Artwork Guide 🧐

How to get your artwork ready for print

General Artwork Guidelines

When it comes to turning your digital artwork into a tangible printed product, we’ve streamlined the process to make it as straightforward as possible. Here’s a breakdown of what we require and some essential considerations for ensuring your file is print-ready:

Design Software: Most designers use industry-standard software like Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop to create and organise their artwork. We encourage you to use the program you’re most comfortable with. Once your design is finalised, you can upload it on our website at the time of ordering, email it to us or upload it to a file-sharing platform.

Colour Mode: For all printed materials, we recommend using CMYK colour mode in your design program. While other colour profiles like RGB and PMS/Pantones have their uses, CMYK is the standard for print and the most applicable for digital printing. Consistency in colour profiles ensures accurate and vibrant results.

Font Embedding or Outlining: Before exporting your file, it’s crucial to embed or outline your fonts. This step ensures that the fonts you’ve used in your design are maintained, even if we need to make adjustments. If fonts aren’t embedded or outlined, we may need you to provide the specific fonts used.

File Format: Export your file as a print ready PDF. Most major graphic design and publishing programs offer this option. If your design includes multiple pages, such as brochures or booklets, please provide a multi-page PDF.

Resolution for Raster Elements: For designs containing embedded raster photos or illustrations, use the highest resolution possible. A minimum of 300dpi is the standard for print quality. This ensures sharp and clear images in the final printed product.

Crop Marks and Bleed: Crop marks and bleed are crucial for a smooth printing process. Include crop marks, and ensure there is a minimum of 3mm bleed around your design. Crop marks guide where the final cut will be made, and bleed ensures that there’s no unwanted white space at the edges. This is a critical step to prevent any issues during the printing and trimming process.

Our team at 123 Print is dedicated to ensuring that your submitted design files are print-ready. We have a thorough review process, and any issues that may arise are identified and addressed during prepress. If any aspect of the above seems daunting, don’t worry – our knowledgeable designers are ready to assist and eliminate any stress associated with the printing process. Your satisfaction and the quality of the final product are our top priorities.

CMYK Colour & Rich Black

Digital screens and various electronic devices showcase colours using the RGB (Red, Green, Blue) model, while print materials utilise the CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) colour model. These represent distinct colour ranges. Consider fluorescent colours, for instance—they display well on screens with backlighting but are challenging to replicate on paper. Hence, it’s vital to design in CMYK to ensure accurate colour reproduction in print.

The ‘K’ in CMYK denotes the use of black. For designs with significant black areas, using ‘rich black’ is recommended for a solid and dark outcome. Rich black is an colour mixture involving 100% black combined with one or more of the other CMY colours, resulting in a deeper tone than 100% black alone. Our recommended rich black formulation is 40% Cyan, 30% Magenta, 30% Yellow, and 100% black (notated as 40/30/30/100). Adjustments may be made for thinner paper stocks, and caution is exercised with delicate fonts or intricate designs.

While RGB remains suitable for designs destined solely for screens (e.g., websites or social media), most businesses maintain both RGB and CMYK versions of their branding for digital and print purposes. Additionally, the Pantone Matching System (PMS) is a universal colour matching system used in print. Unlike CMYK, PMS colours are pre-mixed for precise colour matching. CMYK does offer a close colour match to a lot of Pantone colours. 

Crop Marks & Bleed

Crop marks, also known as trim marks, indicate the precise cutting points for your printed materials, ensuring the final product is the correct size. These marks typically appear as small vertical and horizontal lines at each corner of the exported PDF. When exporting from your design program, make sure to enable the crop or trim options.

Understanding ‘bleed’ is essential. Bleed is an area beyond the crop marks that gets printed. Maintaining a minimum of 3mm bleed prevents any unintended non-printed white borders if the piece is slightly off-center during cutting. Essentially, it involves extending the artwork on all edges to account for potential shifts during trimming. As a standard in printing, a 0-1mm shift is allowed internationally, although the aim is always for 0mm. The extra artwork outside the crop marks accommodates these minor shifts during printing.

Lastly, there’s the concept of ‘safe zone.’ This is an additional 5mm buffer zone located inside the crop marks. It acts as a precaution to ensure vital text or graphics remain intact and aren’t cut off during the trimming process. While our print registration and finishing equipment are highly accurate, best practices involve incorporating 3mm bleed and a 5mm safe zone buffer to account for any potential variations.

Vector vs. Raster

Raster or bitmap images, such as JPG, PNG, or TIFF files, consist of numerous tiny squares known as ‘pixels.’ Enlarging these images involves scaling up each pixel individually, resulting in a blurry or pixelated appearance at larger sizes. The image’s smoothness and sharpness depend on the number of pixels it contains. To ensure a crisp printed output, raster images should be provided at a minimum resolution of 300 dots per inch (dpi).

On the other hand, vector graphics, found in files like .PDF, .AI, or .EPS, don’t rely on pixels at all. They are crafted using paths defined by a start and end point. These paths can create anything from simple line drawings to intricate, colourful diagrams with numerous unique shapes. Each point on a vector graphic has a precise position on the X and Y axis. This characteristic allows the file information to be exported and scaled to any size without experiencing pixelation or distortion, making vector graphics ideal for graphic design, typography, and print. For instance, the same logo file can seamlessly appear on a business card or be scaled up for use on a massive banner or billboard.

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