Here at Heritage Printing and Quick Copy our Atlanta area customers often ask questions about how to prepare their artwork for printing on our digital and offset printers. In fact, we get so many questions that we decided to write a series of printing self-help articles to ensure your final results are of the highest quality and in the hands of your customers or prospects on time and on budget.
You see, when artwork comes to us in the wrong format or size, at improper resolutions, or created in the wrong color space it can greatly affect the time it takes to complete your print job. So, over the next couple of weeks we will share some tips that will help you prepare your artwork so you get brilliant results.
The Importance of Image Resolution in Printing
In order to produce top-notch professional printed products, artwork needs to be prepared at the proper resolution. Printing low resolution artwork on our high resolution printers will cause them to ‘pixelate’. It is caused by when the dots that comprise an image become visible. As a result, lines are not crisp, pictures appear fuzzy, and colors simply look dull.
Microsoft Word or PowerPoint Will Not Produce Professional Printing Results
Every now and again we receive files from customers who have prepared their artwork in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint and they are always dismayed when we advise them that final product will be less than impressive. The truth is we always recommend starting over again when we receive files in these and other office applications.
Why? Well, both products are great for producing office documents you print on your laser or inkjet printer, but they are not intended to produce high-quality, printer-ready files.
However, If all you’re looking to do is make a simple, letter sized flyer, with just words and maybe one little piece of clip art. Word will do the job in a pinch. Just be sure to PDF your finished file before submitting to print to avoid any upcharges.
But for business cards or postcards or trifolds, or any project that has lots of images, your best bet on a budget is to use Microsoft Publisher – a desktop publishing program that has templates made for printing. Publisher is capable of handling things like multiple page documents, images, bleeds, etc. Again, just be sure to save your final version as a pdf file and send that to us.
The main reason why Word, PowerPoint, and Excel native files are not recommend is because they compress images and clip art when they are embedded in the file. In order to produce high-quality printed materials, your text and artwork need to have a minimum resolution of 300 dpi or ‘dots per inch’ and Word and PowerPoint simply do not achieve that level of output.
Therefore, the reason we ask that you save your word, excel or power point files as a PDF file is because there is no way to outline fonts like in professional layout programs like InDesign. For example: if you create a flyer with a fancy font you have on your computer, and then send the word file to our graphics dept. we may not have that font, and our computer will replace it with a standard system font. Unless we have a hardcopy to look at, we would never know that there is an issue. And once everything is printed, you may not be happy, seeing that your original intended font has been replaced. Creating a pdf will immediately resolve this issue by embedding the font into the file and ensuring that we have the same exact file that you see on your screen.
If you have the skill and interest in designing your own business cards, letterhead, envelopes or other materials, and expect to be publishing items frequently we highly recommend you invest in Adobe Illustrator, InDesign or QuarkXPress.
Using Photographs in Printed Materials
Photographs ad impact and interest to brochures, flyers, booklets and other printed materials. In order to produce the best results you should only use images with a minimum resolution of 300 dpi.
Today all digital cameras are capable of capturing an image at 300 dpi and if you want to go that route, be sure to check your camera settings prior to snapping the picture.
Note: Images found on most web pages have a resolution of 150 dpi or lower so they can load quickly in your browser. That’s great for surfing the web, but using images copied from the internet in your printed projects is highly discouraged. And this is why printed images from the web look pixilated or blurry – especially if you try to enlarge them.
If you can capture the perfect picture you need, you might want to explore any of a number of online stock photography sites available. For instance, iStockPhoto has many thousands of images available, at reasonable prices, in resolutions suitable for the web and for printing. If you go this route, make sure you select images that are at least 300 dpi for your print projects.
Be Careful When Resizing Images
You have to be careful when resizing images, even if the original was 300 dpi when you started. In general, you should not have any trouble when you shrink a 300 dpi image for your project. However, expanding a 300 dpi photo or other image will cause pixellation to occur.
If you have high-quality 300 dpi images but not the tools to resize them, visit www.picnik.com, a free online photo editing tool.
So, what’s the bottom line? The resolution of the artwork you prepare for printing is critical to producing brilliant results. 300 dpi is the minimum we recommend for a high quality product. That means using a professional design and layout program and avoiding, at all costs, low-resolution images found on the internet.
Don’t have the time or skill to design you own print materials? Why not contact Heritage Printing and discuss your needs with our in-house professional graphic designer. Years of experience have helped her develop a keen eye for marketing and promotion. Plus, the opportunity to work on a new project will brighten her day. She utilizes the latest professional design software and has crafted hundreds of unique and effective logos, business cards, brochures, direct mail pieces and more. If you can print it, she can design the heck out of it. After an initial consultation about your project, she’ll provide you with a free estimate on your project prior to beginning any work.
We hope you found these tips helpful. Future articles in the series we will help you understand RGB, CMYK and Pantone (spot) colors , the advantages of offset and digital printing, why vector graphics are so flexible [and preferred], as well as explaining what a ‘bleed,’ ‘safe area,’ ‘crop marks’ are. But, if you have a burning question today, don’t wait! Give us a call or send us an email, or leave a comment in the form below. We’ll be happy to answer all your graphic design, printing, or direct mail questions.