As a graphic designer I get a lot of questions from clients about printing. There are terms that are probably unfamiliar to most people like, bleeds, offsets, 4-color, 2-color, etc. What does it all mean? What do you as the client, or designer need to know to get a print job done professionally?
First off, there are two things that make for a great print job. A good design and a good printer. A combination of both will get the best results. Make sure that you see actual samples of printed materials from both the designer and the printer. Select a printer based on quality of work and experience. Most clients always want to use the cheapest printer. I like to stick with one printer that does good work and refer them to all my clients. I know the project will look good and it will reflect good on me. To any designers reading this, I’ve come to realize that a client usually associates a poor quality printed piece with the designer. Not with the printer. If you want repeat customers, create good designs and get it printed well.
Here are a few common questions I get asked.
WILL IT LOOK THE SAME ON MY SCREEN AS IT DOES PRINTED?
Probably the hardest thing for most clients to understand is that the printed piece will NOT look like it does on the monitor. Scanners, digital cameras, and computer monitors process images using three colors: Red, Green and Blue. This is often referred to as RGB. A printing press prints full color with four colors: Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), Yellow and Black. This is referred to as CMYK. Because of the different process, there will be a level of difference in the way a job looks on the screen and the way it looks when printed. There isn’t much else to explain, the colors just won’t look the same most of the time.
WHAT IS 4-COLOR CMYK, 2-COLOR ETC?
As the name implies, this is how many colors are used for printed materials. CMYK or full color printing is sometimes referred to as 4-color. This means that your project will need to be printed four times with four different inks to create the final materials. When you look at a print quote, you’ll see right away that most of the price is in the setup. Four plates need to be made, four inks need to be mixed, and the machines need to be set up and cleaned four times. Often times, to save money, a client may not wish to print with 4 colors. (I’ll talk more about pricing later.) It may be suitable for the design to use less. In my experience most clients tend to use 1 or 2 colors. The ‘colors’ I refer to when not CMYK are typically PMS or Pantone colors.
WHAT ARE PANTONE COLORS?
These are standard colors that all printers can create. Paint samples at the local hardware or paint store would be an accurate comparison. I keep a Pantone color chart on hand at all times and so do most printers. A benefit to selecting the color in this manner is that it should be ‘what you see is what you get’ since you are seeing an actual printed sample of the color. Note: Paper can dramatically affect a color. Paper color and paper weight can affect how the ink looks. Keep in mind also that the chart shows the ink on both glossy and matte paper. The same color may look different so make sure you know the paper stock when choosing the color.
You can find more info on Pantone colors at their website by clicking here.