pretty complicated and can get a little overwhelming, especially if you don’t have any experience (i’m just sayin’). I have several clients that have felt comfortable enough to role up their sleeves and dig in – so if you’re so inclined, than go for it. You can access Adobe Creative Cloud by the month – so it’s not a super big obligation.

Another way to jump start your print design is to buy a pre-designed template from Graphic River (they have Indesign brochure templates for $10-20), you’ll need to customize and drop in logos, text, and graphics – but you don’t have to start from scratch. Or if you have a pre-existing design file – you can work from that.

lynda.com_400x400pxThere’s tons of resources around designing print for your business, I would recommend Lynda.com as a great place to start. They have hours and hours of excellent videos on tools and tips to getting great results, and teaches how to design, develop, and send files to print.

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