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Intro to Print Design:

It seems there are a large number of graphic designers who started their career designing for the web, with little or no knowledge of the technical issues for creating content for print use. This guide is for those making their first plunge into print design. (Or those who have done so already, with less than favorable results)


Part1: RGB vs. CMYK
Part2: Resolution

Part 1: RGB and CMYK - Web Color vs. Print Color

("what you see, is not what you get")

An image seen on your monitor is displayed using the RGB color space. Red, Green, and Blue produce the millions of colors seen on your screen.When you look at a catalog, magazine, etc. you are viewing colors using the CMYK color space. Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black: this is also known as "4-color process" or "full color" printing.

There are times when using Pantone inks will be called for in a print job (that's a whole other topic and the Pantone website has some fine articles and resources).

At some point you are going to need to convert your RGB image(s) into CMYK. This is pretty simple to do in Photoshop and other graphic programs. Converting your image to the CMYK color space will produce a more accurate preview of the printed version, but the preview will not be perfect.

Some colors that can viewed on your monitor, can not be achieved or will look much different in the printing process. With photographs the transition from RGB to CMYK usually isn't too drastic. The most noticeable differences will be found in graphics with blocks of solid colors, as in bold background colors and logos.So, you supply your client with a logo design, and it looks perfect on your monitor. However, when your client decides to get some business cards printed...the result is horrible: that fantastic shade of blue has turned out purple!

Here are a few suggestions for getting your colors to transmit from web to print accurately.1. Find a book with RGB and matching CMYK values. This book is my recommendation: Color Index. It's a very handy and affordable resource.

2. Visit the Pantone website ( Pantone is to a graphic artist as Crayola is to a 5-year old.

There is a wealth of articles and information on the Pantone site, and I highly recommend it.3. Make friends with your local print shop. Introduce yourself and ask questions. If you can't afford to buy your own Pantone or CMYK books, you may be able to browse theirs in times of need.

Breathe...and continue onto...

Part 2 - Resolution

Resolution and Dpi are terms that are thrown around often as in "this image is high resolution" or "that photo is 300dpi". But what does that mean? Not much.

"High Resolution" is a subjective term, and "dpi" has little meaning without a measurement in size (usually inches or centimeters) attached to it.

The term Pixels is pretty easy to grasp, since webmasters and graphic designers often work in pixels. Although, how pixels relate to print design can be a bit confusing.

The relationship between resolution, dpi, and pixels can be displayed in a chart:

Size in Pixels
Print size at 300dpi
Print size at 150dpi
1600 x 1200
5.5 x 4 in
11 x 8 in


(Don't get scared off because there is math involved below...its really simple, I promise.)

1600 divided by 300 = 5.5
1200 divided by 300 = 4

An image that is 1600 x 1200 pixels on your monitor will print 5.5 x 4 inches at 300 dpi. Which means that image of 1600 x 1200 printed at 150 dpi would be 11 x 8 inches.

So, what is the resolution of that image? Well, its 5.5 x 4 inches at 300 dpi.

Now (hopefully) you understand resolution a bit better than you did before reading this article.

How do you know what resolution to supply that business card, brochure, T-shirt design in? Ask you client. ;)

Here is a general guideline of what resolution different mediums use...(again, this really depends on the printer/client.)

300dpi - Magazines, high-quality brochures, business cards, photos and other spiffy glossy material.

100-200dpi - Newsprint, tabloids, and media that is coarser or absorbs a lot of ink.

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