I would guess that, today, more people are entering the broader world of design through web design than any other facet of the larger spectrum. In large part, this is likely due to the accessibility of the web. It’s right there in front of us, and most of us probably spend at least a few minutes (if not hours) on it every single day.
It’s also relatively easy to get started with designing for the web (which is not to say that it’s easy). I started creating my first sites with Windows Notepad and a freeware copy of Paint Shop Pro. It’s certainly not the most ideal setup, and if I was starting again, I would probably be using Gimp and some sort of freeware coding app. Regardless, web design is relatively immediate, and while there are many different areas that need to be considered, there is still the sense that we are very much in control of what we are doing.
Designing for print is a bit of a different story. First, while we can do a lot of work in Photoshop (and probably Gimp too), somehow this kind of design feels somewhat more inaccessible. That’s not to say that it’s difficult or complicated, but rather that it’s probably not something that as many people would just sit down and start doing because they’re bored and sitting at their computer one evening. Designing for print is generally much more intentional and purposeful.
It’s also at least somewhat out of our hands. While web seems to offer us complete control over our work (this, of course, is debatable), when designing for print you must invariably trust your artwork in the hands of someone else—unless, of course, you’re a printer yourself—and there are a wide range of different things that need to be considered.
All that being said, however, it is certainly not outside the realm of possibility that, as a web designer, you may be asked to try your hand at print design from time to time. Well have no fear, this post is here to help prepare you for that eventuality. Below, you will find a collection of articles specifically chosen to help web designers who are making their first venture into the world of printed matter.
Covering the Basics
If you’re just getting started, the best place to start is probably to cover the basics of designing for print. This includes understanding DPI, bleeds, CMYK colour, the difference between plain black and rich (true) black and a variety of other important concepts. Here are a few articles to help cover the basics here:
A short little piece that covers some of the most basic elements of getting your artwork ready for print, such as colour space, resolution and bleed/trim areas. Works great as a simple introduction to designing for print.
This is a similar article to the previous, with just a bit of a different perspective. It also briefly touches on a few extra areas, such as the importance of deadlines and packaging files. Just be aware that the discussion of black focuses primarily on text, not on larger areas of black.
Here is yet another brief article to help you prepare your artwork for print. Again, some of the same ideas are repeated, but this one has a very nice discussion about the importance of plain black for text rather than four colour, processed black.
This article focuses on some of the key important concepts surround both the RGB and CMYK colour spaces, and covers some things that you need to consider when converting and image from RGB to CMYK.
This article will help explain the critical difference between plain, single colour black and rich, processed black, helping you avoid the disappointment of getting your printed piece back and finding faded, dark grey where you expected a deep black.
If you have one of the recent Adobe suites that includes Photoshop and Illustrator, there is a pretty good chance that you may also have InDesign sitting somewhere on your harddrive too. Perhaps you’ve never opened it, or perhaps you have and were simply unable to make an real sense of it.
Well, while it shares some similarities with Illustrator, it is not a native vector application. It is a page layout application—exactly the kind of software package that we need for creating beautiful books, magazines, leaflets and other printed matter. And, while it is certainly not the only application of its kind (its main competition is Quark), it remains my application of choice, primarily because it comes bundled with my other Adobe products.
The thing that I like about InDesign over another application, like Photoshop, is that it is specifically engineered to help designers create work for the printed page. As such, it allows you to create multi-page documents, and set options for bleeds, slugs, crop marks and so on. It also contains a huge and versatile set of typographic tools that make Photoshop’s character and paragraph palettes very limited in comparison.
So, for many web designers, InDesign may be the natural page layout application to turn to. To help in this area, SpyreStudios has an extensive seven part series called “Getting To Grips With In Design,” which covers most of the key areas of the application. Reading through these will offer a very solid foundation for InDesign:
After having come to grips with InDesign with the SpyreStudios series, here is an awesome tutorial about how to create a simple magazine cover in InDesign. this is a perfect opportunity to put what you’ve learned to use. It’s also written by Terry White, a really great Adobe instructor (I’ve personally attended one of his seminars).
Now that we’ve covered the basics of setting up your artwork for print and started down the path to learning page layout, we can start looking at some tips and requirements for going through the prepress stage, and actually getting designed artwork ready to send off to the printer.
This is a nice little article that covers some of the things that you need to do to prepare your artwork in the prepress stage. By this point, some of the content will be familiar to you, but there is a nice little discussion of the concept of trapping, along with the uses of registration marks and colour bars for the printing process.
This is just a short little piece about how to actually prepare your InDesign files in a single package that you can send off to the printer, using the application’s Package functionality. It’s a nice little time saver that is definitely worth knowing and this article functions a simple and straightforward introduction.
Even if you’ve covered all the basics that you would have learned from many of the previous cited articles, there are still some tiny but important details that will need to be considered before actually going to press. This article works as a kind of checklist of a number of other things that you will want to address or consider before going to press. The topics here are directed more at a somewhat experienced print designer, so its probably not the best article to start with, but is definitely a valuable resource that you might want to bookmark.
Here’s an article that I wrote a few weeks ago, dealing specifically with font issues and print. It covers some basic things that you can do to help minimize font issues when sending artwork off to the printer. If you check this one out, also be sure to read the comments, as there is some helpful discussion there too.
I’m certainly not going to try and make any claims that would suggest that this collection of articles is in any way comprehensive or that by reading all of the material included here you will somehow be guaranteed to become a master print designer. Like anything, that will come with time, practice and experience.
Instead, with this article I’ve simply tried to offer a collection of resources that I felt would be specifically valuable to web designers who are just starting to get their feet in the world of print design (intentionally or otherwise). So, while these articles will not turn you into a print master, reading through them should get you comfortable with the basics!