09 Jul

Bringing a Digital Design To Print

Caralyn Tignanelli



The first time I had to send a design project to print I was completely perplexed! My company didn’t have a marketing department, so I, as the only one on staff with some graphic design skills, got handed the assignment to redesign the business cards. I was working in a small manufacturing company at the time and they definitely needed a refresh to their look. I knew my way around Adobe Illustrator and I was super excited to create a card that stood out, with a clean modern look.  

It was all fun and games until it was time to send that file to print! The questions came pouring in. Would we like coated or uncoated stock? Digital or Offset printing? What paperweight? Where are your marks and bleed? You guys, I was totally lost, which sent me into a frenzy of research. Here are some things I learned along the way that I hope will help you get started when bringing your designs to life in print. 

Understanding the 2 types of paper

The first thing to think about is what type of paper you want to use. There are two basic distinctions, coated and uncoated. As you might have guessed, uncoated paper has no added material finishes. If you are going for a matte look, uncoated paper could be for you. It comes in a huge variety of textures and colors. You can also find sustainable lines of uncoated paper, like Mohawk Loop, which uses 30% post consumer fiber. https://www.mohawkconnects.com/products/paper/mohawk-loop

Coated Papers have additional coatings laid on top of the raw paper. They can be finished to be matte or gloss. By adding digital coatings to your print, you can add a wide range of spot textures that can be used to enhance your design. Coated papers absorb less ink so if you are looking for vibrant colors or really sharp images, a coated stock might be the best way to go. 

Choosing the right print process

Another thing you will have to consider when going to print is if you want to use digital or offset printing. My advice is to do digital whenever possible. Digital printing is more cost-effective, especially if you are doing a smaller run. Because digital printing doesn’t require metal plates to be made for your project, you can ask the printer for physical proof, and make changes if you need to. There are also a huge number of digital print processes that can be used to enhance your design like spot coatings and textured finishes. 

There are times when offset printing is the better option, however. If you are printing white ink on a dark paper or if you are looking to get more vibrant colors on an uncoated paper, offset printing can give you a better result. That is because the printer can run your image through the offset printer multiple times to build up layers of ink. This multiple run strategy looks sharper when done using offset versus digital. Offset printing also becomes more cost-effective when you are printing large orders. 

Getting down to the nitty-gritty 

Marks and bleeds - what are they and how do you use them? Anytime you want the color to go right to the edge of the page you have to put a “bleed” on the document where the color will come past the edge of the artboard, usually an eighth of an inch on all sides. Your “marks” show the printer where you want the edge to be so they know where to cut. For more information on how to set these up check out this tutorial on our Instagram! 

Paperweights refer to the thickness of the paper and it can be tricky to decide. There are three ways that weights are distinguished, T for text, C for Cover, and Pt Points. I recommend working with a paper dealer like Millcraft https://www.millcraft.com/. They can guide you through choosing the right paperweight and type for your project. They can also provide you with paper samples and project mock-ups. A paper dealer can also give you recommendations on local printers who would be a good fit for your project! 

Over the years, bringing ideas to print has become one of my favorite parts of the marketing process. In our digital world, creating something tangible for your customers really stands out. Producing something physical gives your customers something to hold - not just something to scroll through. Are you interested in making a statement? At Exigent, we have a large portfolio of print pieces. Our in-house designers work with the best printers to bring your idea to life!

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