Monday, 29 May 2017

How to check artwork for print

Pixelated images, unreadable text, weird colours, horrid white lines around part of the edge?! Sounds like the artwork you sent to print wasn't print-ready! Luckily it's super easy to check - here's how...

First off, you're going to need software that can open artwork as bitmaps NOT vectors - photoshop will do the trick, as will most of the 'free alternatives'...

When you've got your software sorted, open your artwork up (in CMYK, if it gives you the choice), and zoom to 100%... This will show you the file on screen as close to print as possible.

Your artwork resolution will usually need to be at least 300dpi for print (in practice, we rarely see artwork higher than this, and we flag anything less). If you print lower resolution file you'll get pixelation of the elements (images, text etc).

Check your artwork has bleed; most printers need 3mm bleed on all sides. This means your artwork's height and width measurements should be 6mm larger than the final printed size. So for instance, A5 (210mm x 148mm) artwork should be set up as 216x154mm. The purpose of bleed is to ensure whatever is printed on your artwork is present at the point of cutting - if, for instance, you had an image which finished at the edge of the actual printed size, you'd likely get an unsightly white line if the cutter didn't slice bang on the trim line.

Quiet zone / Gutter...
It's a good idea to leave a 'quiet zone / gutter' of between 5 and 10mm. Keep important elements such as text out of this area to avoid it looking like it's about to fall off the edge of the page.

Colour space...
Ensure your artwork is set up for the correct colour space - usually CMYK for print. If you send RGB artwork to print, it'll be automatically converted to CMYK which may result in muted colours, faded images or unusual colours where a CMYK alternative of an RGB colour isn't available.

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Sunday, 28 May 2017

CMYK vs RGB - guide for home designers

We recently wrote an in-depth article looking at what people new to printing need to know CMYK, which covered the differences between CMYK and RGB. What the post lacked was direction for home designers, who create their own artwork rather than outsource to a graphic designer.

Since around 60% of the artwork that comes through our print studio has been designed by a small business owner themselves, this post covers the CMYK vs RGB issues you need to consider, and how to get round them.

Most desk-top-publishing / graphic design software allow you to set up your artwork in CMYK. This is called 'colourspace' and can be often be found when first setting up your document. If you set the document up in CMYK at the beginning of your design process, elements should be converted to CMYK as you import them, giving you the chance to colour correct items which don't look right (because they've been converted from RGB).

Here's how to set up your colour space in popular programmes:

Publisher 2000

Publisher defaults to RGB. Use the menu options Tools/Commercial Printing Tools / Colour Printing, and select 'Process Colours (CMYK).

Publisher 2003 - 2007+

Select File > Info > Commercial Print Settings > Choose Colour Model > Process Colours (CMYK).

Coral Draw

Select the object(s) you want to convert. Select the 'Fill' tool, and click 'Fill Colour Dialog'. Make sure the 'Color model' is 'CMYK'. Then for every object which has an outline, select the 'outline' tool and click the 'Outline Colour Dialog'. Select 'CMYK' as the 'Colour model'.

Adobe Illustrator

Select File > Document Colour Mode > CMYK Colour

Adobe Photoshop

Select Image > Mode > CMYK (or select 'CMYK' for the mode when setting up a new file.

Adobe InDesign

Use the following options: Window / Swatches and Window / Colour. Double click 'colour' in swatches, change the colour mode to CMYK and colour type to Process.

Quark Xpress

Select Edit > Edit Colours > Show Colours in use, then highlight the colour and click edit. Change the model to CMYK and deselect Spot Colour.

There are many colours available in RGB which aren't available in CMYK...

As RGB combines 3 colours, and CMYK four, there are many colours available in RGB which don't have similar alternatives in CMYK. This is called 'out of cmyk colour gaumet'. Generally speaking, RGB colours are far more vibrant than CMYK, which makes images appear faded or 'muted'.

---- is the Online Printing website supplying UK businesses with Cheap Printing. You can order direct online and receive FREE delivery in the UK.

