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Design Tips for Commercial Printing

Get many more print and design tips in our Help Center

What types of images will work ok?

If you are scanning the images yourself from photographs it is better to save them in either tif, or eps format. These image formats will preserve the color and sharpness of your pictures the best.
File formats like gif or jpg compress the pictures color and pixel resolution and this can cause color shifts and blurriness. Since jpg and gif are the most predominant image formats on the web, it follows that it's not a good idea to simply lift an image from someone's website and use it in your layout. low resolution image
You should scan your images using a resolution of 300dpi at the final dimensions you intend to use them so that your colors will look smooth, and hard objects will look sharp. In other words don't scan at 300dpi and then enlarge the picture by 200% in your layout program! This is another reason why you should not use images that are lifted from websites; they are probably only 72dpi in resolution and will look very blurry if printed on a printing press. See our Resolution page for more information on resolution.
If you are using pictures from your digital camera they will work just fine if they are jpgs; the quality of jpg images from digital cameras seems to be much better than jpgs that are used on the web. You must do the math to make sure that it is high enough in pixel resolution though. For instance, if your camera puts out a typical image of 1280 x 960 pixels at 72dpi you get about 17" x 13" of photograph (at 72dpi); this is the same amount of detail as an image which is 4" x 3" at 300dpi so it's safe to reduce or enlarge that image in Publisher up to about 4" x 3" in dimension.

Do I need to send you my fonts?

If you use only the fonts that came with MS Publisher then no. We have them here too.
But if you use any other fonts from other sources then we do need you to gather up copies of them and archive them together using a program like Winzip and send them to us with your layout file.
If you don't know how to do this then just carefully go through your document and make a list of the fonts used. Send that list to us in an email along with your order reference number so that we can find good substitutes for your typefaces.

Will my printed piece look exactly like it does on my computer monitor?

There are some small differences. Scanners and digital cameras create images using combinations of just three colors: Red, Green and Blue (called "RGB"). These are the colors that computers use to display images on your screen. But printing presses print full color pictures using a different set of colors: Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), Yellow and Black (called "CMYK"). So at some stage your RGB file must be translated to CMYK in order to print it on a printing press. This is easily done using an image editing program like PhotoShop or Corel PhotoPaint.
Caution: It's Best If You do the RGB-to-CMYK Conversion of Your Images!
You will have more control over the appearance of your printed piece if you convert all of the images from RGB to CMYK before sending them to us. When we receive RGB images, we do a standard-value conversion to CMYK, which may not be perfectly to your liking. We want you to be happy, so please, take the time to prepare your file properly. We cannot be responsible for sub-par results if you furnish low-res images or RGB images.
Be aware that it is possible to make colors in RGB that you can't make with CMYK. They are said to be "out of the CMYK color gamut". What happens is that the translator just gets as close as possible to the appearance of the original and that's as good as it can be. It's something that everyone in the industry puts up with. So it's best to select any colors you use for fonts or other design elements in your layout using CMYK definitions instead of RGB. Please see our RGB - CMYK Information page for important instructions on getting the results you want.
rgb colors
RGB colors
(what you see on screen)
cmyk colors
CMYK colors
(printing inks will do this)
rgb colors
RGB colors
(what you see on screen)
cmyk colors
CMYK colors
(printing inks will do this)
You most likely won't notice this kind of color shift in a color photograph. It is more likely to happen if you pick a very rich, vibrant color for a background or some other element of your layout. It probably won't look bad, it just won't look exactly the same. But it may not be noticeable at all either. In any event it will look spectacular compared to a piece printed on an inkjet printer.

Color photos don't suffer much from CMYK translation
rgb image
RGB picture
(what you see on screen)
cmyk image
CMYK picture
(printing inks will do this)

Can I use colored text?

It's best not to colorize small text. What happens is that all printing presses have a little bit of variance in the consistency of the position of the different color plates. This is called misregistration. The cyan, magenta, yellow and black portions of the text characters don't line up exactly. So the result is little colored halos around the characters. It's ok to use colored text on large, headline type, or smaller sizes down to about 12 point size, but much smaller than that will be too noticeable and you won't like it. The same thing holds true for white (knock-out) text on a dark or colored background. You can do it but don't use point sizes smaller than about 12 point. Otherwise the words may be hard to read and it will look unprofessional.
mis-registered text
Small text magnified

Small text magnified
Small text magnified

Can I put text over an image?

Be careful about using photographs for backgrounds. If you put text (any color) on top it can be very hard to read. So the secret is to lighten the photograph a lot--more than you may think is necessary. Use a photo editing program like Paint Shop Pro or Adobe PhotoDeluxe.

text over dark backgound       text over light background


bleeds

What are bleeds, and do I need them?

Bleed is the term for printing that goes right to the edge of the paper. The way to do this is to make your document .25" too big in both dimensions. For instance, if the final size is 8.5" x 11" then make your document 8.75" x 11.25". Draw guides on the layout that are .125" from the edge all the way around. Now create your design with the idea that the layout will be cut off where those guides are....because that is precisely what is going to happen. Make sure that any photographs or backgrounds that you want to bleed go clear out to the perimeter of the document, past the guidelines. Then after we have printed your piece we will trim off that extra .125" all the way around and voila! You have color all the way to the edges of your piece. It looks professional....

Not Sure We Can Print From Your File?

If you are not sure that your file will work, you can send it to us and we will examine it
to see if there are any major flaws that would prevent us from printing your job.

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