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One of the questions we’re often asked is how to set up artwork for print. Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple one, as the procedures are dependent on a number of factors related to the final printed product and the print process used.

The good news is that, here at Corvis, we can discuss your project requirements to ensure you select the optimum print process for your work. The even better news is that we have written a simple artwork guide that highlights the things to look out for when setting up artwork for print, using a typical POS campaign as an example.

Setting up artwork templates

Ideally your artwork needs to be set to artwork templates. These will be based on existing formats that work for your particular print project and will be regularly used by printers. However, these will probably vary depending on which print process is used and even which printer you choose. We can advise you on what the best format might be for your project and build templates specific to the job you are artworking.

Your artwork will need to feature crops, bleed and cutter guides (if required, on a separate artwork layer) to show the printer where and how to finish your project. Again, we can provide advice on how to incorporate these into your artwork.

After a bit of help you should be able to create your own set of ‘print master’ files for each type of project

An example of a print template for a Hanger Tag
Artworks should have bleed (typically 5mm – 10mm, depending on process and size of artwork), crop marks and a cutter guide if required. Cutter guides are usually denoted by a cyan or magenta keyline – use the colour that stands out the best.

Standard templates checklist

  • Work to standard templates, where available
  • Include bleed where applicable
  • Ensure crop marks are clearly marked
  • Provide cutter guides where relevant
  • Produce Print Masters for each template

Version Control

It’s really important to track the changes on your artworks to ensure the correct version of your project goes to print. Sounds obvious, but mistakes can be made if you don’t keep an accurate history of any amends. Use artwork date and version numbers and keep your completed files in a ‘Final artwork’ folder prior to release to the printer.

Artworks should have a unique file name and version number with date

Version control checklist:

  • Keep an ordered system for file naming, e.g.:
    • CAMPAIGN NAME / POS ITEM / VERSION NUMBER / DATE
    • Spring_HangingTagGeneric1_V1_240419
  • Include date and version number for each AW change
  • It’s a good idea to save all approved artworks in a ‘Final Artwork’ folder prior to release for print

Font content

Fonts can cause a host of issues when preparing your artwork, as differing makes of font have different spacing characteristics and these can cause the document text to reflow when processed for print. Unless you know your printer has the same version of the font you are using it’s often safer to convert the font to paths wherever possible, or at the very least embed the font into a PDF prior to sending.

You’ll also need to consider font sizes and colours. Reversing text out from a background colour can cause problems with some print processes, and not all are small font-friendly.

Convert fonts to outlines (paths) before saving as final artwork – this ensures no font issues such as substitution or reflow

 

Font consideration checklist:

  • Size of font (no smaller than 8pt ideally if using screen print)
  • Type of font (fine serifs may not reproduce well)
  • Colour of font (w/o fonts can present a challenge if small and with fine serifs)
  • Convert fonts to outlines (paths) on final artworks (it’s a good idea to keep a ‘live’ text version for any late amends) or ensure all fonts are embedded (if PDF)

 

Colour content

For most colour work, printers utilise four translucent, special colour inks mixed in different quantities using a screen pattern to produce multicolour images. These four inks are cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Colour produced using these inks is also referred to as process colour, or CMYK.

There are a host of considerations when working with colour – we’ll be posting a colour theory blog later this year, but for now we’ll stick with the CMYK model, that is based on reflected light, unlike your computer screen which creates colour by mixing the visible light emitted from differently coloured light sources.

CMYK: Cyan (C), Magenta (M) and Yellow (Y) inks are used in the subtractive colour model, whereby light is removed from various part of the visible spectrum to create colours. When combined, CMY produce a dark brown rather than black. Black (K) is added in the printing process to completely remove the light from the printed picture, which the eye sees as black.

The CMYK colour model is used by the vast majority of printers as it allows you to achieve the widest spectrum of printable colours with the fewest base colours and is therefore most economical way of creating a full colour image. However, the range of colours, or gamut, using the CMYK model is not as extensive as those shown on your computer screen. Some colours cannot be reproduced using the CMYK model (some graphic programmes will issue a warning when you select certain colours), these include particularly bright greens and oranges, fluorescent colours and metallics.

If you need to print these colours, then you’ll have to label them as ‘spot’ or ‘special’ colours in your artwork. It’s a good idea to have these shown within a separate file to ensure the printer knows these are to be printed as additional colours. Spot colour printing is normally used for colour-critical projects relating to corporate identity, where single, two or three colours are used to create the corporate brand, but it can also be used to great effect for adding extra definition to 4 colour process print.

White is often used as a back-up colour or overprinting colour in screen and digital printing.

In most cases, choosing extra colours in addition to the standard four CMYK inks will add an additional cost to your print.

It might be that your design uses fewer than four colours, in which case your print project may be better artworked using special colours rather than using the four colour CMYK model. Here at Corvis, we will help you select the best colour model for your print project.

It is general good practice to group the colours you are using in your artworks within a master colour palette and export this into each set of artworks associated with that campaign to ensure colour consistency. This also applies to any tints you create.

When you have created your colour palette, it’s helpful to show the CMYK values for each colour, highlight and label any ‘spot’ or ‘special’ colours and to delete any unused colours or tints so that the printer has a clear picture of the colours and tints you have selected for your artwork.

