Last week, we talked about CMYK vs. RGB and dpi vs ppi. This week, we will be tackling Layout Sizes and PDFs. Learn how to keep your design in sync with your final printed product!
When designing your print layout, set units to inches right away to make sure the file measurements represent the size of your finished print piece. You should also set the bleed to 0.125 inches so that you see lines marking how far to extend any images and background colors that will print off the edge of the finished page.
Another consideration is the size of your text and art. For sign designs, it’s essential to measure the space you intend to place it in. Be aware of the scale of your piece and how your artwork portrays your message.
There is also the issue of visibility. For posters the “20ft rule” is the norm. This means that you place the poster up on the wall and stand back 20 feet. You will want your title font to be about 2 inches tall, or around 144 points. Fonts vary in their size, so test it out. If you can see the message clearly, your design is doing its job.
For mailers and postcards there are set sizes determined by USPS that influence your postage options. Check out the Postal Explorer tool for some general sizes. Be sure to do your research before starting your design. If the size is wrong, you may need to start your design over!
Brochures, rack cards, and business cards all have fairly standard sizes, but check your end use to make sure you pick the right size from the start. If you make your rack card an inch shorter than everyone else, it will get lost in the display. We recommend 4×9 inch rack cards, and a standard business card is 3.5×2 inches – but you can get creative within these dimensions too! Ask us about die cutting for unique shapes.
Portable Document Format (PDF)
The .PDF file extension means Portable Document Format. Developed by Adobe Systems, PDF files can contain not only images and text but also interactive buttons, hyperlinks, embedded fonts, video, and more. We like working with PDFs for your print projects because fonts are embedded and the layout is set. There won’t be any changes to a file if it is opened on a different computer, and a PDF is software independent. Meaning if you created the file in InDesign, someone who does not have that program can still view it.
Because PDFs don’t rely on the software that created them, nor on any particular operating system or hardware, they look the same no matter what device they’re opened on. However, editing a PDF is extremely limited. If you want to make changes, it is always best to make them in the original file and then create a new PDF.
Overall, the consistency and flexibility make PDFs optimal for submitting your print designs. We highly recommend when sending your files to print that you convert them to a PDF format. You can do this in InDesign by choosing File > Export or in Microsoft programs using the Print dialog box. Be sure to keep your compression at least 300dpi so that your PDF is print quality.
To learn more about designing for print, check out our Pre-Press Tips.