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The True Cost of DIY Print Design


DIY Print Design

With more than 20 years of design experience, I’ve seen it all when it comes to DIY print projects gone wrong. I often see business owners take on the task of designing and printing their own marketing materials, only to end up calling me for a redesign and reprint. Whether you’re creating business cards, brochures, catalogs or mail pieces, there are specific guidelines you need to follow to ensure your project prints as expected. From image resolution, to file format, and from ink colors to stock (paper), the printing process can be fairly complex. Each print project has design specifications (or “specs”) that a print designer follows in order to quote and produce the job correctly.

Here are a few of the most common mistakes that you can avoid by entrusting a professional designer to handle the design and production of your marketing materials.

Image Resolution Is Too Low

Nothing says unprofessional like a fuzzy image on the front of your postcard or brochure. Your marketing materials should make a great impression and represent the best of your business, but too often I see printed pieces featuring poor quality images. A good standard image resolution for print files is 300dpi, but that can vary depending on the size, format, and intended use of the final print piece. In most cases, anything less is likely to appear fuzzy, blurry and sloppy when printed rather than crisp, sharp, and professional.

File and Color Formats Are Set Up Incorrectly

The type and size of the print file you provide can also play a role in the quality of your final print piece. While many printing companies offer to print from a variety of file types, the best output options for printing are available through professional design software, such as Adobe Creative Cloud. This software also allows designers to control your brand color builds, ensuring that they are set up properly for printing. RGB colors may look perfect on your computer monitor, but CMYK builds are necessary to get the perfect color in print.

Fonts Aren’t Packaged

When sending files to the printer I also package them first. Not only does this ensure that the printer will receive the correct file format, it ensures that they’ll have the correct fonts as well. Fonts can vary from computer to computer so you never want to assume that the printer has the font you use for your brand. By packaging the file, I am able to provide all the supporting elements of the design including the font, directly to the printer. This way, they don’t need to use a substitute font when opening the file on their end.

Crop Marks and Bleeds

Since printers generally print on larger sheets of paper and then trim them down to size after printing, crop marks and bleeds are crucial when designing for print. The crop marks and bleed lines I set up in my files help ensure that your content won’t be trimmed off during production.

Proofing is Not Thorough

The final stage of the design process before the piece hits the printing press is proofing. This is when the printer sends you an electronic or printed file to review and sign off on. It’s your last chance to catch any layout issues, errors or glitches that may have occurred in transferring the file (which is less likely to happen if packaged properly). When the printer has the original design file, they may be able to make minor tweaks for you before printing.

Final Thoughts on DIY Print Design

As a small business owner, I appreciate the desire to save both time and money, especially when it comes to marketing. But over the years I’ve learned (as have many of my clients) that a DIY approach to printed marketing materials doesn’t usually pay off. Not only can print production be complex and time-consuming for someone who’s not familiar with the process, the costs can add up if errors need to be fixed during production. When you’re budgeting for an inventory of printed business cards, brochures, mailers, or other material to serve as promotional pieces for your business, be sure to include professional design time in the budget as well. Many designers have partnerships with printers that allow them to quote cost-effective printing prices. You can maximize your budget while avoiding the hassle of print production and rest assured knowing your print project is in good hands.

If you have marketing material, signage, direct mail or other promotional materials that you want to have designed or updated, contact me! I’ll be happy to discuss your project and provide an estimate for both design and print production through one of my trusted print partners.