Things to consider when making truly "print ready" artwork.

- 1:13 pm - September 9th, 2013

Things to consider when making truly "print ready" artwork.

September 09, 2013 at 1:13 PM

I personally encourage creativity and people giving something a go themselves. When it comes to designing something for print, the same rules apply as anything else in this world, proper preparation makes a big difference. Unless you know exactly what you are doing it may be save time and stress to call in a designer to create or recreate the design you have in mind. For those of you who want to give it a go yourselves I have outlined some important points to help you with your project.

When preparing your design for print there are a number of technical issues that need to be considered carefully to get the best results.

For example :I had one person say that they thought you take a piece of paper with an image on it and bang it on a machine and there you go. Its by no means as easy as this photocopy method if you want to get truly professional quality.

Without getting too technical, I want to highlight the processes involved in generating truly "print ready" artwork.


RGB (Red Green Blue) is the standard for computer screens and it is what popular household programs such as Microsoft Word and its Clipart typically work in. 

Here is the Wikipedia definition of RGB Colour Space

An RGB color space is any additive color space based on the RGB color model. A particular RGB color space is defined by the three chromaticities of the red, green, and blue additive primaries, and can produce any chromaticity that is the triangle defined by those primary colors. The complete specification of an RGB color space also requires a white point chromaticity and a gamma correction curve.

RGB is an abbreviation for red–green–blue.

Printing on the other hand, offset and even colour inkjets, work in CMYK.

Here is the Wikipedia definition of CMYK

The CMYK color model (process colorfour color) is a subtractive color model, used in color printing, and is also used to describe the printing process itself. CMYK refers to the four inks used in some color printing: cyan, magenta, yellow,and key black. Though it varies by print house, press operator, press manufacturer, and press run, ink is typically applied in the order of the abbreviation.The "K" in CMYK stands for key because in four-color printing, cyan, magenta, and yellow printing plates are carefully keyed, or aligned, with the key of the black key plate. Some sources suggest that the "K" in CMYK comes from the last letter in "black" and was chosen because B already means blue. However, this explanation, although useful as a mnemonic,is incorrect.The CMYK model works by partially or entirely masking colors on a lighter, usually white, background. The ink reduces the light that would otherwise be reflected. Such a model is called subtractive because inks "subtract"brightness from white.In additive color models such as RGB, white is the "additive" combination of all primary colored lights, while black is the absence of light. In the CMYK model, it is the opposite: white is the natural color of the paper or other background, while black results from a full combination of colored inks. To save money on ink, and to produce deeper black tones, unsaturated and dark colors are produced by using black ink instead of the combination of cyan, magenta and yellow.

You can filter through all the technical stuff if you like and just gleen the basic idea of the difference between the two colour models.

Because there is a difference, designers have to make sure that all pictures in the design are in CMYK mode. This may also cause shifts in the colour from when you see it on your screen to when the designer or printer gets it back to you for proofing.

CMYK colours may not be as vibrant as what you originally intended.


Another common problem I have is when a great piece of artwork is supplied to me in PDF format and my computer does not have the exact same fonts as the clients.

A designer like myself can always go searching among their often many font files, backup discs and even the internet for the same or similar font, but often the font may be obscure and difficult to find. It can also take valuable time away from the setup process. If you are using a professional design program I suggest converting all text to curves or outlines, same thing, before sending it to the printer/designer at the other end.

You may now ask what is changing the fonts to outlines or curves, and I am glad you asked?

Most design progams will have a function where, once you have selected all the text, you can then convert the text to outlines or curves, named differently in different programs but meaning the same thing. This function converts all the text to vector, or editable, images so that any other computer will not see it as a font anymore.

WARNING- Do not convert any text until you are sure that it is correct as it cannot be edited/changed after it has been converted.


Images and photos can often be supplied at low resolution making the design look quite horrible.

All images supplied should also be high resolution. 300dpi (dots per inch) is usually the rule in design. In saying that though, I suggest that you do not take an existing low resolution image and change it to 300dpi in your chosen photo editing program because it will still be low resolution.

Lets face it, a bad picture is a bad picture, and no amount of Photoshop genius can make it a good photo.


An image that extends off the edge of the paper after it has been cut to size is called a bleed. I often get a design sent to me that has been made to the finished size and has no extended bleed area.

This will result in fine white lines around the edge of the document as when it has been cut to size, the edge of the white paper shows ever so slightly. This results in an unprofessional finish and an ugly look.

The rule of thumb for bleeds is for the bleed image to extend 2mm all around, particularly for background images.


When preparing your design as "print ready" consider all these things and don't be afraid to ask questions. It is better to ask questions before hand than for you to be slugged with extra design fees and an ugly product.

I may have missed some crucial points as it all comes so naturally but the things I have outlined will hopefully give you a better understanding of some of the issues to consider when preparing truly "print ready" design.

Sometimes it is just easier to let an experienced designer create/recreate the design as it will often be quicker, easier and a much better end result.




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