The Ultimate Guide To Print Design For Your Next Marketing Project

Print design plays an essential role in the success of your marketing materials. A well-designed piece of marketing collateral, branded clothing or event materials can make your brand stand out and leave a lasting impression on your target audience. Over the years we have seen many print materials grace our screens, every one of them unique to each business and brand. Some of them are designed by a creative designer and others are created by the business owners themselves. 

As print consultants we’re here to support you with all your design questions and to offer guidance, helping our clients to achieve the best results possible. To ensure impactful messaging, captivating designs, brand guidelines are implemented and to achieve maximum print quality we will always recommend using a designer. They are experts in their field and although it’s an expense we feel what you gain far outweighs any financial outlay. You also have to consider the time it takes to create your design and the risks that may occur from not having the final set up ready for print.

Thanks to the rise in design tools such as Canva, pulling together your own print materials has become more accessible. Canva’s simple templates with drag-and-drop, click-and-go and search features make graphic design easy. This type of software can work for some items and save time with their pre-made templates, but often does not create the sharpness of design required or a unique theme. Of course there is always the factor that not everyone has an eye for design and those that specialise in this space can add real value.

With this in mind, here are the seven design elements you need to know when preparing your design for print.  

1. Bleed

Bleed is the section of the design that goes beyond where the paper is cut. This is to ensure there is no unintended white edges when printing to the edge of the paper which can look untidy. We recommend that you print images beyond where the cutting line is. This is so when the paper is cut, you get a nice clean cut-off point!

Adding bleed in Canva: 

  • From the menu bar, select “File” then “View Settings”.
  • Select “Show Print Bleed”. A border of dashed lines will appear close to the edges of your design. This bleed margin is fixed based on print production standards and cannot be adjusted.
  • If you see white gaps around the design edges, resize or stretch your background to cover them. Stretch elements, that you don’t mind being cut, around the edges as well.

2. Crop Marks

Adding crop marks to your design means that important design elements aren’t cut when printed. Small lines are placed in the corners of the print-ready artwork and are used to help guide print finishers when they are trimming the print job down to the final size. 

Adding crop marks in Canva: 

  • On the menu bar, select “Share”, then “Download”.
  • On the File type dropdown, select “PDF Print”.
  • Tick the crop marks and bleed checkbox.
  • Select “Download”. 

3. Safe Zones

By adding a safe zone to your design, you can prevent text and/ or graphic elements from being cut off, or from being too close to the edge. This means even if the paper stack shifts a little whilst being printed, the text and images will not be lost. We recommend adding a safe zone of at least 3 mm on each side of your design. 

4. High Resolution Images

If your print design looks blurry or pixelated when you download it but looks clear in the editor, it’s usually because of the file type or image quality. Here are some tips for improving your image quality:

  • Low-quality images can result in pixelated designs, we recommend uploading high-quality photos in 300 DPI (dots per inch).
  • Check the dimensions of your design, if your design size is below 500×500 px, it will likely look blurry when downloaded.
  • Social media platforms compress images uploaded to their sites which can make a design appear blurry. To get the best results when uploading to social media, download your design in PNG format.
  • Some filters have a ‘softening’ effect which may cause a design to look blurry. If you’ve applied a filter to your image, try to remove the filter to see if the quality improves.

5. CMYK vs RGB

Did you know screens and printers use different colour models? The RGB (Red, Green, Blue) colour model is used for digital work, while CMYK (Cyan Magenta, Yellow and Key) is used for print products. The latter is ideal for colourful printed designs. Therefore, if you’re planning to print your design, we recommend designing with CMYK colours. Designing with the output in mind helps align the colours of your design when printed.

Since Canva is a digital app, RGB is used by default however you can use CMYK colours while designing. Here’s how:

  1. Identify the HEX codes for your brand colours or use an online colour picker if you have a specific colour in mind which isn’t in your brand. 
  2. Input the CMYK colour hex codes from the editor or in a colour palette. 
  3. Use CMYK colours in the elements of your design.

6. Font Outlines

Before sending files to print, it is important to convert all fonts to outlines. Outlining fonts in your files will ensure that the font’s appearance is preserved when your files are sent to print as it converts the font into artwork.

7. Brand Guidelines

Brand guidelines are essential to establishing the unique identity and character of your business. They are used to ensure you and your team are consistent throughout your marketing efforts when designing materials. Your brand guidelines may include: 

  • The types of icons and imagery design elements that can be used. 
  • Guidelines on logo usage including minimum and maximum sizes, contexts and spacing.
  • Instructions on tone of voice.
  • Font styles and text sizes for both print and digital media.
  • Colour palette information including CMYK, RGB and Pantone references.

In Summary

We hope you have gained some insight into the design elements you need to consider when preparing your marketing collateral for print. At Q Print we do offer a design service to help you get your next marketing project print ready, to find out more or discuss your next project, please get in touch

Raina Joyce

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