In today’s internet age, the world of print can be daunting. There are many common mistakes made when designing for print that stem from the differences between digital media and print media. We’re sharing a few tips to help you avoid these errors over the next week. Today we’re covering Color Modes and Resolution.
Use the Right Color Mode: CMYK vs. RGB
The misuse of RGB and CMYK color modes is one of the most common mistakes that designers fall victim to. RGB (red, green & blue) is a color system that adds light to produce brighter and more vibrant hues. Computer monitors work the same way, so you will most likely work in RGB when designing digitally. Using an RGB-based tool can cause problems when designing for print media.
CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow & black/key) uses the mixing of inks to produce colors, much like a traditional artist mixes paints. The more ink you mix the darker the color gets. The spectrum of colors that can be produced by light is much wider than the range achievable by ink.
Failing to select the CMYK color mode and instead creating your designs in RGB may result in you selecting colors that can’t be reproduced in print. Your prints will come out looking dull and muted.
When building art in Illustrator, you can set the Document Color Mode under File in the drop-down menu. Or you can change the color mode of an individual swatch by double-clicking it and clicking the “Color Mode” drop-down box and selecting CMYK. In Photoshop you can change the entire file by using Image > Mode in the drop-down menu.
DPI vs PPI, Get the Best Document Resolution
Though the terms DPI (dots per inch) and PPI (pixels per inch) are both terms for the resolution of an image, there are some key differences between the two. PPI describes the number of square pixels that show up in an inch of a digital screen. DPI, on the other hand, is a printing term referring to the number of physical dots of ink on a printed document.
On your computer, the resolution alters the image’s physical size, whereas print resolution determines how sharp and crisp your designs will appear in their final printed form.
In other words, computers make images by stacking different colored boxes on top of each other. A printer makes an image by squirting thousands of tiny dots of the mixed ink we talked about earlier, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black, onto the paper. The usual resolution for web images is 72ppi, but in print, 300dpi is the standard (300 drops of ink per inch). If you plan on printing in high resolution, your document, including all images used, should be set at 300dpi.
To avoid having to potentially redo or alter a design, make sure you determine first whether or not the document will be for print or for web, then set the document size correctly to begin with.
Stay tuned next week for Designing for Print Part Two! We’ll share tips for Layout & Text Sizing and Why To Use PDFs!
To learn more about designing for print, check out our other Pre-Press Tips.