Whether you need fliers or trade show banners printed, you need it done right the first time. One of the easiest ways to avoid a quick, successful fulfillment of your printing order is to send an image that is unusable to the printer. An insufficient image can add turnaround time and possibly even additional cost that could have been easily avoided by following a few best practices.
Understand that printing and computer screens use different palettes. Most people think red is red. That’s understandable, but when you’re creating red for an image, it isn’t that simple. Most modern computer monitors, televisions, and phone screens render colors in what’s called an RGB format. RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue.
Any color it shows is comprised by mixing these three colors. Printers, however, use the CMYK format. That stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, blacK. This is an important difference.
If possible, before you send your image to the printer, switch your graphics program over to CMYK. If not, understand that the colors will not come out exactly the same as you see on your computer screen.
Make sure your image resolution is high enough for the printing size you want. Most printers will print at a resolution of 300 pixels per inch (often referred to as ppi or dpi) but can be as low as 72 ppi. The general rule is, the higher the ppi, the higher resolution is needed to avoid pixelation. Pixelation is fine for video game characters (as seen below), but not for high-quality images. For more detailed drawings and prints, a higher resolution looks more professional, but how do you know if it’s high enough?
At the bottom of your graphics program, you should see a size for the image. It should look something like this: 4800 X 6000. Divide each of those by your desired resolution (we’ll use 300 ppi), and you end up with a 16 X 20-inch that looks slick and professional.
View your image zoomed out to full size. There is nothing quite so painful in graphic design than finishing your perfect image only to realize you have crafted a beautiful postage stamp. Zoom out to get the truest representation of what the final product will look like.
Avoid overprint. Overprinting is when one image is set to print over the top of another. It can cause innumerable headaches to the unwary. It can cause an undesired blending of colors, or if the darker color is set to print on top, it may obscure a vital part of the image. Your best bet for a better “What you see is what you get” experience is to turn overprint off.
Check your printer’s web site for an FAQ or call them. Your printer is your partner. If you look good, they look good. Check their website for details on their preferred image submission guidelines. Following those guidelines is your best bet for the best turnaround time. While you’re there, make sure they can print the size of media you need. Look for a design template that will ease your workload.
Communication is key. Talking to the professionals early and often in the design process is a recipe for success.
Printing is a vital part of most “real word” marketing strategies. Flags, posters, and trade show banners offer appealing ways to catch the eyes of would-be customers. The print medium has a great return on investment, and with time and attention to detail, you can make sure your printing experience is a good one.
Sean Miller has been blogging about technology, gadgets, and games for nearly 10 years. Based in beautiful Ann Arbor, Michigan, Sean enjoys walking Rock, his faithful Bloodhound, when he’s not writing.