Steps to Success That Every Print Designer Should Know, Vol. 2


Images and color: cameras deal with the colors of light, which are RGB (red, green and blue). If you were to take three flashlights with red, green and blue lenses and overlap them, you would create several other colors. CMYK deals with pigments, or ink. When crossed, pigments behave differently than the colored flashlight lenses. It takes four colors to make as many color combinations. Because CMYK is a representation trying to mimic the colors of light, it will never be quite the same as viewing your image on a computer screen (also RGB) or as when you were actually there taking the picture. Nevertheless, we are stuck with CMYK for most prints, and in order to keep your expectations from growing wild about color, please convert your images that go into documents and publications, posters, etc. to CMYK. To the trained eye, they will appear a little less brilliant but the color space conversion is more important.

chart describing RGB vs CMYK
Check out this graphic from PDW Global. It helps visualize how the two color systems work.

For the same reasons as explained above, color for print will be more accurate if you start the document as CMYK. Printers use percentages of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and K (black) pigments or dies. If you have ever had a case where you’ve tried to make a color 100% black and as soon as you save the document it changes to a different percentage of black, you may want to check how the document is set up. When this problem occurs, it is usually because the document is RGB and is overriding your attempts to use CMYK color swatches.

Check if your document is CMYK:

From Indesign click on File, Document Setup. Make sure that Print is selected from the Intent dropdown menu. Use only CMYK swatches and images and you’ll be fine.

From Illustrator click on File, Document Color Mode, and ensure that CMYK is checked. Use only CMYK swatches and images and you’ll be fine.

From Photoshop click on Image, Mode and make sure CMYK is checked. If it is not checked (RGB is default), go ahead and click on it. Photoshop may ask you if you want to flatten the layers because changing color modes will likely have unexpected results in some kinds of layers. Personally, I would save a copy of my file and flatten that one.

If you use Microsoft Publisher go here to get a great comprehensive tutorial:

For Quark Express see this:

Microsoft Word doesn’t retain CMYK values reliably. If it is the only tool you have available and you’re on a budget, just be advised that in some cases you printer (that’s us, not your desktop printer) may convert the file to CMYK but the conversion could produce results that you did not intend. For example, when we use Adobe Preflight to convert files for digital printing, an occasional red tone will insert itself into the images. Red faces are no fun! Additionally, if you get a digitally printed proof using RGB images, but the job will be printed on the offset press, the color will be very different.

About the Color Black

Black is great. It’s sophisticated and professional. Getting the best black prints require some finesse and it depends largely on what your document contains. There are two kinds of black: %100 Black (C0, M0, Y0, K100) and Rich Black (a combination of CMYK to make black). 100% black can be a bit dull in large surface areas (unless you are printing on a laser printer), and Rich Black can be, well, rich! It is velvety, or can have a slight hue of any color you like.

This is why it’s important to communicate to designers how many colors are needed and likewise, designers need to tell clients how many colors are used. Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and K (black) are all colors and if you use a rich black, you will likely be charged to use all four of those colors.

In projects with color images (you’re using all four anyway) it’s recommended to use rich black in large areas with no text to get a deep black color. Our favorite Rich Black build is C40,M30,Y20,K100.

For text, whether it’s black or reversed out of a black background, we recommend %100 Black (C0, M0, Y0, K100). If you use Rich Black ,the text will be a little fuzzy from lining up all four layers on top of eachother.

graphic showing 100 black and rich black
As you can see, black is not always just black.

Watch out for images that look black but are really a build of all four colors. If you are making a document that prints only in black, be sure to convert that image to greyscale.

Steps to Success That Every Print Designer Should Know

Design. Seems simple, right? A message, an audience and some graphics. Well it’s not really that simple, and even the best visual people sometimes have limited to no knowledge of the printing process. In this post I use the terms “designer” and “client” loosely, because there can also be a designer/boss or perhaps a client/printer relationship. I’ve compiled a list of the most import tips and tricks for getting the best bang for your buck when it comes to print material. In this segment, Vol. 1, I will go over some basic groundwork for starting a project for print so that you know what to expect.

info illustrating how specs are used

Know the specs of what is being purchased/designed before getting too involved in a project. There is often a disconnect between designers and their clients when it comes to what the end product will do. Being upfront about some things will not only make your printer happy, but will make your project less costly and avoid unnecessary miscommunications between designers and clients. Make sure you/your designer know and communicate: Continue reading Steps to Success That Every Print Designer Should Know

An Adventure in Marketing

Marketing opportunities are all around us. Some of us see them when we close our eyes and some of us see them when we go on vacation. We let our Graphic Designer leave for a week this Spring, and while we managed to survive, she was making some marketing observations.

“To Overland Expo!” That was I told them. Driving to Arizona and back in a 50-year-old vehicle with a tent perched on a trailer. What sorts of things did I see on the way? Well, of course everywhere there were billboards and storefront signs trying to outdo one-another with something clever or no-nonsense, but I noticed a three key things underneath the surface of my destinations:

Continue reading An Adventure in Marketing

Open Type Fonts Have More Fun

Apple and PC dancing
Think of all the great things Mac and PC can accomplish together with Open Type fonts!

For about 12 years now, Windows (PCs) and Apple (Macs) have ended support for Type 1 and True type fonts in favor of Open Type fonts. This doesn’t mean that you can’t still buy a True Type font or that they won’t ever work, but it does mean that you are walking on thin ice. Systems and software are no longer developed with these old fonts in mind, with the exception of Adobe who allows you to put the font in the library of the software using it. Even then, you may still encounter problems. So why switch to Open Type fonts? Why should you give up thousands of dollars worth (if you are an agency) of licenses for fonts?

Continue reading Open Type Fonts Have More Fun

Battle the Cyber Monsters

Computer viruses are no new concept. We’ve all heard not to open attachments from strangers, not to click on ads, not to type text that is not a website URL into the browser. Well, gone are the days of our computers slowing down when they have viruses. Computers are way more efficient and attackers way more sneaky. You may not even have to click on anything, just load a webpage with ads and a little snippet of something will sit in your computer, waiting for a command from its leader.

One of the growing malware categories is Ransomware. This kind of malware encrypts (or claims to encrypt) your files and hold them for a ransom of hundreds of dollars. One of the most recent variants, CryptoLocker, is getting some attention for it’s seemingly professional assistance in coaching the victim step by step on how to pay the ransom and receive a key to unlock the files (hopefully).

you won't want to see this screen, neither do we!

Thankfully, we have an excellent staff on hand to tell us the latest and greatest scams out there and this helps us make decisions that are safer and more streamlined.

One of the improvements we have made is to stop sending PDF proofs via email. So much malware is sent using attachments in emails that are meant to look like they are coming from somebody in your own office! Be mindful of the language the person in each email with an attachment is using. If you sense something out of character, it is better to call them and see what’s up before going any further. Get verbal confirmation first, open the attachment later.

  Continue reading Battle the Cyber Monsters