Artwork Basics

Microsoft Word and Publisher are not professional design programs! There is a reason that Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress cost a lot of money. They not only have the tools to help you fine tune your design but also help you supply the correct file to the printer. When you send your Word document to the printer there is a good chance there will be a problem with it. Whether it be RGB files, low res images or just the lack of trim marks or bleed. These problems will need to be fixed before it goes to press and could well result in the artwork having to be re-created.

So what do you need to think about when producing artwork?

CMYK screen pattern
CMYK printers screen, the size of the dots will vary in size depending on the final colour.

RGB versus CMYKRed, Green, Blue (RGB) are the colours used on Computer monitors. So anything for the web needs to be in RGB. Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black (CMYK) are the colours used for printing. A four colour printing press will have a plate for each colour. Anything being professionally printed will need to be in CMYK (see spot colours later). Unfortunately just converting RGB to CMYK won’t always work. If you have any solid black line work (fonts/logos) when converting from RGB the colours will be spread amongst the four CMYK colours not a solid black. This will result in the lines having a ‘blurry’ look as they go through the screening process. Photos could also look ‘dulled’ after the conversion. An RGB image will look different on screen to when it’s printed in CMYK.

Image Size (Resolution) – Images are measured in pixels per inch (ppi). A computer screen uses 72dpi. So anything used on your website needs to be 72dpi anything larger won’t be visibly different but will take longer to download. Online pdfs can also be at 72dpi if they are only going to be viewed on-screen. Even on small files this can reduce the file size dramatically. For printing presses images will need to be 300dpi. Simply increasing an image file from a 72dpi website image to 300dpi will result in a blurry result when printed. So no, I can’t take your images or logo off a website to use when producing artwork. If you can’t supply the original logo it will need to be redrawn (ideally this will be a Vector image – see File Types page).

72pi versus 300dpi graphics

Bleed – Any design that has colour/images running off the edge of the page will need ‘Bleed‘. This means the image has to run off the edge of the page by 2-3mm. This helps the printer when trimming. If you don’t use bleed there is a good chance there will be a white line between the edge of the paper and start of the image on the finished product.Crop marks and bleed - Artwork basiscs

Crop marks (or trim marks) – How does the printer know where to trim? Yes you’ve guessed it, they’ll use crop marks set out on the artwork. Note that this isn’t always the case, your printer will advise. But you do need to have the ability to supply artwork with them.

Spot Colours (Pantone), if you’re designing in just one or two colours your software will need to be able to output just the two colours for plate making.

View more Graphic Design tips:

Graphic Design – So what is it?

File Types – Know the difference between jpg and eps and when to use them.

Artwork Basics – RGB vs CMYK, bleed and trims.

Typography – The forgotten art? Kerning and quotations

Magazine Design Basics – Design tips for producing a magazine, leaflet or brochure.

The Eyes Have It – Leading the eye in graphic design