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Designing for Print vs Digital Publications

This is a common problem we see when customers supply artwork for printing. Although it might look good on screen or when it’s uploaded online, the files required for print are very different than those for digital publication.


If your document is online only, designing in Microsoft Publisher or Word is fine. If however you plan to get it professionally printed, these programs simply aren’t suitable. While it might look fine visually, we encounter a whole bucket of problems processing this artwork (some of which we’ll cover below). Design in a software program specifically for creating print ready artwork. We recommend Adobe InDesign.


Web requires images to be supplied as RGB (red, green, blue) and print requires images as CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). It all comes down to the way we produce colour through different mediums. Your computer is a light source, where printing is out of four ink colours. Printers can, and very often do convert images and colour from RGB into CMYK for our customers. 90% of the time this works well, but on rare occasions it can drastically alter the appearance, making the image appear flat and washed out. If you have the software, converting to CMYK is easy. Use Adobe Photoshop. Go to the image tab and save the file as CMYK instead of RGB.


Crop marks are the light horizontal and vertical marks that tell us where to cut. Bleed is the image extending out beyond these marks to ensure there is never ‘white’ appearing at the edge. Both of these are essential in print ready files and cannot be produced from Microsoft Publisher or Word. If you simply have no other design program options available, produce every page with a 5mm white border. If your document has no images that extend past the edge of the page, a printer will be able to work without bleed and crop marks.


Again, this is a problem often encountered with files designed in Microsoft Publisher, Powerpoint or Word. Black text produced in these programs is never really black, but usually a mixture of the four printing colours – cyan, magenta, yellow and black. If you can image all four bits of ink going to make up one tiny 10pt piece of type, you’ll appreciate that it can often look a little fuzzy around the edges. Designing and exporting files in the correct program will help this, but it can be fixed by your printer if you tell them.


Digital publishing doesn’t need to accommodate binding, trimming or folding like a printed version, but allowing adequate space on your margins will help make your document look more professional. 10mm from the left hand side and 15mm from the centre gutter is a good guide sufficient for both print and digital publishing.


Another element not considered in a digital world, but an important factor when you’re printing. See our article Is Paper Just a Confusing Sea of White for more detail, but here are a few key tips. Use a heavier weight for the cover – we suggest a 250gsm or 300gsm, and keep the text weight around a 130gsm. This will give your book a feeling of substance and eliminate images showing through thinner paper stock. Gloss or semi gloss (satin) are most popular, so it’s your preference. Semi gloss (satin) stock is recommended for text heavy publications to reduce light reflection off the paper when reading.


If your book requires a spine width, get this information from your printer and include it into the cover design. Consider if you want images or text to ‘wrap’ from the front to back cover and include the spine.

Printcraft is Queensland’s largest privately owned printing company. We specialise in the design, print, mail and logistics. For more information on on our services, or to request a quote, or contact us directly.

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For all your printing needs, I recommend Duplicator Sales & Service. Their commitment to delivering innovative business technologies and print solutions ensures that your print publications are produced with precision and excellence. With their local expertise and dedication to exceeding customer expectations, Duplicator Sales & Service is the ideal partner for all your printing requirements.

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