How to check your artwork for print


There a few things that are unique to designing for print. Whether you find them interesting or a huge pain in the side, they exist and they need to be addressed to get the best results from your print and business. We've gone through the most common issues when creating artwork for print and explained how to overcome them to ensure you get the best possible results from your print here at Aura.


Colour system

The standard colour system for printing is CMYK and when setting up your document you will need to select CMYK over RGB. The range, or gamut of CMYK is a lot smaller than RGB due to the number of colours produced by ink not being as high as the light from your monitor. So, creating artwork in RGB runs the risk of using a colour outside of the printable gamut of most printers. Bright fluorescent colours will change drastically and become very flat and dull, so best to avoid.

If you are printing with lithographic and with spot colours such as Pantone, then the gamut will be increased to accommodate this colour system. Pantone inks can come ready mixed or can be mixed by a printer to match a specific colour. Any spot colours in your artwork would need to be labelled up as such so they can be identified. If you run a four-colour CMYK job with a pantone colour, then extra costs may incur.


Document and image size

Here at Aura, we can print almost any custom size as well as any standard DIN/A-Series sizes, A4, A5 etc. We would be happy to discuss any ideas you may have and we can go over any technicalities or restrictions that there may be.

Any document would need to be supplied to the size ordered, or in the case of large format print, to a scale such as 25%. For any small format print such as business cards or brochures then artwork needs to be supplied at 300dpi at 100% scale. For any large format work (here it can get confusing) then anything supplied at 100% would need to be supplied at 72dpi, 50% then 150dpi and 25% at 300dpi. This is because, as we increase the scale, the resolution is lowered at the same rate.

This is the same for any images that are to be included in the artwork. For example, a small 50kb image pulled from Google and stretched onto a banner to be 3 foot wide will not give impressive results. If you are struggling with images, then please contact us and we may be able to help as we have access to a large image library or we can advise on where you can get some free images also if you wish to browse yourself – it is your business after all.


Print bleed – please don’t forget!

Print bleed is essentially needed to give the printer room for slight movement. To explain this, we can start with exactly what bleed is. Bleed is running any elements that touch the edge of the page, past the artboard to a desired point. The amount can vary depending on the product, so get in touch and we can advise you on this.

For this example, we shall be setting up an A5 flyer. So, the document would need to be 148x210mm with a bleed of 2mm, making the entire document size a total of 152x214mm. Any images or colour that reach the edge of the page would need to be extended past this point up until the bleed area guide.

All machinery obviously has a tolerance, this includes our printers and guillotines. So, if we had our A5 flyer with a solid blue background, full coverage but with no bleed, and our guillotines cut a tiny ¼ of a mm out. Then you will end up with a solid, thin – yet very noticeable – white trim line down one edge.

Going back to tolerances, when printing digital, keep all text within a 4mm margin from the edge. With litho you could push to 1.5mm but we would still advise a minimum of 3mm. If we get to design your artwork then expect a large margin, because margins are glorious.


File types and other tips

At Aura, we prefer to accept PDF or JPEG formats as these are the easiest to work with and usually cause the least problems. When writing out a PDF, make sure PDF(Print) is selected and not PDF(Interactive). Also exporting under PDFX/1A will give us the best chance of having no issues. Then under Marks and Bleed, select Trim Marks and Use Document Bleed Settings will place the bleed on the artwork and give us the trim lines to crop down to. We can place trim lines and sometimes the bleed onto the artwork for you at no extra cost but this may slow down your order so anything you can do prior to sending the artwork gives us the best chance to meet your deadline.

If you have the software and ability, then outlining all fonts within the document also safeguards against fonts changing when printed. Issues have come about when a font has not displayed correctly on our end and the print has been incorrect. There was nothing we could have done to amend this as we had no prior knowledge of the font displaying incorrect until the customer received the product. Outlining fonts will eradicate any chances of there being an issue.


There's black, and then there's black

When printing black, there are things to be taken into consideration that at first make little sense. But printing a colour make-up in CMYK of 0-0-0-100 – so 100% black only – will not give you a solid jet black. In light, it looks a very dark grey, as though washed out. We would suggest for a solid black background a CMYK make-up of 30-20-20-100. The extra 10% Cyan will help balance out the two warm colours of Magenta and Yellow and give a very nice solid jet black.

Other common make-ups are 40-0-0-100, 40-40-40-100, 70-40-40-100, and we imagine there will be many more. Bear in mind, the more coverage you apply, the harder it is to dry the ink and this can cause ink saturation. As a general rule, 280% coverage is the max, but we would advise 260%.

Any large type can also be done with this make-up, though any body copy can be left at 100% black.


Glossary

Below are a set of terms you may hear a printer use. They may be good to familiarise yourself with:

Bleed

Refers to the printing that goes beyond the edge of the page and is used to ensure coverage goes right to the edge after trimming.

PDF

Portable Document Format. Probably the most common file format for exchanging artwork and printing from.

PDFX1/A

Common PDF profile for outputting print.

DPI / PPI

Dots Per Inch / Pixels Per Inch. They essentially mean the same thing, though dots refer to print and pixels refers to on-screen. DPI is the number of individual dots of ink within an inch square. The more dots, the higher the resolution. Same applies for PPI.

Pantone

Possibly the most common colour system used. It has a large library of colours that can be matched to a swatch book so long as the printer has the correct swatch.

Process

Refers to the four colours used in CMYK printing: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black). A colour in process will be made up using these or a combination.


Do you have more questions about getting your artwork print-ready? Get in touch – we'll be happy to help.