OK, we’ve all needed graphic design at some point – for business cards, for ads, for CD projects and posters. And it can get expensive and tempting to look to a DIY approach to graphics. After all how hard can it be, right? I can see it on my monitor.
First rule of the graphic road – ignore your monitor. Its necessary yes, to see what you’re doing but a monitor is set to display at 72 dpi and in RGB (red, green, blue) which means your colors when you print in full color are not true. And even if they were – your monitor is backlit and regular paper is not -so that blue you’re going for – good luck if you trust your monitor.
Depending on what you’re doing and where its going to go – on the web or on paper – determining the “best” files for what you’re needing can be daunting and through in a little DIY (do-it-yourself) and soon you might be talking to yourself. That’s never good.
Here’s a rundown of different publishing platforms and what you need to know before you start downloading free trials.
Website graphics NEED to be minimal – 72 dpi and “skinny” in terms of file size – Can take up the full screen but no more than 72 dpi and as “skinny” as they can be in terms of megabytes.
A slow drawing screen is death to a webpage.
Desktop publishing is the next most forgiveable medium. It can print from RGB files. You can print without complete font information even. 72 dpi is “bad” but because of the size of the dot of ink from a desktop printer is so big, this can be fudged and give you the false security that you have press ready artwork. Hey, if you can print it from your computer there’s nothing wrong with your files – right?
The amount of information a desktop printer needs is minimal. There is a lot of assumption flying around in one especially when it comes to color shades. It will only have a limited range in the color spectrum before any red starts to look the same.
PRINTING PRESS – offset and digital
Offset or Digital Press printing is the least forgiveable print medium. It also provides the best results. The files needed for this type of printing have to contain LOTS of information. These files are sophisticated in terms of everything has do be communicated to the “brain” of these printers. Nothing is left for assumption. This is way production files could be 5 MEG in size for just a traycard. Images to print their best and most clear require a 300 DPI. Dots are very fine – which you need to have if your printed page dpi is over 2100. So if you’re artwork is 72 dpi- you’re not going to have a printed version of this image that is anywhere as clear as it appears on your screen.
Fight it all you want – scream into your pillow at night – part of the reason graphic design costs is because of the knowledge and expertise. And you have to make sure your designer is experienced in the difference between web and paper printing – not all of them are.
The tool you use to create your artwork is designed to work best for a particular print method. Here’s a brief overview.
Corel Draw web, desktop
Gimp web, desktop
Microsoft Paint web, desktop
Photoshop web, desktop, offset, digital
Illustrator web, desktop, offset, digital
InDesign desktop, offset, digital
If you’re printing a CD or DVD – disc face and any paper printing you need to look at your offset and digital press options.
Basic graphic knowledge you or your designer needs to understand.
All images, scans, logo, pictures, any graphics must be scanned at or set up at 300 dpi at the desired size. You could have an image that is 300 dpi but only when its 1 inch square. If you were to take that image and stretch it to fit a 5 inch square – you’re reducing that dpi to less than 100 dpi.
Use templates from the company you’re using to print. Do not assume all templates are the same.
Provide unflattened, native files to any printer you’re using. The same artwork from native will provide one result, the same artwork from press ready PDF will give another. Don’t let a graphic designer’s insecurities dictate your project. Professional printers are not going to change or steal a file from a designer. They are just too busy to bother with anything other than getting the best result for a client.
So now you have some idea and you can choose if a DIY approach to save some money to release your CD or DVD is a viable plan or not.
For more information on specific formats we accept – file format specifications