We work with many Vancouver clients not only providing web design, but also full branding (logo design, web design, and matching print material design like business cards, brochures, letterheads etc). As such, I figured it was time to take a look at the pitfalls of getting your brand new, shiny brochure or __________ (fill in the blank) printed.
You go to the printer, hand them the file (which you spent at least ten minutes last night admiring on your computer monitor at home) to the printer.
The printer has you sign a contract, and you walk away with a smile on your face.
The problem comes when you come to pick up your materials and it looks completely different than you were expecting. Now you’re several hundred or several thousand dollars in the hole, and you still don’t have materials you want to hand out.
Here’s a few facts to be aware of, that will help you to make sure your job comes out looking as good as it looks on your monitor at home or at work.
The color of your print material once printed,
can look different than what you see on the screen because:
- Colors of a design file can look different between different monitors, depending on the color calibration of the monitor. So what you see on your screen, may possibly have very little relation to what it will look in print.
- Your home printer is not a good predictor of what your design will look like in print at the printing company.
- The type of paper used (texture and surface finish) can have a dramatic effect how the color looks. One single shade can look very different once applied, as the surface of the paper effects the density and reflection of the ink that is applied.
- There are “Named” Pantone shades, and all the shades in between. When we are designing, we use all colors, including the “in between” shades, which gives us the most creative freedom on your behalf. We usually only restrict a design to a certain Pantone shades if this is requested of us by the client, if they are having a problem nailing down the exact color they want for print.
- The type of ink used, and type of print process (digital or offset) also effect the intensity and shade of the output.
- A “bulk run” where your job is bundled with other jobs together, can cause your colors to go off as the print job is not calibrated to your specific colors.
- A digital print (which is often used by printers to give a proof) can look somewhat different than the offset print, because again the paper, ink, and application process and heat are different.
- Sometimes inexperienced (or careless) printers don’t pay attention, and print in a different color space than your print work is designed in. If you have a CMYK design and it’s printed by the printer in RGB colors (or vice versa), it will look ghastly, with the colors not at all how it was designed. If you go to a “do it yourself” or “instant service” printer (I’m naming no names here) be careful of this, I’ve seen it happen!
The Proofing Process:
When you finish with the design process of the files for your print materials, you will have worked closely with your designer to come up with a look and feel that makes you happy. However as our designers can not predict your monitor calibration (which controls how you are seeing the colors of the design in your digital file), and we don’t know the kind of print process and ink and paper you’re using, we can’t guarantee that the colors will look the same once in print, as they do on the file you are viewing.
A proof is a (usually digital) printout of your design onto the closest possible paper to the paper that you’ve ordered for your print run. Printers often charge a small fee (like $10 – 20) for a proof, to cover their time going through this process.
Always, always, ask for a proof before placing your order, to give yourself a chance to adjust the colors in the design if needed. Ordering a print job without protecting yourself by getting a proof first, is like the proverbial cat in the bag, particularly if it’s a new design that’s never been printed before. If it’s a repeat run with the same file and the same printer, you may choose to skip the proofing. However if it’s been some time since the last time you got it done, it does not hurt to get it done again, as press setups, new inks, new paper at the printer in the meantime, etc can change your output the second time around.
Once you have your proof in hand, as the printer how many percent you can expect your actual job to differ from the proof. Remember paper type, process, and inks WILL make a digital proof look somewhat different than the finished product.
If the proof is not looking as you visualized it, get the colors adjusted by your designer, and have another proof run, until the color is what you are visualizing matches your proof. If you do need to have the colors adjusted before printing, ask the printer to show you the similar colors on a Pantone Swatch.
Pantone Swatches look somewhat like the paint chips at the hardware store… they are specific color numbers ordered like a rainbow on little strips of paper. These show you specific numbered colors and how they look output onto certain materials. After you pick the exact color you like, you can give this Pantone number to your designer, to adjust the colors of your design.
Once you’ve gotten the changes made, get another proof,
until you’re happy with the result.
It should be your printers job to ensure your satisfaction by taking you through the proofing process… if they don’t give you a proof as a part of their standard service, insist on a proof and pay the proofing fee. It’s cheaper to proof and revise rather than print and throw out! (and then still have to revise and proof)
Disclaimer: This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will give you some points to be aware of when talking to a printer. Your printer may have additional information for you regarding their particular processes. Whichever printer you choose, should be willing to spend time answering your questions, and making sure that what will come off the press, will match what you’re expecting. We as a design company, can create designs that you love, but we need your feedback after you see a proof of the design, so we can make any color revisions that you would like, before your sending the file to print.
ALWAYS GET A PROOF BEFORE PRINTING!