Create a master colour palette for each campaign – import this into each artwork to ensure consistency
Calculating and retaining tint values is the key to ensuring campaign graphic consistency
Artwork should clearly show relevant CMYK & tint values to avoid any confusion – remove unused colours & tints

Colour content checklist:

  • Graphic colours in CMYK (most economical)
  • Create a separate PDF for any spot colours
  • Where colours are being specified as a spot colour to potentially work alongside a 4-colour specification please ensure the match is exact, quoting the relevant PMS reference, e.g. PMS5432
  • Ensure colours are printable
  • Create a master campaign colour chart
  • Run graphic masters to establish common tint and scale values
  • Run test prints to evaluate tint reproduction and colour reproduction

 

Graphic content

When it comes to creating graphics for your artwork, there are two basic options; bitmap or vector.

Bitmap images consist of pixels and you need to ensure your image is at the correct resolution to match the print process you’re using. If your image resolution is too low (too few pixels) then it’ll look pixelated when printed.

Bitmap images with too few pixels (Pixels Per Inch) will look jagged and out of focus when printed

A very general rule is to have the full-size image resolution (pixels per inch, or PPI) at least twice the screen ruling (lines per inch or LPI if analogue printing, dots per inch or DPI if digital) of the print process you are using. The optimum image resolution will vary depending on the chosen printer, process and the nature of your project. Here at Corvis, we’re happy to discuss your image requirements with you, but here are some typical screen values for the most common print processes to help your calculations:

  • Screen Printing 50 LPI (average)
  • Digital 80 DPI (average)
  • Offset Press 150 LPI (average)

So, for screen printing, a full-size image must be (50 x 2) 100 ppi, but for Offset litho, it would need to be (150 x 2) 300 ppi as the process uses a finer screen to print.

It is generally considered bad practice to embed scans in your artwork, so avoid doing this.

Bitmap images can be complicated and create very big files, especially if you want to print them at a large size. An alternative is the vector file, which creates an image using mathematical formulae and can be scaled to any size without losing its definition.

Each individual line is made up of either a vast collection of points with lines interconnecting all of them or just a few control points that are connected using so called Bézier curves. It is this latter method that generates the best results and that is used by most drawing programs.

This drawing demonstrates the two principles. To the left a circle is formed by connecting a number of points using straight lines. To the right, you see the same circle that is now drawn using Bézier curves, with only 4 control points (nodes).

 

The image on the left is a vector image created in a graphics program using Bézier curves. The images to the right show how the graphic outlines are created, each shape devised using a series of nodes and handles.
This image can be enlarged many times without any loss of quality and its colours can be edited very easily.

One note of caution regarding vector files; it is fairly easy to create a vector-based drawing that is very difficult to output. Avoid excessive layers or layering vignettes with transparencies as these are both common causes of output problems.

Another consideration is scale. This becomes very important if your artwork features a pattern, as you will need to ensure this is the same scale across all campaign artwork sizes. Variations in scale across artworks can cause inconsistencies that detract from your campaign message and can be very pronounced if you have used tints in your graphics. It’s a good idea to check sections of artwork at 100% to ensure tint values and scales match across all graphic sizes.

Ensure your graphics match at all sizes. Scale is a particularly important consideration when using patterns & tints. Both can appear dramatically different if a smaller graphic is enlarged without any scaling considerations, as illustrated by the images to the left.

 

Artwork preparation guide checklist summary:

Standard templates checklist:

  • Work to standard templates, where available
  • Include bleed where applicable
  • Ensure crop marks are clearly marked
  • Provide cutter guides where relevant
  • Produce Print Masters for each template

Version control checklist:

  • Keep an ordered system for file naming, e.g.:
    • CAMPAIGN NAME / POS ITEM / VERSION NUMBER / DATE
    • Spring_HangingTagGeneric1_V1_240419
  • Include date and version number for each AW change
  • It’s a good idea to save all approved artworks in a ‘Final Artwork’ folder prior to release for print

Font consideration checklist:

  • Size of font (no smaller than 8pt ideally if using screen print)
  • Type of font (fine serifs may not reproduce well)
  • Colour of font (w/o fonts can present a challenge if small and with fine serifs)
  • Convert fonts to outlines (paths) on final artworks (it’s a good idea to keep a ‘live’ text version for any late amends) or ensure all fonts are embedded (if PDF)

Colour content checklist:

  • Graphic colours in CMYK (most economical)
  • Create a separate PDF for any spot colours
  • Where colours are being specified as a spot colour to potentially

work alongside a 4-colour specification please ensure the match

is exact, quoting the relevant PMS reference, e.g. PMS5432

  • Ensure colours are printable
  • Create a master campaign colour chart
  • Run graphic masters to establish common tint and scale values
  • Run test prints to evaluate tint reproduction and colour reproduction

Image consideration:

  • Vector or Bitmap imagery?
  • Logos to be vectorised and saved in suitable format (.ai, .pdf or .eps)
  • Ideally Bitmap file PPI at 100% size needs to be at least 2 x print LPI (DPI for digital)
    • Screen Printing 50 LPI (average)
    • Digital 80 DPI (average)
    • Offset Press 150 LPI (average)
  • Run test prints to evaluate sharpness

In general:

  • Files to be clearly labelled, dated and version controlled
  • Final artwork to be saved in high resolution PDF format
  • All cutter guides to be provided, ideally with CAD samples or prototypes

So that’s it, we’ve covered most of the key considerations when creating your artworks, however this is just a general guide and is not intended to be exhaustive. The good news is that should you require further help with your artwork, Corvis is here to support you.