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Design To Print - DRYPRINTS

Design To Print

Design To Print
May 25, 2011 admin

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the print press is merciless,  we’ve heard it time and time again garbage-in-garbage-out.  We’ve all had the painful experience before, the anticipation, hours of work, years of experience, how could anything go wrong, i’m a designer!.  Those final moments when that brochure you’re so proud of arrives at your doorstep, only to find you’ve dropped the ball, how could it be!

Even the best of us still feel that slight skip in the beat of our heart every time we submit a file to print.   Here’s a few things to think about before you submit any  file for production.


I know, I know, you just gotta that Grilled Cheese BTN font on your next poster.  That’s great but unless your local printed has the same “beach side BBQ” taste in design, they probably don’t have the same font. Don’t believe it’s a problem, next time you have some free time on your hands, mosey on over to your font folder and hit delete, then start going through all your favorite text files, not a pretty picture.

Before you save the files your submitting to print, don’t forget to first flatten or turn your text to outlines.

In Photoshop you would flatten your layers, in Illustrator you would create outlines.


To flatten image layers:

  1. Open your image in Photoshop
  2. Click “Layer” in your upper menu bar and choose “Flatten” from the drop-down options.
  3. Re-save the image


To convert to outline:

  1. Select the type object.
  2. Choose Type > Create Outlines.


Now this isn’t a physics lesson on chromatics or color theory, but it is a lesson you’ll want to remember.  It’s important to note that your monitor doesn’t secrete ink to make the image you see before you, and that issue of seventeen magazine you just can’t seem to let go of, doesn’t have tiny light emitting diodes displaying your favorite teen hairstyle article.  When you design for ink, use the colors printers use: Cyan Magenta Yellow and Black, not the colors monitors use Red Green & Blue.

The Tale of RGB

Simply but RGB is an additive color mode, which means you add the Red, Green and Blue light into a black background ( like your monitor ) to get the colors you want.  The more light you add the brighter, or whiter, everything gets.  The problem is you can’t add colored lights to paper.

The tale of CMYK

CMYK is a subtractive color mode, which means you subtract light from your white piece of paper by adding more and more ink.  The more ink you add, the darker everything gets.

To help you visualize this a little better, think of the color black, if there is such a thing.  To make black in RGB, you would have to remove all colors, right.  To make black in CMYK you would add all the colors ( kind of, see our article on printing black ).

So basically RGB is for on screen colors, CMYK is for printing.  If you try and use RGB to print on paper, you’ll probably end up disappointed.


Designing for web and designing for print can sometimes get us into trouble.  Things that look good on screen don’t always look good on paper, and things that look good on paper are usually to big (in files size) to place online.  Printers mostly print at about 300dpi, that’s 300 dots per square inch.  Your monitor on the other hand has a resolution of 72ppi, that’s pixels per inch.

Ok now don’t go crazy trying to find the dpi setting on your favorite design program, there isn’t one,  monitors have pixels, ink makes dots .  Pixels are square and dots are… dots.  Printers will translate 1 dot per pixel, so it’s basically the same thing

For the most part when you are designing for print be sure to design at no less than 300ppi, more is ok, but never less.  Ask your printer what ppi to design your particular project before starting,  Once you start, trying to convert up to 300ppi will cause a loss of quality.