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Ever wondered why what was designed for your business did not come out quite as well in print? Well, there is a whole bunch of mechanics between the design stage and print stage that can form part of a semester’s work in school. More often than not, this is not taught, especially here in Kenya, and it relies largely on industry experience being passed from generation to generation – from designer to designer.

Deigning for print is specific in of itself. It is a different category when and separate from design for screens (commonly referred to as digital marketing designs). Below we explore common designer mistakes when designing for print and how to overcome them.

Understand Colour-Space

Most design software makes it easy when choosing your template for designing. Simply choosing a print design sets the correct colour profile for your design which should be CMYK. When designing for screens, the software chooses RGB. The RGB colour profile has a larger gamut (the number of colours it can accommodate) than the CMYK colour mode. Thus, they are more vibrant.

An experienced designer will have the foresight from designing the brand identity to know what colours to choose for the brand to ensure the colours are accommodated. Some Pantone colours are also not available in the CMYK colour space. Though with Pantone, you can do colour matching as well as for bulk production, mix your own colour.

Understand the K

That’s black in CMYK. If your intention is to print black, don’t set your values to, rather set your values to The nature of offset printing is that it prints all the assigned values where applicable. Black was introduced to meet the shortfalls of CMY which produced a muddy black colour as opposed to pure black. Thus, setting the values as earlier as opposed to the latter produces a muddy black colour in the end. It will also make your text not as crisp as it should be.

Understand the Role of Bleed

Many digital designers fail to understand the role of bleeding their artwork and ensuring the artwork has a safe zone. This comes from not understanding production challenges. In the computer, each image can be placed in the exact same spot. In real life, when printing, there’s always slight movement. It can be from how the paper is fed into the machine to how it is cut by the guillotine.

To ensure no important information is cut out, ensure you have a margin in your artwork. Further, bleed the artwork by ensuring backgrounds extend say 3 millimetres outside the final size of the document.

Understand Paper

What may seem obvious may not be. White, by default is not a printable colour – as by default paper, more often than not is already white. Thus, if the paper you are printing on is not white, it will affect the output of your colours. So, if your intention is to print colour on a coloured paper, it will not appear as you intend as the paper is not white. It will almost have the “multiply” filter/effect.

Understand Resolution and Saving Your File

300 dots per inch is the number. Photography printing is another whole ballgame in which you can go way past this resolution. But for production printing, this is more often than not limited by the fact that the maximum plates can be reproduced at is 300 line per inch thus making anything past 300 DPI redundant.

Ensure, while saving your file as a PDF, that you set the right compression for your images (and/or file) at 300DPI.

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