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Saturday, 27 May 2017

The things you need to know about designing artwork for print

If you're new to printing, chances are you won't be familiar with the importance of bleed, quiet zone, colour space or exporting for print purposes... This guide clears all that up - read on for the things you need to know about designing artwork for print purposes.


Professional printers print slightly larger than the finished size to ensures there's artwork at the point the paper is trimmed down to size. This is important because there's always slight movement in the cutting process. If there was no artwork printed where the cut was made, you'd get an unsightly white line.

Quiet zone (sometimes called gutter / margin)

It's important to leave an area around the edge of your artwork free from important elements like text. This is both because artwork looks best when important items aren't too close to the edge (within 3mm and they'll look like they're falling off the edge), but also because there's natural movement in the cutting process which could mean your important bits get trimmed off if they're too close. We recommend leaving at least 2mm... In practice between 5mm and 10mm will look best.

Colour space

It's super important your artwork is created in CMYK to ensure it looks as vibrant and rich as you want. Read our full guide to colour here. Always remember to save your artwork as CMYK!

Exporting your artwork

When you save your artwork for print, remember to save it in high resolution (at least 300dpi), and choose an appropriate file format - PDF works best for printing, and keeps the file size well optimised.

---- is the Online Printing website supplying UK businesses with Cheap Printing. You can order direct online and receive FREE delivery in the UK.
Just go to

Quick guide to paper sizes: A6, A5, A4, A3, A2, A1, A0 and beyond!

Almost every country in the world uses the same standard sizes for paper; 'A-series'. Commonly running from A10 through to A0, these paper sizes are used throughout daily life - not least of which in the printing world. 

But unless you're working with these different paper sizes every day, you'll probably forget the measurements of these common sizes of paper... So here's a quick guide:

A0 - 841x1189mm
A1 - 594 x 841mm
A2 - 420 x 594mm
A3 - 297 x 420mm
A4 - 210 x 297mm
A5 - 148 x 210mm
A6 - 105 x 148mm
A7 - 74 x 105mm
A8 - 52 x 74mm
A9 -  37 x 52mm
A10 - 26 x 37mm

Also, for your reference:
DL - 100 x 210mm
Business Cards - 55 x 85mm

That's it - easy as a-1, a-2, a-3 right!?

---- is the Online Printing website supplying UK businesses with Cheap Printing. You can order direct online and receive FREE delivery in the UK.
Just go to

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

What people new to printing need to know about CMYK...

If you're new to printing one of the first terms you're likely to come across is 'CMYK'. Here's why it's important you understand what CMYK is, what happens if you print in RGB, and why you can't just convert artwork from RGB to CMYK...

CMYK refers to the four colours professional printers use to print your artwork.

C = Cyan
M = Magenta
Y = Yellow
K = Key (black).

Each colour is layered up to create the final, full-colour image. Some printers call it 'four colour', and some 'process'.

RGB refers to the three primary colours digital screens use to create images on your display.

R = Red
G = Green
B = Blue.

With RGB, three colours are mixed together to create full colour images on screens.

The need for each is in their application - paper is white, screens are black. 

Mix red, green and blue and you get white, but you can't make black... So with computer screens where the starting colour is black, you can create a vast array of colours by adding 3 primary colours together, along with the already black background.

With CMYK you create black with K (key - black) and by mixing in cyan, magenta and yellow (much softer colours) you can create almost any multitude of colours... except white.

This matters because it's not possible to print RGB colours on a CMYK printer - the printing software will attempt to interpret your artwork as CMYK if you do. Clearly, creating vivid colours with soft colours is going to be challenging, and your printing will end up looking faded and washed out - most noticeable on photographs where the eye has a good idea of what to expect, even without knowledge of the image.

You can create a CMYK colour space in all good design software, and this website will help you figure out colour values if you really have to convert from RGB to CMYK.

Your printer should be able to easily spot converted images and let you know there may be problems before they print.

Find out more at Total Printing's artwork guide.