What do I need to know when designing graphics for print?

What is a bleed?

In the printing world, the bleed refers to the very edges of a document. Because printers are mechanical they can wiggle a little during the printing process leaving unwanted white edges on your printed designs. Because of this, a ⅛” bleed area is recommended if you ever intend to print any design elements all the way to the edge. For example, if your business card is 3 ½” by 2” you would design on 3 ¾” by 2.25”. It would be something like this

What are trim marks?

The red trim marks represent the finished size of a document. After we print your design, it goes through a trimming process to make sure the design is delivered in it’s intended size. This is also why it’s important to have a bleed. Printers and trimming machines have a slight variation in tolerance.


What is the safe area/margin for?

The safe margins are where you want to keep all your important graphics like your logo or text. This is to keep them safe from being cut off or too close to the edges after trimming.


What is Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio of an image is the image’s width divided by its height. For example, if you have an 8” by 10” document, the ratio would be a 4×5 ratio. If the ratio of your designs do not match the ratio of the printed document, you may have some undesired effects like cropping or stretching your image to fit the document it’s printed on. To Avoid this, determine the ratio of your document before you begin designing.


What is resolution?

The resolution is a measurement of the detail your document will be printed at. This is referred to as DPI or Dots Per Inch. Almost all documents prepared for printing should be at 300 dpi when it’s 100% of the final print size. If it’s less than this, your image could look blurry or pixelated. In some cases, a higher resolution means a more detailed image but it also means larger files and much longer upload times. 300 dpi is the standard amongst most print companies because it is crisp and detailed enough for the human eye.


What is the difference between CMYK and RGB?

CMYK refers to 4 colors Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black and RGB refers to 3 colors Red Green and Blue. These color combinations are used to create millions of combinations of colors in your design.

CMYK colors are primarily used by printers, whereas RGB colors are used for screen monitors. If you want your designs to match your printed document as close as possible, you should change the settings in your design program to design for CMYK. It’s also important to note, if you export or print your design in jpeg, it will be converted back to RGB. If you print an RGB graphic, your design may still be okay but the colors will vary slightly.


What are fold marks?

When designing a folded brochure, you want to set fold marks so you know where your document is going to fold in relation to your design. This helps you not place graphics near where it will be folded. It’s important to keep your design elements within each panels safe margin.


What is the difference between vector and raster?

Vector images are not pixel based. Meaning, they use mathematical formulas to define the edges and contents of an image. The advantage of vector design is you get very high-quality graphics no matter what size you’re printing and the file size of your design document stays small.

Raster Images or a collection of dots or pixels. Each pixel has it’s own color value and a transparency value. Every photo taken from a camera is a raster image because it’s a collection of pixels that are packed tightly together to make you think it’s an image. Raster images work great in design as long as the quality of the image matches the quality of your design document. Where raster images fall short is when you try to scale it beyond its quality. You may get blurry graphics in your final design. Also, if your raster image is too high in quality, it may increase your file size considerably.

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