Graphic designers are often inventive individuals who enjoy working alone and proving professional creativity with each piece of work. However, they operate in the digital universe almost entirely and sometimes it’s hard for them to figure out the needs and demands of analog behavior.
Although graphic designers have a lot in common with their print design colleagues, there are some things that make the two jobs different. This is the main cause of misunderstandings among print and graphic designers and it usually leads to unfortunate end results when the work gets published.
Misconceptions may occur in many fields, including formats, tools, workflow, and even the basic terminology. If you are a diligent graphic designer who loves working and learning new things, then you should know what makes your job different.
In this post, we will show you five things a graphic designer should learn from print design. Let’s take a look!
Print Design Tips for Graphic Design Professionals
Before we begin discussing the most important tips of the subject, we want to explain the two concepts to eliminate possible confusion.
According to Wikipedia, graphic design is the process of visual communication and problem-solving through the use of typography, photography, and illustration. On the other hand, print design is a subset of graphic design.
Wikipedia defines it as a form of visual communication used to convey information to an audience through intentional aesthetic design printed on a tangible surface, designed to be printed on paper, as opposed to presented on a digital platform.
The last statement is critical because too many things can go wrong while printing a graphic design product to the physical surface. In such circumstances, it is necessary to identify possible issues and make products that are perfectly suitable for printing. Here are five things you should keep in mind:
1. Convert files from RGB to CMYK
As you probably know already, colors play a major role in both graphic and print design. However, the way you define colors can vary greatly from graphic to print. Of course, we are talking about the difference between RGB and CMYK.
What does it mean?
RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue, while CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. The difference is that graphic designers mostly use RGB to create their visuals on laptops or desktop computers, while printers rely on CMYK color schemes to craft hard copies.
Jake Gardner, a branding expert at the resume help agency, explains that, when these two color standards collide, print colors end up fainter than you might expect: “For this reason, professional print designers will always suggest working in CMYK right from the beginning of your graphic design project.”
Another option is to convert the file from RGB to CMYK before you order printing. That way, it is guaranteed that what you see is what you get, so you won’t have to worry about the outcome of your work once it is printed.
2. Take care of the fonts
Another detail that can interfere with the hard copy of your work is typography. Too many times graphic designers use one sort of font just to see it totally ruined and unreadable upon printing. This is exactly why you have to outline the fonts to prevent the disastrous outcome.
There are a few things you can do to ensure the highest quality of typography in print documents. Here are some of them:
– Font matching: Don’t assume that every device uses the same fonts. You should be smarter than that and make sure to use well-known typography that suits both devices – your computer and the printer. This type of matching is quintessential if you want the copy to come out flawless.
– Mind the font size: Gigantic fonts always look foolish on print materials, while tiny letters are impossible to read. Finding a balance is essential, so we encourage you to use a font size 10 to 14 for longer pieces of textual content. On the other side, headlines can be twice as big (18 to 28).
– Take advantage of negative space: Whitespace can impact the readability of the document as much as your font selection. Don’t be afraid of using it to distinguish between headlines, subheadings, and paragraphs.
3. Beware of proportions and image resolution
Another thing you have to take into account is that digital and print images are not the same. Yes, they look the same when you look at the two variants, but they are totally different in technical terms.
When it comes to digital images, you will never use inches or centimeters to measure dimensions. Graphic designers use pixels instead and they multiply height and width to calculate the size of a digital photo.
At the same time, the resolution is simply defined as the number of pixels per image. We use the measure called dpi (dots per image) to quantify the quality of a visual element. Now, how does it affect print design?
This is how it works – online files almost always have a resolution of 72 dpi, while print images should come in a resolution of 300 dpi. When you want to prepare a product for printing, you need to resize the image without changing the resolution.
The only exception occurs if you are about to print a large piece of paper or any other document. In that case, you can apply a lower resolution as well because it won’t jeopardize the quality and viewers will be able to see it at a longer distance.
4. Don’t forget the bleeds
A bleed is a well-known concept in print design that many graphic designers are not familiar with. What does it mean?
The bleed is a term used to describe the cutting of edges of a paper document. Since printers essentially grab each sheet of paper by the edges to feed it through the printer, no printer is capable of printing all the way to the outer edge of the material.
In practice, it means any piece of text, image, logo, or other visual that spreads through the entire template will end up slightly cut off once the document is printed. Almost every printer out there is making minor moves in the process and thus creating ugly white lines on a document.
This is exactly why you need to understand the concept of bleed margins and prepare digital products for flawless printing. The easiest way to prevent possible problems is to leave a certain margin for the bleed.
To put it simply, you can leave some space around the edges of the document just in case the printer grabs it while cutting. The usual bleed size is 3mm for all edges of the file.
5. Proofread before and after printing
The last tip on our list applies to every design niche. Namely, you should never go public with your documents before proofreading and editing. If anything goes wrong with your content, you are at risk of ruining professional credibility and jeopardizing the authority of your client or business.
Bearing this in mind, the first thing you need to do is to proofread the document single-handedly. You should also invite colleagues or even your friends to do the same thing because outsiders can often notice irregularities before you do.
Besides that, we strongly encourage you to make use of proofreading and editing tools. Such apps can get the work done within seconds and they never get distracted or tired. Some of the most popular solutions include:
- Grammarly: It is by far the most frequently used proofreading plugin with millions of users from all over the world.
- Hemingway: This app can quickly proofread your texts, but it also comes with a useful readability score that reveals how simple or complex your prose is.
When you are done with the pre-printing proofreads, we recommend you to make a test copy of your design. Sometimes the easiest way to spot a mistake is to hold the actual paper in your hands and read it, so don’t hesitate to do it before making more copies.
What are the differences between graphic and print design? Generally speaking, the two jobs are almost identical, but even the smallest differences can spoil the fun and make the end product useless. This is why you have to learn the secrets of print design and apply them to your digital products before crafting any hard copies.
In this article, we showed you five things a graphic designer should learn from print design. Have you ever made a print design mistake that ruined your graphic design product? Let us know in comments – we would love to see your experiences!
Alice Jones is a full-time graphic designer and a part-time blogger from San Francisco, California. Alice specializes in all subjects related to graphic and print design, but she is also a passionate explorer of topics like self-branding and personal growth. Alice is the mother of two kids and a dedicated long-distance runner.