Images usually follow two different color schemes — RGB and CMYK. But the question remains, “Is RGB or CMYK better for print?” RGB stands for red-green-blue. These are the primary colors of light and are used to represent all colors on a computer display. As you probably know, the primary colors of pigment are red, yellow and blue. In printing, these hues are more precisely selected as magenta, yellow and cyan. With the addition of black, these are the four ink colors used in most printers. Together, they are abbreviated as CMYK for cyan-magenta-yellow-black. Clearly, you’ll be using more than these four colors in your designs. Programs used for design assign codes to each custom color, which tells the printer what percentage of ink to use in each tiny section of a print. When making your design digitally, keep in mind that what you see on your screen will not be quite as it appears after printing it. Be sure to go through a few test prints to make sure the color that shows up on paper accurately represents your vision.
Resolution is especially crucial for print design. The resolution of the image or graphics determines the quality of the final physical product. Two terms factor into the resolution of your printed image — DPI and PPI. Although they are similar, each plays a different role. DPI, or dots per inch, is the density of ink within each inch of a printed surface. This term is most important during the actual printing process and means little for web design due to it coming into play once an image prints on to a surface. Equipment set to require greater DPI means a higher quality image. PPI, or pixels per inch, is how many pixels are displayed each inch of screen space. The higher the number of pixels in an image, the better quality the image will be. Lack of pixels causes distortion, blurriness and overall loss of quality. PPI has an interesting relationship with how an image appears once it is in print. A higher number of pixels per inch condenses the size of a print but also increases the quality. So to see the best results, you must determine the correct PPI for the desired quality and quantity. A good rule of thumb is to print at 300 PPI. This recommendation correlates with the maximum amount that the human eye can recognize, and as a result, will generally mean a quality physical image.
Deciding when a file for a particular project is “print-ready” can be confusing, and many less experienced designers choose the one they are most familiar with and consider it to be sufficient for their purposes. But, the type of file you select does matter to the overall quality of a printed image. So, what does print-ready mean? Characterization of file types falls into two different formats — vector and raster. Raster images use pixels which are tiny colored areas on a display screen that arrange themselves to form an image. These types of images are what you commonly see online. Vector images are free from pixel constraint that scale to any size without loss of quality. Usually, specific image software is necessary to create vector images. Which file is best for printing? More specifically, the five most common file types in print design include: JPG/JPEG: As the default file format on digital cameras, JPGs are saved using the appropriate resolution and correct color space. By default, JPG images print in CMYK. We will talk more about printing in CMYK later in this article. PDF: Another widely used file format due to its preservation of original content and appearance no matter how the viewer sees the image. EPS: Vector graphics are most commonly saved in this format upon completion, and can still be scaled indefinitely using this file type. PNG: This file type excels by delivering high image quality and supporting transparent backgrounds or opaque features within the image. TIFF: Exclusive to print images, its high image quality and large file size makes it a preferred method of printing out designs. Compressing the image does not reduce its quality unlike most of the file types above. There are many other general files types as well as those exclusive to specific programs and operating systems, but to have the most success, use the file types above.
The final product affects how you should go about designing and printing it. Package Design: Great package and labeling design allow your brand to stand apart from other products on display. This category provides for the most creative print design because only the most attractive concepts come to life and make it to the market. Brochure Design: Brochure stands are packed with loads of information in cookie-cutter formats that passersby can stroll right past. Making sure your specific brochure is formatted in an exciting way that clearly illustrates the company logo, call-to-action, and website helps provide the best results. Catalog Design: While a brochure provides a sneak peek and compels an audience to learn more, your catalog should maintain that excitement and get those interested to know precisely what you offer and make a sale. Arranging your inventory in a way that is easy to browse but different from the competition is crucial. Decal Design: Decals come in many forms. These graphics can include anything your company is passionate about and wants to distribute or make visible. Ensuring your decals parallel your company’s brand and image goes a long way. Book Cover Design: Although the old saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” that is exactly what many consumers do. Even the most creative writers need a great graphic on their books covers to differentiate their work from the rest. Business Card Design: Every type of company wants their employees equipped with a memorable business card. Staff can use these to make connections and expand your business. While these are common categories that many print designs can fall under, the choice is really up to the designer’s creativity.