Making Sure Your Logo Shows Up Properly
When we are printing promotional products on plastic or brochures and flyers on paper the saying I have always used with clients regarding artwork is that “As good as you give me is as good as you get.” I want to stress to business owners that in preparing to print their collateral materials, we need to make them look great on the screen in order for them to look great in real life – but what looks good on a computer screen does not necessarily look good when it is OFF screen.
It is not a difficult concept to explain, but most people in our industry do not know HOW to explain the concept of printable artwork. I thought I would share some thoughts on it here.
A bit of history first, and then on to the good news. Our industry spent a century teaching our clients the definition of Camera Ready Artwork. As the term denotes, at one time a camera was used to prepare artwork for printing. Having the part of your artwork which was going to print in black on a bright white background was the best. We would use a mathematical formulas to make sure our type came out of the linotype machine at the proper size, then place it under a camera to prepare the printing plates.
As the printing process has evolved, this has changed dramatically. We no longer use cameras, and are able to go directly from the computer screen to creating plates for paper printing, and screens for silk screening.
The most important thing to remember is to begin with the end in mind. What material are you printing on? A computer screen can make your artwork one way, but when it comes to the printing process, the Laws of Physics begin to apply. Something that looks good on screen will probably look good on a high gloss paper which has very few pores for the ink to sink into. A rougher paper – like the paper in most printers – will absorb more ink and the image can spread. Picture pouring bottle of Pepto Bismol onto a paper towel. You may only pour on to a 1” square, but it expands to cover a larger area. On a micro scale, ink and paper does the same thing. On plastic, it does the opposite. Plastic has tiny pores, so ink will spread over a larger area and fill in if you do not have properly prepared your artwork. A half tone image is a screen that is used on a halftone block and separates the image into different size dots. Here is an example of what I mean:
This is why you can have so many different shades of Gray.
Here are a couple of tips to make sure you are happier with your artwork:
1. If possible, use solid-tone ink. Solid tone has no pixelation. When you look very closely at a photograph, you will see that it is comprised of millions of little dots, which, when viewed from a distance, seem to be a rainbow of slightly different colors. We call this a half tone (half the image is ink, the other half is paper showing through). Solid tones are ink sitting on top of the material without letting any of the material (paper, plastic, cloth) show through. Generally a much brighter result.
2. If you're going to use half tones, make sure that the number of those dots is proper for the material you're going to print on. The printing term is Dots Per Inch. On a computer screen, 72 works great. On high gloss paper, that number goes up into the hundreds. 300 dpi (dots per inch) is a standard for much better printing. For plastic, you cannot expect to use a screen because the ink dots will merge. Remember the physics.
When someone asks for your artwork or your logo, don’t “Right-Click, Save” from your website. That's going to be 72 dpi or less and will cause delays in your printing because the printer is going to have to adjust (another word for re-create and charge you for it) your artwork.
4. Don’t do this yourself. If you're printing, find a graphic artist with experience in printing. In the computer age, we are seeing artists who can do magnificent things on a computer screen, but have no idea how to prepare their artwork for printing.
5. Learn a couple of terms. A ‘jpg' is a photo. It is made up of pixels. If you are printing your artwork and it includes photos or if your solid tone artwork has been saved as a jpg. by your inexperienced graphic artist, you will be disappointed. If you are printing something, it is generally better to use the electronic equivalent of Camera Ready artwork. This is called VECTOR art. The term comes from the world of mathematics where as the artwork gets larger, it remains the same. Want to see an example? Take a photograph and make it a LOT larger than its 100% size. You will start to see it get fuzzy. The pixels are getting further and further apart and the quality drops dramatically.
6. Here's the best news… Understand that the printing industry is changing drastically. Because photo copiers have improved drastically, we are starting so see full color digital printing create photographic quality products. We are seeing improved printing processes come in to the promotional products world which is making our products more effective. The bad news? You still need a graphic artist to make sure the artwork is created correctly in the first place.
7. Don’t settle. Saying “I just needed something to…“ is not going to make you look as professional as you deserve to be seen.
When you want help putting all of your artwork together properly, get in touch with us at 800-705-4265