Relationships are key to any business. As a graphic designer there will be times your clients will refer you directly to their preferred print shop. You both will likely speak similar lingo (professionally speaking), so working directly with one another will cut our any confusion.
In my ten year career as a graphic designer, I’ve had the opportunity to work at different print shops. This has allowed me to work directly with a printer, and in many cases, do the printing myself. I’ve acquired a perspective on both sides of the fence, as a designer and a printer.
With a decade under my belt, lately I’m working with a younger generation of graphic designers. They make mistakes, as all beginners do, and could make better preparations for printing. In light of my conversations with the upcoming generation, I would like to share some tips for graphic designers to work more efficiently with printers. You will be happier with the end product, and your local printers will look forward to working with you.
Don’t Be Afraid to Bleed
Probably the number one tip I would tell any designer. Make sure you create bleed for your designs. Different printers prefer different sizes, but I generally recommend an eighth of an inch to a quarter of an inch on all sides. If the design or background is more complicated, a printer creating the bleed may distort or alter the design in an unappealing way. Take control, create the bleed yourself ahead of time. No one knows the design better than you.
Size Does Matter
Of course I’m talking about file size. Don’t send something to print that’s linked to excessively large files. Or expect a letterhead to be shrunk down from multiple thirty inch by forty inch document sizes. Both true, recent stories unfortunately. If you’re designing something that will be physically two feet by four feet or smaller, do it at 100% scale. Consider a fraction of the size if it’s four by eight or larger (a typical large sign size for printers). If you are designing in vector editing software, scaling up won’t be an issue. If your designing in raster editing software, be sure to use appropriate resolution sizes so they can be enlarged.
Create Friends by Creating Outlines
If you’re using a font that you’ve purchased, or a very unique font, chances are that the printer won’t have it. One option is to include the font file with the print file. Another option is to convert text to outlines. Outlining fonts is preferred, in my opinion, because a printer won’t have to load a font they can’t use outside of printing that design. Plus the document will open up fine the first time without any “missing font” messages, which is always nice.
Coloring Means You Care
That’s care with a “K”. CMYK. When possible, please design anything you will need printed in CMYK from the beginning. RGB has a wider range of colors, many of which look muted and disappointing when switched to CMYK. I’m looking at you neon green. Those extremes don’t translate well. It’s a bad feeling for a client to be on board with the design only to have it brought back looking vastly different because the colors weren’t achievable in CMYK.
Take Time to Make Time
As much as it’s in your control, plan on a few extra days to a week for getting the files to your printer. There are usually many jobs they have to schedule. Getting yours early will ease their timetables and likely get you your prints early. That’s guaranteed to make happy clients. Printers are subject to shifting employee schedules, malfunctioning equipment, and emergency rush jobs. Things that can sneak up on you in twenty-four hours. It’s more likely to be a non-issue for you if you can get them the files early.
Don’t Wait, Communicate
When you know which printer you’ll be working with, don’t be afraid to shoot them an email asking about their file requirements. Even if you haven’t started the project yet. Do they prefer any specific formats? What version of software are they running? Do they use DropBox or Hightail for large files? While PDFs and EPS fils are meant to be universal, the software may not be up to date or they prefer a different file format to send to print. It’s easier on them and more reliable for you if you save the format yourself. Like many of these tips, it’s all about coordinating to there’s no surprises with the end product.
I typically read over something three times before I send it to print. If it’s especially text heavy, I’ll have someone else look over it who isn’t as familiar with the project. A fresh set of eyes help. Of course the client should have the chance to read over your design and make sure everything is all right. Problem is, they are usually juggling many things and don’t take the time to do it properly. Now the cost of a reprint may fall to your client, but that still eats up time through setup and actual printing, causing a delay.
Know That You have Options
I find that everything is usually assumed to be printed on white paper. Many printers have different stock options available, usually at just cents more than than the white you would be using. This is great to find out about because it can bring a “wow” factor to impress your client. If you’re designing flyers for a local restaurant, neon colors may be available that save you ink costs (think color printing vs black and white). Textured paper could be available for wedding invitations or baby showers. A linen texture is a beautiful match for these events, as is a pearlized paper (it has a metallic shine). These factors could bump up your design to the next level. All you have to do is ask what is available from your printer.
Plan this out from the start. It will help you think through potential problems during the design process, giving you the chance to avoid them.
You may have caught on that many of these tips are about planning ahead or opening up communication. Developing good design habits to compliment your exceptional work will help you move forward. So take the time to create the bleed needed to print. Discuss with the printer your working with what they require. Go over your work an extra time, and don’t be afraid to ask a friend to proof read before you send it over. These actions will nurture your professional relationships. When relationships are strong, success will follow. Plus, printers won’t dread working with you.