Hints to Help Save Time and Money

Here are a few pointers to ensure your project is produced quickly, within budget and, most importantly, looks good.

Make Sure Art Elements are the Proper Resolution

Photos: It’s easy to grab photos from the web. There are a couple problems with that though. For starters, you could get sued. Secondly, unless the image is being used on the web, it probably isn’t going to look good when printed, at least not at the size you want it printed. We’ll get to the legalities of pilfering images from the web in a moment. Right now, lets go over images resolution.

exampleThis image looks fine at this size. But if you enlarge it…

Any photo or logo that is going to be printed needs to be at least 300 dots per inch (dpi). Photos on the web are usually 72 dpi, and while they usually look fine on screen, print is another matter. That’s why I urge clients to supply photos they have either taken themselves or have hired a professional to take for them, or to purchase high quality stock photography.

Not sure about the resolution? Generally, bigger is better. If taking your own photos, select the largest image size on your camera, even if you intend for the image to run small. You can reduce a large image without affecting its quality. The same can’t be said for enlarging a small image. This also applies when purchasing stock art.

If you are in doubt about the resolution of your photos, I’ll be happy to check them for you.

Logos/Illustrations: When it comes to logos, usually, a vector based Illustrator EPS file is best (an Illustrator image is saved as a PDF can work in a pinch). Vector files can be scaled to any size without loss of image quality, and they are perfect for pieces that require specific PMS colors (spot color). That said, I can usually work with high resolution, pixel based files like JPGs and TIFFs for most print material. However, if you are getting signs or t-shirts made, better start hunting for the original EPS file of your logo.

Purchasing a Stock Image is ALWAYS Cheaper than a Lawsuit

It’s easy to Google an image and download it. It’s when that image is used in a design that it gets complicated. Besides resolution issues (see previous entry), there is the little matter of copyright law. Just because an image is on the web doesn’t mean it’s public domain, and there are way too many lawyers who will be happy to remind you of that fact.

There are exceptions, of course. For example, if you work for Keller Williams Realty you can take a Keller Williams logo from the web to use on your business card with relative impunity (though I would recommend contacting the PR department at the corporate offices for a high quality EPS, PDF or JPG). However, if you take an image of Mickey Mouse and have it incorporated in your postcard promoting the grand opening of your petting zoo, you will quickly discover that Disney’s seemingly easy-going mascot has an army of not-so-friendly lawyers.

Fortunately, you can buy stock images as easily as you can do a Google search. Yes, it involves spending money, but not as much as you might think (and certainly not as much as you would spend defending yourself against Disney). You can find images on iStockPhoto.com for as little as $36. Shutterstock.com and crestock.com are two other sites you can try for low-to-moderate priced images. Of course, I can get the images for you…for an additional fee.


Size Does Matter…

…when it comes to stock art, that is. If you go to istockphoto.com, you will notice the photos are available in different sizes, usually ranging from Small to Extra Large (and sometimes up to XXXLarge). Unless you intend to only use an image in digital media, the Large or Extra Large — even the XXXLarge — image is the better value. Remember, you can always reduce a copy of that large image without suffering any loss of quality, but if you increase the size of a small image you’ll quickly regret not buying the bigger version of the photo. Besides, istockphoto.com recently changed its price structure (read: increased its prices) so images are the same price regardless of file size. Why, then, would you even consider the smaller file size?

Examples Always Help

It’s not always easy to communicate the look you are going for with a piece. That’s why examples are so important. Your example doesn’t necessarily correspond with the piece you are getting designed. If you like the look of a particular website or magazine, let me know, even if you hired me to design a postcard. It will give me a much greater understanding of your tastes than generalities like “upscale,” “clean” or “festive,” which give me an idea of what direction to go in, but not necessarily what road to I need to take there.

Also, let me know up front of any design pet peeves you may have. I had one client who did not like the color green used on the text of his magazine covers. Another client of a print shop I worked at hated italicized text. If you have any such bugaboos, let me know. If I know ahead of time that you can’t stand the color orange and that it is absolutely imperative I use the font Avant Garde, it will save us both some time (and you some money).

Allow Time for Printing

We live in a time when practically anything you want to buy can be in your hands within 24 hours. This includes printing, but there are often caveats like making sure you place your order before 10 a.m. and paying an exhorbitant amount of money. And if this overnight printing is taking place out of state, you've got to figure on shipping, which costs you time (3-5 days, at least) or, if you need your material yesterday, another exhorbitant amount of money for overnight shipping. Then you just have to hope there are no adverse weather events that hold up FedEx and/or UPS.

The point is: try to allow at least a week (two or three for bigger projects) for printing. If you don't have the time to wait be prepared to spend some money, and even then there are no guarantees (presses break down; deliveries can be delayed). Counting on everything happening perfectly is to set yourself up for disappointment.