Friday, 19 August 2011

Designing Artwork - a beginners guide...

Increasingly our customers are designing artwork themselves - many using the likes of GIMP (a free photoshop equivilent for windows), so what are the most important things to remember when setting up and design artwork for business cards? This blog finds out!

Setting the files up ready for design...

Starting with the real basics - we like your resolution to be 300dpi and for you to design in CMYK (full colour) right from the start, so get that sorted first and foremost, and then look at the size you're working with...

When setting artwork up it's important to remember your bleed. Here at The Local Print Company we like 2mm bleed on all sides, meaning your actual artwork dimensions need to be 4mm larger than the finished size - so with business cards which are 85x55mm, your artwork will need to be 89x59mm (this will be trimmed down to 85x55mm after production). The purpose of bleed is to compensate for small movements during production - we print slightly bigger than is necessary so when it's cut we don't run out of artwork - thus showing a nasty white line down the edge. Many printers like 3mm, but as the tolerance is generally only 1mm there's no real need - some designers tend to get a little uptight about this, so if it makes you feel better, 3mm bleed is fine (we'll just cut it off)!

It's also an idea to pop a few ruler guidelines (which won't show up when printed), you might like to give yourself a guide to mark the bleed lines, and we recommend an extra 3-5mm is left 'quiet' with no important text or design elements. This is because printed things that are too close to the edge it usually looks like a mistake - a bit like it's falling off the edge.

Once you've got this all set up please remember to save it (preferably with a sensible, meaningful name) - I know how anoying it is when you've spent half an hour working on a design, and just as you start getting somewhere your computer crashes and it's lost (never to be seen again)!

The actual design bit...

Once you've got everything set up nicely and you've got your guides marked out you can start thinking about the design. There's loads of design inspiration sites out there to help come up with some ideas for your design - this link might be a good start - it's over 100 design inspiration sites, blogs. pages etc, or just type in something like 'business card design inspiration' on google. If you're really struggling you could even have a look at a few portfolios of local (or national) graphic design agencies.

There's no right or wrong way to design your artwork, personally i like to get all the content i'm going to need on the page first (logos, text, titles, contact details etc) and then look at the colours i'd like to work with, the images i'm using, the layout, fonts etc. You might find it easier to work in a different way, and that's fine - nobody can tell you how you like to work.

It probably goes without saying that you will probably find it easier if you zoom your design out so you can see the whole thing at once whilst designing it? Always remember to check it at 100% actual size as you go through though as images that look fine at 25% zoom might look dreadful at 100% etc. It's also really easy to get things lined up while zoomed out only to find they look dreadful and totally off when you zoom in.

There's various resources and guides out there that talk about not using too many fonts, sizes and colours, not to mention the horrors of working with things like clipart and many of them are true - though you're the one that's having a go, do something you're happy with. As mentioned above there's loads of inspiration which will help you get the right 'look', but i'm not going to insult you going on about how to make it look good etc - that's your job... you're the one designing it!

That said, as a general rule it's probably best to keep your font above about '6' as it's going to become pretty small below that. If you're catering to an 'older market' (no offense) it's probably best to keep it above '10' (as young as they might feel there is a slight tendency to not be able to see...) i'm not saying any more (!). It's also not a great idea to use CAPITALS FOR EVERYTHING as it can look like you're shouting and you'll get 'the look' more easily if you steer clear of the naff fonts like comic sans etc. Oh, and just to let you know, using Edwardian Script won't make you look posh...

If you're struggling to find any decent fonts in your collection there's loads of free ones available for commercial use - just do a search on Google, or check out my favourite here.

Similarly, if you're struggling to find any decent photos take a look at Stock Xchange which is a brilliant resource of free photos most of which are in high resolution, and available to use for free!

So there you have it, I think that's about it, other than to mention that we offer a premium file checking service if you're worried that you've designed it correctly or you want us to take a peek from a technical and design point of view just select it when checking out - it costs £15, more information along with our full artwork requirements is available here.

I hope that all makes sense and is useful to you, if you'd like to see how much we can save you on your printing (and you're in the UK) have a look at our website, we'd love to welcome you as a customer!

Thanks for reading!

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