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3 Print Design Mistakes To Avoid, 2 Tips To Remember

print design tips by the print handbook

Written by Andy Brown

We got in touch with Andy Brown, a graphic designer from Northern Ireland and creator of The Print Handbook to share some words of print design wisdom. Here are his 3 Print Design Mistakes To Avoid and 2 Tips To Remember.

Trifold Leaflets Don’t Have Equal Sections

Trifold Leaflets Don’t Have Equal Sections

I’ll admit it, this is one of the first mistakes I made as a young graphic designer. And I only realised when the leaflet came back from the printers.

Because the last panel of a trifold leaflet has to tuck inside it needs to be slightly smaller. So if you’re designing a typical A4 trifold leaflet the first section would be 100mm wide (this will be the front), the middle section would also be 100mm (this will be the back) and the last section will be 97mm. An alternative split might be 100mm, 99mm and 98mm.

Printer’s will often supply a template or be able to tell you exactly what size each panel should be. Give them a call and ask if you’re not sure.

Be Careful With White Text On Colour

white text printed on colour background

Now, I’m not going to suggest you never use white text on a coloured background. That would be pretty limiting. But do be careful.

100% black text on white is the sensible, solid and boring option. White text on a coloured background is the more flamboyant but potentially riskier choice.
As a designer your job is to know when white text on a colour can be problematic. So be extra careful when…

• The text is very small
• The text weight is very light
• The background uses a tint of a colour (e.g. 30% cyan)
• The background uses more than one CMYK ink (e.g. 50/25/50/0)
• The background is a photo

Any of the above should flag up a potential issue when the job is printed. You may need to make text bigger, change the background colour or make the text weight heavier.

Including Text And Logos In Bitmap Artwork

print design tips vector vs raster artwork

This is a pet peeve of mine. Someone has created some beautiful artwork in Photoshop but they just chuck the logo and text in as well. It comes back from the printers and just doesn’t look as sharp as it could do.

You can solve this by creating your bitmap artwork in Photoshop then placing it into Indesign. Next, put your text and logo on top. You get some lovely bitmap artwork and crisp text and logo.

Choose The Right Size For Your Stock Photos

printing design tips vectors and bitmap

So you’ve created some artwork and now you need a stock photo to fit a space you’ve made for it. You find the perfect one (probably a photo of especially good looking people shaking hands and being gleefully happy about it – that’s the one). Now, do you need to pay for the biggest size? Or could you get away with a smaller version?

Here’s a handy calculation to work out the minimum size you need.

Take the width and height of the image box you’ve created. Let’s assume it’s 60mm by 40mm. Multiple these lengths by 11.811…

60 × 11.811 = 709
40 × 11.811 = 472

This gives you the pixel dimensions needed to be printed at 300dpi. So that’s your minimum size – 709 × 472 pixels. Download an image that is bigger than this size and you’ll be just fine.

Sharpen Your Photos Before Print

Sharpening your photos before print is the sort of thing that adds an extra level of quality to your printed design. Unsharpened images can look fuzzy when printed even if they look great on screen. And on screen it can be very difficult to judge just how much to sharpen an image. It depends on the image, its resolution, the type of paper and printing method.

As a rule of thumb you can view an image at 50% to get a bit of an idea of how sharp it will print – as long as it’s a 300dpi image.

Using the Smart Sharpen tool in Photoshop I normally start at about 70% with a radius of 1px. Take a look and see what seems about right. Be careful not to go too far – you’re better under doing it than over doing it.

See the tutorial below on how to sharpen images.

Final Thoughts

As with most of these technical things if you don’t know then speak to your printer. They’ll be more than happy to help.

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