I been getting a few emails lately in regards to print based questions. I am fortunate that when living in Adelaide, I worked for a very successful printing company and was initially hired as a graphic designer but then management saw potential for me to lead the Web Development team.
Anyways, here are a few things, sparked by some emails I have been getting, hopefully I can help. One email asked me, “When I get my logo printed I can see the pixels, is there a way I can make it smoother?”, When you’re designing for the web, images are usually at 72 dpi, which is standard for screen resolution. For most print projects, you need more than 4 times that resolution: 300 dpi at minimum. If you try and print your files at 72 dpi you will end up with blurry, fuzzy pictures, and you want the highest quality for your clients, right? Now one drawback to printing at such a high-resolution is that it can be taxing on your computer, especially for larger documents if you have an old machine. Saving, moving layers and adding effects can become cumbersome. When this happens, it’s best to split the file you’re working on into parts and save them out as separate, smaller files, linked to the larger InDesign/Quark file. Now, also if your design is made up of 100% vector elements, you should not have this problem as long as the file is saved out properly as a vector EPS, AI, or PDF. Check with your printer to see which file types they can handle.
The other email I had said something along the lines of “When I got my printer to print my brochure, the colors didn’t look as good on my monitor, can you please help?”
Now, as a web designer, you’re probably used to seeing your work rendered in millions of colors, in gorgeous RGB format but as a print designer, your work must be created in CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) color space. This is because most printers have Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black inks. So, if you convert a vivid RGB image to CMYK you can see that a lot of the colors become muted and washed out. CMYK doesn’t quite have the same reach in the color spectrum as RGB. A quick tip to create Rich Black, which is the best black for print I found, you use a mixture of 30% Cyan, 30% Magenta, 60% Yellow and 100% Black. Keep in mind, Rich Black is best used for larger areas of black, and not on thin lines or text. But if you use it on small body text or thin lines, the inks could saturate and blur the artwork, in that sense, use what I call 100K Black. It is created using, you guessed it, a mixture of 0% Cyan, Magenta and Yellow, with 100% Black. So, for small text, to keep the text crisp, since the printer only has to worry about lining up one color instead of four, use 100K Black. But for big patches of black, use Rich Black.
I hope these tips have shed some light for some of you. If you would like more Print versus Screen tips, or tutorials on things let me know.