How to Work With Printers as a Graphic Designer

Read this article to understand how as a graphic designer you must understand the working of the printer and the graphic designing software you use to design the graphics. Know which tool is optimized for which type of printing and how you can use this knowledge to give the best results possible.

As a graphic designer, you may be required to wear a number of hats. You may be creating visuals for print, for clothing, or for a different medium. Your end product will turn out looking the way you want it to only if you understand the basics of printing and what the printer you work with will require of you.

Most graphic designers use the same set of software tools to create their visuals. Each software used has limitations that will impact the end printed result. For example, vector graphics created using software like CorelDRAW or Adobe Illustrator create clean lines and curves using points. This makes for crisper results when printing on clothing.

Other programs like Adobe Photoshop use pixels, which are thousands of little squares or dots. When the pixels sit side-by-side, they create the full picture. Raster graphics are better when printed on cardstock or paper.

These are just a few of the factors you need to consider when thinking about transferring your document from software to a printed surface. Your printer is going to print the document as you send it. It is not going to clean it up, edit it, or doctor the image. It's on the designer to understand the proper image requirements for machines, such as label printers, when working with printers. They rely on you to do that. Before sending a document to the printer, you need to make sure that the file settings allow for proof that will turn out the way you want.

Before Starting a Project, Communicate with the Printer

Printed projects come in a variety of shapes and sizes. A4, or letter paper, is a standard, but your project requirements can vary drastically. Business cards are a good example. They will vary depending on the requirements of your client. Before starting a design project, make sure that the printer you select is able to meet your document's requirements. This will prevent you from needing to rework the layout later. Many printing companies will list the products that they have online, including the guidelines they have and sizing information.

Embed Your Fonts

The printer you work with may have a large selection of fonts, including the font that you want to use. Still, this does not guarantee that details, spacing, or size will come out the same way you have it in your internal design. This is why it's good to embed your fonts or text for all of the designs that you are going to send to the printer. This eliminates the need for font substitutions or mistakes on the part of the printer. This will also provide you a second chance to review your work for grammar and spelling issues before the final print.

Think about the Bleed

Before sending your document to the printer, you need to accommodate for bleed. The exact figure may vary, but 3 mm or a quarter of an inch is a common figure. Bleed is the area around your final document where the design has been extended beyond the parameters of your end product. A little bit of bleed allows for inaccuracies when the printed sheet is cut down to its final size. If the printed sheet is slightly misaligned, having bleed will prevent their being a white strip of plain paper on the edge of your design.
Accomodating for bleed during printing
Photoshop does not have many page layout features. It will be up to you to calculate the final bleed size. Adobe Illustrator and InDesign do have options to add bleed as you set up your document. The bleed will only affect the parts of your design that touch the edge of your design. So background photos should be large enough to cover the entire bleed size.

Keep logo designs and text elements away from the edge of your document. This will prevent important information from accidentally being cut off. Create a safe margin of around 5– 10 mm from the edges. Most design programs have guides that you can use for this purpose.

Check Your Size and Resolution

It's not uncommon for a graphic designer to send an image to the printer thinking that it is the right size because the image looked big on their computer screen. They are surprised that once the design is printed out on paper or apparel, it is either too large, too small, or certain elements are not clear.

This becomes a greater issue when working with rasterized images. When rasterized images are blown up, they may take on a grainy or pixelated appearance. Some designers will take a low-resolution image and stretch it. This leads to pixelation.

It's a good idea to know the dimensions of your end product before putting together a design. This will allow you to work with real-life sizes, even when doing digital editing or photo manipulation. If you are not sure about the size of the end product, you can always work on a larger canvas. A large canvas that is shrunk down to a smaller size will look better than a small canvas that stretched out.

Know What Color System to Use

CMYK is the color standard for print projects. Switch your Photoshop document or Adobe Illustrator color palette to CMYK, not RGB, before you start your work. Remember, you can create a wider spectrum of colors on your monitor than can be created via print. If you work in CMYK from the get-go, you will avoid any unwanted surprises when you get your finished product off of the press.


Pantone colors are a great option for those looking for an absolute perfect replication of a color. The end result using CMYK may vary slightly based on the calibration of the machines they are using. Small print jobs are almost entirely done in CMYK. However, if you have to perfectly match a business's logo or color scheme, then you may want to add specialized swatches to your palette. Your printer may charge you more as this could require extra ink.

Another factor to consider is the file format used when exporting your design for print. Some companies will allow the use of CMYK JPEG files. The safest bet is using an EPS file or a PDF file.

As a graphic designer, you want your client to be happy with the product you create. You can achieve this goal by working with your printing company in advance. Understand what they offer, and make sure that they understand your requirements.


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