Printer Specs Simplified

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You and your dedicated committee have spent hours and hours on planning your event, choosing the colors, the theme, the event concept and now you need to get save the dates, invitations and programs put together so that you can send it off to your printer. There is nothing more exciting than seeing all your planning land in your hands in a pretty stack of envelopes and invitations that will get people jazzed about your cause!

Just one thing can put a damper on that little buzz… calling a printer for a quote and not understanding the mumbo jumbo terminology. I know it can be confusing so I decided maybe a little primer on some spec terms might be helpful.

What is Bleed?

Bleed is the amount of printed information which extends beyond the finished size of your piece.

Bleed allows us to print your piece slightly oversized and cut it down to its exact size. This gives a final seamless appearance of the image “bleeding” off the edges.

We recommend that you build your file with bleed dimensions of an extra 1/8 inch (.125″) on each side. This increases the total width and height of your document by 1/4 inch (.25″). For example, a 3.5 x 2″ business card is designed as a 3.75 x 2.25″ file.


CMYK, RGB & Pantone? What’s that?

CMYK refers to the four inks used in some color printing: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). Color printing typically uses ink of four colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). When CMY “primaries” are combined at full strength, the resulting “secondary” mixtures are red, green, and blue.

Mixing all three theoretically results in black, but imperfect ink formulations do not give true black, which is why the additional K component is needed.CMYK_Pic

RGB color model is an additive color model in which red, green, and blue light are added together in various ways to reproduce a broad array of colors. This format is generally reserved for devices such as cameras, computer screens, televisions and the like. Web page design will often use RGB web safe colors within their coding.

PANTONE® is known worldwide as the standard language for color communication from designer to manufacturer to retailer to customer.

PantoneImgIn 1963, Lawrence Herbert, Pantone’s founder, created a system of identifying, matching and communicating colors to solve the problems associated with producing accurate color matches in the graphic arts community. These colors can be used as a basis to be distributed and translated into other formats as necessary in a standardized way to ensure product color is consistent.

You have probably seen the color charts or guides before without even knowing!

Resolution: What does 300dpi mean?

300dpi stands for 300 dots per inch. In general a request for a 300 dpi file means your printer needs a high resolution file so that when they print your pieces, they do not turn out as a pixelated, low quality mess.  Your graphic designer will need to ensure that the final files are of this minimum standard for your very best outcome.

Coating? What do I choose? UV or Matte?

UV coating is a glossy coat applied to the paper surface and dried by a UV light to provide a protective barrier to your printed material. (Ladies, similar to your gel nails at the salon) Sometimes this coating does make it difficult to write on the materials so take that into consideration.

Matte coating is a dull coating added and dried with the UV light butt gives your printing a non-reflective finish. You will have NO issues jotting down a note or number on this coated paper so write away!

File Formats?  AI, PSD, JPG, PDF, huh?

There are a LOT of programs out there created for graphic designers to make their masterpieces. Because of this there are some standard formats that printers prefer to use so that they can actually open your files.

Most common are the following: .ai, .pdf, .psd, .eps, .jpg, .jpeg and .tiff.

  • AI is an Adobe Illustrator file
  • PDF is an Adobe PDF file
  • PSD is an Adobe Photoshop file
  • EPS is a file that allows a designer to change and alter an image size without loss of quality
  • JPG, JPEG & TIFF are files like photos that are often locked and cannot be altered and lose quality if their size is increased too much

That was a lot of info but not to worry, the post will always be here so that you can check for reference next time you go to print.

If you have any additional comments or questions, feel free to ask!

Until next time,

 Charity, the Printers Circle

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