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Print Design World

Print design, print processing, print media

8:02 pm on Feb 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I am a Web Designer/Print Designer. I have stronger web skills than print. I do occasionally design for print work, but nothing big. Business cards, flyers (normal letter sizes), etc.

I just wanted to know what goes into the whole print side of things right after design and proof. Or the certain steps to consider when starting a print work. I know Photoshop, Illustrator pretty well. I know InDesign pretty well as well, but never had any projects where I use it.

What exactly am I looking for. For example say I was asked to do a poster design say 18" by 25" with the following 2 possible criteria.

a) The poster has a photo of models (so actual photographs) and there needs to be nice abstract art on the back and a good Typography design.

b) Just text minimum of 6 pantone colors (for cheap printing). Just basic text poster.

What I know:
- It needs to be at least 300dpi or higher unless its vector graphic
- Must work in CMYK color set on photoshop or Illustrator
- If its solid colors I should check color sheets for correct pantone colors etc.
- Proper bleed lines
- Key: Proof read text and such

Knowing that, what else do I need to know, and what happens after the design stages. Am I responsible for communicating with printers. Should I know more about the printing process? If yes, what types are there? Are there tools I need to use to make sure the right colors are achieved? Is what I see on screen never going to be the same on print?

I am the type that would like to be a fully functional agency, but a 1 man show. I am a designer that can program in PHP, MYSQL, Javascript, XHTML, CSS. I do have an eye for design. I would love to know more about the print side as much as possible.

Please don't educate me on how print design is a dying art.

9:46 pm on Feb 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member rocknbil is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

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The #1 problem I had in my 15 years in the print industry? Convincing designers not to design problems into their layouts.

The one example I'll give you has to do with understanding the effects of dot gain and last printable dot. Imagine a blend/gradient from a color to white.

On the web, no problem. In print, when the tones of your gradient get to press, two things happen. The halftone dots used to create tones get "squashed" and "fatten up" due to the fact that inks is a liquid, pressed onto paper, causing an increase in density (darkness) of tones. This is called dot gain and can be controlled, but only by sacrificing one end or the other of the range (shadows or highlights.) When those tones get to the lightest end, in the 3-5% dot range, they "drop off."

The combination of these two effects causes and increase in contrast of the entire tonal range, and right where you want it to "drop off" to white of the paper, it hardens and forms a line, ruining your smooth gradient to white.

The solution is to never "fade to white" - always fade to a 3-5% tone, and let that bleed off the paper. Most designers react to this with something like "this is a printing problem, don't ask me to solve your problems for you." It's not. It's a lack of understanding of the printing process. And it's not one we can solve without redoing your artwork.

So my advice is if you want to design for print, you need to understand printing. Some key trouble areas:

- dot gain
- last/first printable dot (works on the other end too; you CANNOT fade to a "full 100% black" in full color printing causing does to "plug" as described above, in reverse.)
- Ink tacking (related to above, if you could fade to a solid black, successive layers and overprints wouldn't stick. Also relates to UCR/GCR below.)
- Trapping (spreading and choking) (spreading one color into another so that a white line doesn't form where two colors adjoin)
- gray component replacement and under color removal, and when to use which (UCR/GCR)
- Special applications of printing colored type (comes into play with trapping)
- When to use overprint, and when not to
- Digital issues: correctly linked images versus "embedded" issues; using DTP-compatible programs; preparing for service provider
- Folding and trimming: I always found it amazing that few designers understand you can't split a page into three equal parts and have it fold properly into a 3 panel brochure. You have to have a short panel. This is true of any folded material.
- Understanding stock sheet print sizes. You might not care, but your client will really care when he gets the estimates for the difference between a bleed and a non-bleed. (understand what a bleed is too . . . )
- Understanding the relationship between stock quality/color, DPI of printing and choosing the best DPI for your print project.

There are more, these are just the big ones. I hope you're gathering one important point: you need to understand the print process. This is where you should start, learn about the industry you're about to dive into. It will save you a lot of frustration.

Print is not a dying art, yet. What is growing less and less of an art is preparing the artwork for it properly.

10:48 pm on Feb 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator travelin_cat is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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That was a rockin' answer rocknbil
2:39 pm on Feb 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Wow rocknbil. Thanks for the reply. You definitely know your stuff. I'll keep you posted. Thanks again. Very informative indeed. Good place to start and good tips.