Printing Services Guide – Design and Artwork for Print

Printing Services Guide – Design and Artwork for Print


There’s a host of considerations for a designer or layout artist to bear in mind when producing artwork for printing. The following hints and tips should give useful guidelines to avoid some of the most common mistakes – all which can lead to slippages, extra costs, personal anguish and sleepless nights!


1. Bleed and Margins: To get the best results, pages supplied for print must be made up with print considerations in mind! Printed elements running to the edge of the page must extend to a minimum distance beyond the page edge (the ‘bleed’). Typically a bleed should extend 5mm outside the trimmed area and the live matter kept 5mm inside the trimmed area.
2. Elements across spreads: Where an element goes across a spread, accurate alignment of the element between the two pages can not be relied upon. The fold is always subject to a degree of variance in any print run (typically +/- 2mm). Elements that look particularly bad across spreads on final printed results are rules and tint edges (especially diagonals), text and anything which is particularly sensitive to you! Please be aware of this ‘design out’ conflict where possible.
3. Visual loss with perfect binding and spine glued work: Perfect bound products do not open flat, therefore there is always an amount of page in the spine area which can’t be seen. Similarly, the spread of glue in spine gluing can cause the centre of spreads to be lost (other than on the centre spread on spine glued work rather ironically). Page elements should avoid this area (10mm margin in the back of each page is usual for perfect binding, up to 4mm for spine gluing.


tracking can give lower ink coverage across the printed page

4. Tracking: Tracking occurs when ink is “used up” on one element of a page with a high percentage of one or more inks, creating a visible deficiency of that ink within a later in-track element. Particularly noticeable on heavy tint bands running across the web of paper. See above.
5. Bulking: Bulking is a phenomenon mainly of large saddle stitched jobs – particularly with heavy papers and describes the pushing out of the centre pages due to the thickness of paper in the back. A rough guide is for every 1mm in book thickness allows 1mm less on the page width. An A4 portrait 3mm thick book will have the centre pages at 207mm not 210mm. A very thick book can result in slight tearing at the ‘V’ of the spine. The thicker the book the less satisfactory it looks. Please bear this in mind when designing/supplying in films.
6. Fine Lines and Tints: Fine line artwork and small lettering should be designed to reproduce in one colour only to avoid impractical register tolerances. Also, because of technical difficulties in precise alignment of the cover to the text (and often different printing processes that will be used to produce them), try not to have a design running across from the inside front or back cover onto the first or last page of the text. Try to avoid a design with borders running close to the outer edges of the cover.
7. Paper and Imposition: To give a true representation of the final printed results, proof sheets should be imposed to run to the same track as the final printed product. Proofs should ideally be produced on the actual printing stock, otherwise the proof will not accurately match the printed result for colour.
8. Corrections: All corrections marked on proof sheets must be concise and simple, with clear indications of amendments already completed.
9. Data Supply: If you are unsure about how to supply your files it is absolutely vital that you request a specification for your repro team to work with. Your printing services company can forward you the comprehensive specification you require.
10. Web Growth: Where the cover of a job is printed sheetfed, and the text sections printed web-offset, there will be web-growth, where the text sections take on moisture after being dried by the ovens. This means that after trimming, the text sections can extend out further than the cover by a small amount through the re-absorption of moisture. Please be aware of this, and if it is of concern to you, your printing services company can advise the best way of minimizing the effect visually. Please ask!
11. Cracking: With any folded product, cracking will occur along the creases. This is where the paper coating splits as it is folded down under pressure. It is especially noticeable on high grammage papers (100gsm+) and where the fold is not trimmed off – e.g. A folded poster. Cracking is less noticeable if the job is designed with an area of white along the fold. High ink coverage and grain direction of the paper can exacerbate the appearance of cracking.
12. Press passing: If high resolution proofs are supplied to the printer with the data files these will be used on-press to gain the closest possible match possible after taking into account tracking limitations (other pages in line around the cylinder). Ink starvation from one page with a high percentage of colour can affect the expected result to a page that is in line but needs less colour, so quite often a compromise is necessary. If no proofs are supplied, the job will be run using ink density readings to the industry standard. Should you wish to see your job on press ask your printing services company who should be more than happy to accommodate, subject to timings/logistics etc being on their side!
13. Loose Mechanical Inserts Tolerance: For technical reasons, it is unavoidable that the occasional magazine / brochure may contain no insert, double inserts or the wrong insert.

See also:
Our Guide to Proofs and Proofing