January 19, 2024

Common Printing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

With modern design tools, it can be hard to envision your project off the computer screen and in the hands of your target audience. To ensure your projects come out of the printer just as you envisioned them, there are some common printing mistakes to be mindful of as you design.

Not accounting for bleed

Bleed is the area of a print project that goes past where it will be trimmed. If you want the design to reach the edges of the paper without white space, it will require trimming. That means your design should include a bleed.

Add a standard 0.125” bleed to each edge of your design past the trim line to ensure your project is printed like you intend, eliminating unwanted white space or cut-off elements or text. Be sure essential design elements or text are another 0.125” away from the trim line so they aren’t cut off. This zone within the design is called the safety zone.

Leaving print guides in the file

Guides on your design files can denote fold, bleed, trim, and safety areas. They make it easier to design your project by showing you where it will be cut and folded. Always remember to remove the guides before you send your files off to print. Remove guides easily by placing them on their own layer in your design file.

Designing in RGB instead of CMYK

If you are designing a project that will be printed like a flyer, envelope, or sign, always use CMYK. If you are designing files to be used digitally like digital or television advertisements, use RGB. If you don’t convert your materials to CMYK, the colors will look different on the printed version than they did on your computer screen.

Using low-resolution images

Using images that aren’t high-resolution is one of the most common printing mistakes. When you print images with low resolution, they will look blurry, contain less accurate colors, and lower the overall quality of your printed piece. Images should be at least 300 pixels per inch (PPI). This is considered high-resolution. To view the resolution of an image, right-click on the image and view its properties or info.

Sizing text too small or too large

Finding the right balance of font size can be a balancing act. Text that is too large can overwhelm the design and look unprofessional, but text that is too small is difficult to read. The perfect text size will depend on the type of project you are printing. For something handheld like a brochure, longer passages of text should be within 10-14 points. Headline sizes can be more flexible and often range from 18-28 points. For subheadings between your headline and body copy, try 14-28 points.

Text hierarchy is the practice of arranging text so it is more readable and easily scannable. To achieve text hierarchy, differentiate headlines, subheadings, and body copy with font sizes, white space, or color.

Next time your project goes to print, use the above as a checklist so you can get it right the first time!


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