How to create artwork ready for print

Preparing artwork correctly for print, can be a minefield for new designers or those more familiar with working online. There are many mistakes that are easy to make (and costly!) and they can seriously impact on the quality of your final printed material.

Here are a few tips to ensure your artwork will deliver the results you want:

  • Know the difference between RGB and CMYK colours and select the right system for print.
    RGB stands for red, green, blue and is an additive colour system where light is used to mix a wide range of colours.  
    Digital monitors work in RGB which causes a problem when you’re creating a design for print as print requires CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black/key), a subtractive colour system where inks are mixed together to create a smaller range of colours, a little like using an artist’s palette. 
    If you fail to select the CMYK colour mode when creating your design, you may end up with colours that look awesome in RGB but which cannot be reproduced in print.
  • Keep your total ink coverage below 280%. The typical CMYK colour mix gets darker as you add more ink. When selecting your % colour breakdown it’s important to keep in mind that final colours that use large % amounts of each of the CMYK colours quickly become oversaturated and produce a muted and dull result.  The colour may look fine on screen but the printed result will be different. 
  • Be careful with the use of multiple inks when applied to text – this can result in text that appears blurry and difficult to read. Create perfectly sharp text by using just one process colour e.g. 100% black will be as crisp as you can get. 
  • If you want to create a solid black, don’t use Photoshop black which is a 300% total coverage and is a lot of ink to add to paper! Instead manually set your black (to 100% for text as already recommended) or to create “rich black”, a popular combination for which there are many recommendations – our preference is for 20,20,20,100%(CMYK).
  • Select fonts and line weights that will not lose detail in print. A limit of 8pt text size is a good place to start although it depends on which typeface you use. Even though the quality is not the same as provided by professional printing, you can test by printing a sample on your office copier rather than relying totally on what you see on screen.
  • Always set your resolution to 300dpi including photos and avoid using images taken from the web as the resolution will generally be too low (72dpi). Also ensure your document size is set correctly to begin with as you can’t scale a design up in resolution.
  • Don’t forget the bleed! This extra margin of at least 3mm around your artwork allows for slight adjustments when trimming and avoids any white strips appearing along the edge of the print.
  • Proof read the final version carefully before you send your artwork to us - it may save you a costly reprint!  

If you would like more information contact one of our print specialists.

RGB v CMYK for print
Rich black in printing
Fonts for printing