Tips for producing design & artwork suitable for litho, digital or large format printing.

Help, Tips & Tricks

If you are thinking about supplying your own artwork, there are a few industry-standard guidelines which you’ll need to follow in order to guarantee the very best outcome for your printing. The following tips and tricks should help set you on the right path, but of course do call us on 020 7490 7588 or contact us here if you need further clarification or assistance for something not covered below.
Of course it also goes without saying that we’d be more than happy to do your graphic design and artwork for you should you prefer not to do it yourself.

Printing sizes

At Firstpoint Print Clerkenwell we can handle and print an enormous range of different sizes. That said, there are of course limits so we thought the following guidelines would help to clarify the maximum dimensions we can print in-house.

For large format printing, for example for things like posters, display graphics, exhibition panels etc., we can print up to 1000mm wide by pretty much any length, within reason.

For digital printing we can print anything up to 320mm x 450mm (known as ‘SRA3’ size).

For litho printed jobs, we can print anything up to B1. This larger size allows us to print multiple copies of jobs at the same time, leading to economies of scale, particularly on longer print runs.

For all of the above please bear in mind that sizes stated are the maximum un-trimmed paper dimensions and, as such, they need to include printers’ marks such as trims and bleed, which will be trimmed off the final finished job.

If you have any queries, simply call 020 7490 7588 or contact us here and we’ll be happy to help.

Colour space

Getting the colour space correct for images, graphics and any other elements in your artwork is of critical importance if you are to avoid unnecessary complications, additional costs and unexpected results.

For full colour photographs and similar graphics, your images should be in CMYK mode (a.k.a. ‘four colour process’). This will separate correctly on all of our presses.

Should you leave any RGB images in your artwork by mistake, please be aware that while we can convert them to CMYK for use on our digital presses, this is not possible on our litho presses due to the different technology involved. In fact, if you leave an RGB photo or graphic in artwork destined for litho printing it is virtually certain that you will not be happy with the printed result! So great care needs to be taken.

For best results, save your graphics and photographs in CMYK mode, not RGB.

Spot colour (Pantone matched) printing is only possible on our litho presses. While this gives the very best colour matching, be aware that every different spot colour will require a different ink to pass through the litho press, so will also require a separate printing plate. So the more spot colours you specify in your artwork, the more it will cost.

You can, of course, also mix spot colour with CMYK, for example if you need to include special spot colours like metallics or fluorescents AND include full colour photos, however this will only be possible on our litho presses.

Alternatively we would be happy to supply your graphic design and artwork for you so you don’t have to worry about any such technical matters. If you have any queries, simply call 020 7490 7588 or contact us here and we’ll be happy to help.

Handling fonts

When saving off your final artwork file, please make sure you either embed your fonts into the artwork file or use the ‘outline fonts’ command to convert them to vectors. Either way this will mean we shouldn’t have any font-matching issues when we come to print your job. Do, however, make sure that you also retain an editable version of the artwork file, with proper ‘live’ fonts, just in case you ever need to edit your text or make corrections in the future.

Do call us on 020 7490 7588 or contact us here if you have any technical queries or would prefer us to handle your design and artwork for you.

Image resolution

It is extremely important to get the resolution of your images (photos, graphics etc.) correct in your artwork files. If you get it wrong your images may look soft, fuzzy or even pixellated. The rule of thumb to follow is that image resolution should be 300 dots per inch (dpi, also known as pixels per inch or ppi), at the size the photograph or image is featured in the artwork. You can go above that resolution, within reason, but you should not drop below it if you want images to look as clear and crisp as possible. Images taken directly from the internet are unsuitable, due to having a resolution of only 72dpi.

If you’d rather leave such technical matters to us, we have an in-house graphic design and artwork service so would be happy to produce it for you. Simply call us on 020 7490 7588, contact us here or upload your brief and print requirements here for a no-obligation quotation.

Using transparency effects

Transparency effects, including hazy drop shadows and see-through lettering or graphics can add real style to your printed design. However a few guidelines need to be followed in order to avoid unexpected results. Firstly, never use transparency effects in conjunction with spot colours. Secondly always make sure that text is above any transparency effect, not on a layer below it. Lastly, when saving your final artwork file, choose the medium preset when ‘flattening’ the transparency effects.

As always, if you have any technical queries do call us on 020 7490 7588 or contact us here and we’ll be happy to help. Alternatively, if you’d rather leave the design and artwork to us, simply upload your brief and print requirements here for a no-obligation quotation.

Adding bleed

An extra 3mm of ‘bleed’ is required on artwork for any printed job which has colours, graphics, text or backgrounds which go right to the edge of the printed sheet. This means extending graphics or photographs for an extra 3mm beyond the true edge of your document, so as to be sure that the final trimmed result does not have unintended white borders. It’s also best to include ‘trim marks’ too. Professional design and artwork packages like Adobe InDesign and QuarkXpress have such facilities built in but ‘desktop’ packages like Word and Powerpoint for Windows do not, so are best avoided when dealing with artwork destined for professional printing.

When images, colours and graphics print to the edge, add 3mm of bleed and remember to include trim marks in your final artwork file.

Preferred artwork format

Most professional printers, including Firstpoint Print Clerkenwell, prefer artwork to be supplied in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. This ensures, to the largest extent possible, that ‘what you see is what you get’, within reason and assuming all best practices – including these technical tips – have been implemented correctly.

Generally the ‘PDF/X-3:2002’ or ‘Press Quality’ presets (available in programmes like InDesign and QuarkXpress) suit most printing jobs. However for jobs destined for litho presses which include spot colours, the ‘PDF/X-1a:2002’ preset is preferred.

If you are not confident preparing your own high resolution PDF, you can supply us your ‘native’ artwork file so long as it’s ideally in either InDesign or QuarkXpress format (up to v.7) and has been ‘Packaged’ (for InDesign) or ‘Collected for output’ (for Quark) in the saving process. This means that graphics and fonts are included within the file. If saved incorrectly, any missing images will either leave blank spaces or will print in extremely low resolution; either way a very poor result.

It’s also possible to supply native Illustrator files, for which EPS format is preferred, with fonts ‘outlined’ as explained elsewhere above. Native Photoshop files are also accepted but are not ideal, particularly if small text is included, so please ‘maintain vector data’ for any text and also save Photoshop files in EPS format.

Call 020 7490 7588 or contact us here for further clarification or for more information.

Artwork checklist.

A word about proofs

At Firstpoint Print in Clerkenwell we always recommend that customers view and approve a printed proof prior to printing out the full production run of any printed piece. A proof gives customers one final chance to spot any typographical errors, layout mistakes or technical issues before it’s too late.

We usually output printed proofs on our digital presses and these give customers a good idea of how the final printed job will look. However it should be treated as a very good guide rather than an exact representation of how the final printed piece will look. Different papers, surfaces and conditions at any given time will all affect how the proof and final production will look, or differ from each other, so it’s always worth bearing this in mind when viewing your proof.

If in doubt, simply ask us for our technical and aesthetic opinion and we’ll be happy to help. We can be contacted on 020 7490 7588 or contact us here for further information.

Want a free copy of all these tips?

If so, simply download an Acrobat PDF of all our useful artwork and printing tips here.