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So you have a good website and a Facebook page promoting your business, and then you realise that you need some business cards and letterhead with your logo. You make them up and then when you get it printed the logo is blocky and the text is hard to read. You may be wondering why that is when the art looks so good on the website. Perhaps it is the nature of how modern marketing has gone but theses days most marketing material is designed for use on the internet before it’s ‘fixed’ to work in print. Jagged or blocky text. Colours that seem to change when printed. Artwork that becomes grainy on the page. These are some of the issues that can spring up from such situation. So this month’s technical article will cover what are the common problems of artwork design for a computer screen and the ways you can try to fix it.
Now if the designer is good at their job, they will often create both online and print ready versions at the same time. However that isn’t always the case. Maybe they are website builders and that’s their focus so they aren’t going to configure things to work for print. Maybe you’ve one of those one shot designers of a site like ‘Fiver’ who will give you a great logo when you look at it on screen but the minute you print it, the flaws in the design will become obvious. So what are the common issues that can occur and how do you fix them
This boils down to the natural resolution of the two systems. Computer screens work at 72dpi while print is 300dpi or over 16 times the number of dots in a square inch. So when the graphic is printed the printer has to use 16 print dots to replicate the same screen dot, resulting in the blockiness. If the designer can’t supply you a print ready version of the graphic, a quick fix is getting a graphics program and using the scale option to enlarge it. Set the image size to the measurements you need and set to best quality for the conversion. The result will lose some of the sharpness of the original but it will still be usable.
Companion to the smooth screen blocky print problem is that because computer screens have a quarter of the resolution to what is expected to be acceptable in print. If you set the image to good print quality you find it shrinks to quite a small size. A rough rule of thumb to get good print quality from a computer image, is that for every it takes 10 pixels for 1mm in size. So that ‘massive’ 850 x 250 pixel website header is will only look good at 85 x 25mm of size or roughly half the size of a business card. Now to get around this, good image software will also allow you to increase the dpi (the number of dots) of an image as part of the enlargement process. We recommend setting it to 300dpi but you can get away with 200dpi if the image comes out a bit noisy or grainy at the 300 setting
This is a sign that the designer has a jpeg for the text or used some form of image compression. Jpegs aren’t designed to handle text and so show how bad they are at it when printed. In other case its because there is only so many pixels to work with and when they are enlarged the program can’t smooth the hard edges so we get ‘steps’ instead.In many cases it’s better to cut your losses and replace the problem areas with plain text. If the text is over a image, you might be able to find the original image and put a new text over that instead.
That’s an ongoing problem for us printers and in fact I’ve covered this in several articles before. And the reasons why can be complex but the most common reason is, because you are looking at reflected light coming off the page instead of projected light coming from a screen everything will be 5-15% darker. The simplest solution is either have us print everything slightly lighter, or just play with the brightness and contrast of the image when you’re setting up your design and make it just a bit lighter than what you expect it to be
This one is a problem that’s a little harder to fix and we have covered in articals before but it boils down to that a lot of programs will working RGB of screens while print is CMYK. While our print systems are designed to compensate for the difference in how colours are made using RGB, it isn’t perfect and can be slightly inaccurate. The limits of print technology means that we also can’t blend colours as finely as can be done on computer screens so some modification will happen. If it’s a really big issue then the best thing to do is to contact us directly and we can help you come up with a modified version of image that will work better in print.
Another side effect for designing for the screen first. To get around the limits of the resolution the designer will have the edges of the images blur slightly to smooth over the blockiness of the pixels. On the higher resolution of the print, these blending pixels become more obvious as they are scaled up and the colour steps become a less smooth. The use of the image enlargement with increase dpi will help average out some of these problems.
Of course these are not complete fixes, more just a ‘get it okay for now’ solution. The best process is to have the logos set up in a variety of formats and sizes so you have them ready for every situation from screen printing t-shirts, doing brochures, to signwriting your vehicle. If you have problems getting this sorted, why not talk to us at Copy Express and we can take care of it for you.