A calendar would be a great way to help your customers, and to do some extra promotion along the way. So, you open your favorite publishing software and crank out a layout. Hey, not bad! Now, all you need to do is get the calendars printed. What would push the idea over the top is covers printed on vinyl to give it durability and quality.
This is starting to get complicated, and it’s where your excitement might evaporate. Commercial printing—which is a way of referring to printing things in quantity—isn’t the same as clicking on the publishing program’s “print” button several thousand times.
Print Versus Prepare For Printer
Almost every computer program gives you the option to output a printable version of what you’ve created. That’s different from what a printer needs. It’s also different from what we may need here at Vinyl Art to help you with your project.
Even if we’re not going to print it on vinyl for you, there are important things we’d like to share with you about preparing artwork for a commercial printer. The area that might give you the most headaches is forgetting about RGB and learning to think in CMYK.
Coloring Outside The Lines
Your computer monitor uses Red, Green, and Blue pixels of light to create all the colors you see. Your phone does the same thing. Most printers made for home and office mimic the RGB dots of light with similar dots of ink to output your documents.
It’s likely that the photos or artwork you want to use for your printing project have also been saved in the RGB format. Guess what?
Commercial printers use presses that create colors with Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black inks. There’s no RGB in their world (except on the computer screen). When dealing with commercial printers, you leave your RGB world and enter their CMYK world. Every color in your RGB design must be created instead with a combination of CMYK.
Except when you decide to use a spot color. These are special colors that can’t be made by a mixture of CMYK inks. It could be metallic or fluorescent, for example. Pantone spot colors are created by a specific recipe of ink colors. They must be ordered and applied in a single print run.
You’ll need image manipulation software such as Adobe Photoshop to convert your RGB artwork to the CMYK format a commercial printer needs.
Resolving Your Resolution
Have you ever looked at a gorgeous image on your computer screen, and then printed it out to discover it’ll only stay gorgeous when it’s the size of a postage stamp? You’re experiencing what commercial printers say is their biggest lament.
Images saved to be used for computer screens and websites only need about 72 to 96 dots (or pixels) to look great. An image saved in the .jpeg format then gets further compressed to reduce the file size.
All the missing and compressed information makes itself known when you print it out—especially if you attempt to make an image larger than the size at which it was saved. Commercial printers will give you their preferred resolution for images. Be prepared, though. It’s not going to be 72dpi. Most commercial printers prefer at least 150dpi and up to 300dpi.
The Tip Of The Commercial Printing Iceberg
Understanding CMYK vs RGB, and knowing how to prepare images for print are the 2 biggest hurdles to working with a commercial printer. It’s far from all there is to know, though. You’ll also need to make sure you have the font files you’re using (and the rights to use them), as well as making sure that your layout compensates for folds and bleeds.
It can be enough to stop you dead in your tracks. Maybe your clients don’t need that calendar, after all. Of course they do! You don’t need to be an expert—but you do need to know the basics. Brush up on what’s been covered here. Remember, too, that a good commercial printer is going to work with you to make sure you get quality results. That means helping you through the process.
Get us involved early in your planning process. We can tell you what we need, so you can work on it at the same time you’re preparing what your commercial printer needs. It may not be exactly the same, but we’ll make sure the artwork you provide us will get you the results you’ll be proud to put your name on. That’s what matters most.
Many of our clients start the process with us. We help them inject further creativity into the project so that both the printing and vinyl aspects take advantage of what can be done. We’ve got a huge vault of great ideas for:
- Book covers
- Calendar covers
- Calendar corners
- Vinyl pockets on the inside of printed folders
- Check book covers
- Vinyl sleeves to hold instruction manuals for technical products
Want to learn more?