General Artwork Specs
To make things easy, we’ll let you know what we ask for when it comes to transforming your digital artwork into a finished printed product that you can hold in your hands.
Firstly, design! Most graphic designers out there will be using software such as Adobe’s InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop to create/collate the artwork they intend to print. There are dozens of other programs out there too that all offer the same services. Take your pick! After you’re happy with your design we generally ask for that to be emailed to us, or uploaded to a file-sharing website and shared with us. Here are some key things that we look for to make sure your file is print-ready.
- For anything that needs to be printed, we ask that you always use CMYK colour in your chosen design program. Other colour profiles such as RGB and PMS are also used in the design/print industry, but for other reasons that we will discuss a bit further down.
- Before you export your file, please make sure your fonts are embedded or outlined. This isn’t always necessary but is good practice. If this isn’t done and we need to make changes to your design for any reason, we may have to ask you to send us the font(s) you have used.
- Make sure your file is exported as a vector PDF. All major graphic design/publishing programs will have this as an option. Designs with multiple pages (for example brochures or booklets) are to be provided in a multi-page PDF.
- For designs with embedded raster photos or illustration (keep reading for an explanation), please make sure you use the highest resolution possible. 300dpi is a print standard we live by.
- This is a big one… Crop marks and bleed! Probably the main issue we run into is files being sent to us without crop marks and a minimum of 3mm bleed. This will be described in greater detail below.
The team at Mint Printing will always check submitted design files and confirm if they are ready for print, so if anything we outlined above sounded like gibberish or seemed a bit too daunting, never fear! We have knowledgeable designers ready to eliminate the stress and take care of it all.
CMYK Colour & Rich Black
Computer screens and other digital devices display colours in RGB (Red, Green, Blue), however we print using the CMYK colour model (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black). These are two different ranges of colour. Take fluro colours for example: These show up fine on a screen (with a lightsource behind them) but are physically impossible to recreate on paper, so these colours will always come out dull or dark if not converted properly. That’s why it is crucial that you always design in CMYK.
The ‘K’ in CMYK refers to the amount of black being used. If your design has medium to large areas of only black, we strongly recommend that you use a ‘rich black’ to ensure a nice solid/dark result. Rich black is an ink mixture of 100% black over one or more of the other C, M, and Y colours, resulting in a darker/deeper tone than only 100% black can generate. A good mixture for rich black is 50% C, 50% M, 50% Y, and 100% black (written 50/50/50/100). This may decrease to lower percentages for thinner paper stocks and we generally don’t like using rich blacks on thin/tiny fonts or delicate designs.
RGB is still a great colour space to work in if you know your designs are only going to appear on screens (for example your website or social media) but most businesses would have a version of their logo or branding in RGB and CMYK for both digital and print purposes. PMS is a universal colour matching system that is also used in the world of print. Unlike CMYK, these colours are pre-mixed in a specific way to assure 100% colour matching consistency. In saying that, we have found that you can match most PMS colours in CMYK. It’s best to contact us if you have any questions or doubts in this area, we’ll tell you what you need to know.
Vector vs. Raster
A raster (or bitmap) image (for example JPG, PNG, or TIFF) is made up of thousands (or millions) of tiny squares called ‘pixels’ that can only be enlarged by literally scaling each tiny square up. This makes the image look blurry or pixelated at bigger sizes. The more pixels within the image, the smoother and sharper it looks. Raster images need to be supplied at a minimum resolution of 300dpi (dots per inch) in order to look crisp when printed.
Vector graphics (for example PDF, AI, or EPS,) aren’t made up of pixels at all. They are created using paths that are defined by a start and end point. These paths can be used to create simple line drawings or complex colourful diagrams with hundreds and thousands of unique shapes. Each point has a defined position on the X and Y axis meaning the file information can be exported and scaled up to any size without pixelation or distortion, making them ideal for graphic design, typography, and print! For example, the same logo file will look perfect on a business card and even scaled up to a massive banner or billboard.
Crop Marks & Bleed
Crop marks (also known as trim marks) tell us where we have to cut your printed materials, giving you your finished product at the correct size. Crop marks are represented by small vertical and horizontal hairlines marked on each corner of the exported PDF. Your design program will have crop or trim options when you are exporting – make sure they are ticked! Your software will also have something called ‘bleed’ that you should be aware of.
Bleed is a printed area that extends beyond the crop marks. Allowing a minimum of 3mm bleed guarantees that you won’t see an accidental non-printed white border if the piece is cut fractionally off-centre. It is basically extra artwork on all edges to safeguard against shifts when trimming.
Lastly, there’s something we call ‘the safe zone’… Another 3mm buffer zone but this time on the inside of the crop marks. This ensures important text or graphics are not cut off when the document is trimmed down. Our print registration and finishing equipment is extremely accurate however it is best practice to include 3mm bleed and a 3mm safe zone buffer.