When thinking about print design from the perspective of a web designer, the two may seem like completely different worlds. One is static, traditional, and tangible. The other is dynamic, modern, and temporary.

There’s a certain amount of respect for both types of design. Old school print designers are in awe of what’s achievable on the web. Moreover, new age web designers are covetousness of the perpetuity of the printed product.

As a design company we do all sorts of designs: print design, logo and graphic design, and web design. All of these work together to build brands and marketability. In this post, we are going to look at some advice for web designers wanting to learn about the world of print.

File Resolution

To start, file size habits of the web and the print designer are on two different spectrums. The web designer should strive to keep the file sizes and the amount of information necessary to display a web page to the absolute minimum. Print designers when preparing artwork, however, should find the highest resolution files and not worry, within reason, about the file size. The main exception to this is when you have built a logo file that is 7 or even 10 gigs. At that point you will end up spending 10, 15, maybe even 20 minutes just waiting for the file to open.

So, images should ideally be the same size as they will be printed and set to 300ppi – not 72ppi. So if your client has provided you with low resolution images, see if you can locate their source and find the original larger, higher resolution image. If it comes right down to it, contact the photographer to acquire the quality of images that you need.

Dear web designer, break the ritual of shrinking files and stop worrying about file size for once!


Resolution concerns bitmapped images and photography. But if you’re talking logos, diagrams, straight lines, shapes, etc., it’s vectors that we need to talk about!

Let’s take a moment to talk about the difference between bitmapped images and vectors. Bitmapped images are files like JPGs and PNGs. These files represent a photograph by assigning a color to a dot or pixel. Vector images, on the other hand, are represented as mathematical formulas that define all the shapes in the image. The major difference between bitmapped and vector images is that vectors can be scaled indefinitely without loosing quality, whereas bitmaps can’t.

So, if you’re designing a logo for a client, you should always produce the logo in Adobe Illustrator or some other vector editing software, so it exists as vectors (not a low resolution JPG).

The last thing you want to do is build logos as Photoshop files. When they are reduced and then increased in size they will start to lose quality. A vector (and remember when you import into Photoshop, always paste as a Vector Smart Object) will never lose quality.

And, a vector is perfect for print production. For many reasons but a major one is that you never know if that logo will be on a business card, billboard, door sign, or slapped onto the side of a car. Creating it as a vector allows you to make it more versatile and more available for the client to do with it what they will.


When we talk about print we have to talk about a different color mode and a whole different way of thinking about color. The color mode for the web is RGB – a pixel is made out of varying degrees of red, green and blue light sources. The color mode for print is CMYK – offset printing creates tiny dots of varying degrees of cyan, magenta, yellow and black.

A group of tiny pixels on screen and a bunch of tiny dots on paper work in similar ways. Seen from a distance they work together to create an illusion so that the screen or the paper presents an image or a design.

So, when creating new documents for print in Photoshop and Illustrator, choose CMYK Color for the Color Mode. And, when creating a new document for print in InDesign, make sure the Intent is Print.

Black is the new black

And, if you’re changing a document from RGB to CMYK, make sure the black text is just 100K. RGB blacks converted to CMYK will add color to the other three plates (cyan, magenta and yellow) as well as the black one. This can cause havok in offset printing.

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It’s much better to have printed text on one separation.

However, black color fills of large areas of paper can include the other colors, like C40 M30 Y30 K100, which are the most commonly used for CMYK rick black.

Providing files for the printer

A good question that is commonly asked is: What is the best format to send to a printer?
A: The best format would be a high resolution PDF.

  • If you have built the file in Photoshop (not advised), make sure document is CMYK, 300 ppi and the correct size. Save As… Photoshop PDF, choose PDF/X-1a:2001
  • Tf you used Illustrator, make sure document is CMYK, 300 ppi and the correct size. Save As… Illustrator PDF, choose PDF/X-1a:2001
  • And from InDesign, make sure Intent was Print and the document is the correct size. Export as Print PDF, choose PDF/X-1a:2001

A print-ready high-res PDF from either Illustrator or InDesign is best.

Before you even think about sending a document to the printers, remember to get the finished document signed off by the client. That means, usually, you send the final PDF to the client and ask for their go-ahead before printing. Trust me, you only make this mistake once before you learn your lesson.

There’s a whole article that we could write about dealing with printers and how to pick a printer. You have to decide on paper stock, finishing, the number of print runs, etc. This will depend on the brief from the client, what’s required and what’s available for the price. Do they want varnish? Raised text? Are we printing sales sheets, a magazine ad or business cards? There are enough questions to fill up a book.

Finally, You can do this!

We are always talking about the need for web designers to diversify their services offered to clients. A web designer that doesn’t offer print services is simply leaving money on the table. The typographic and layout principles are the same in print and web design.

This is why we offer business card, flyer, and brochure services. We organize the printing and delivery of the collateral and our clients love us for it!