Adobe Photoshop is excellent software for photo editing and creating digital artwork, but it isn’t the best software to use for the production of print-ready pages. If, however, you have to use it, then here are a few notes which should help you avoid the common pitfalls.
As with all artwork production, it’s good to have a firm idea of the specification before you begin. We’re assuming that you are just producing a single page, such as a flyer, or some other simple printed piece, perhaps a business card. If the finished job is intended to be folded or have any other special finishing, then you will probably need some extra advice before you begin; call us on 01453 764251.
Whatever, the job, make sure you know the answers to the following questions:
What is the finished size of the printed piece/page?
Will there be a white border all the way round, or does the print need to go right to the edge of the page?
How is it going to be printed: black & white, full colour (digital or 4-colour litho), spot colour litho?
If the answer to question 2 is that the print needs to go to the edge, then you will need to allow for bleed. See this information sheet for more details.
If the answer to question 3 is spot colour, then you almost certainly need advice now. Whilst Photoshop can handle spot colours, it is not straightforward. Speak to us on 01453 764251.
In the notes which follow, we can’t cover every different version of Photoshop that might be in use. At the time of writing, we are using Photoshop CS5 (version 12), so screenshots are taken from there. We’ve tried to keep the advice as general as possible, so that it can be used with other versions, and will point out anything that we know is different.
Check your colour settings
Before you create a new document, check that Photoshop’s colour settings are configured correctly by going to Edit>Colour Settings… [Note that if you have the full Adobe Creative Suite installed, colour settings are synchronised across all the applications and should be adjusted from within Adobe Bridge.]
Make sure that the RGB working space is set to sRGB or Adobe RGB and the CMYK working space (not in Photoshop Elements) is set to Coated Fogra39. These are the settings you will get if you select Europe General from the Settings menu. Don’t worry if the version of Photoshop you are using does not have these exact profiles; something similar will do. However, make sure that you are NOT using US settings, such as SWOP. Greyscale/spot settings are less important: 15% dot gain is the normal choice. All colour management policies should be set to Preserve Embedded Profiles.
Create the document
Select File>New and fill in the document information.
The International Paper preset has most of the common “A” sizes – we’re creating an A6 in our example – or just type the dimensions.
Important. If your document needs bleed then you will need to increase the two dimensions by 6mm, i.e. 3mm on each side. So in our example 105 x 148 (A6) becomes 111 x 154.
Resolution: normally set this to 300 pixels per inch. Lower than this is likely to result in poor print quality; higher will just make the file size larger without any significant increase in print quality. Images which just consist of fine lines may possibly benefit from higher resolution; ask us for advice. There is more information about image resolution in our information sheet.
Color Mode: if you are printing in black & white, select grayscale. For full colour jobs you can select either RGB or CMYK. We will always print the job in CMYK, so this is a good choice if you want to ensure close colour matching and want to avoid creating colours on screen that cannot be reproduced in print. However, some of Photoshop’s effects are not available in CMYK mode, and Photoshop Elements does not support CMYK at all, so in these cases the choice has to be RGB. Our colour controllers make an excellent job of the RGB to CMYK conversion, so this should not present any problems. Leave the depth set to 8 bit.
Set the margins
Before starting to create the image, set margin guides. Do not skip this step: it is very difficult to create correct print-ready files in Photoshop without guides. A large proportion of the Photoshop files that we have to reject as unprintable have errors in bleeds or margins.
If your document is going to have a white border all around:
Zoom right in to the top left hand corner. Drag a horizontal and vertical guide from the ruler to your margin position.
TIP: holding down the Shift key as you drag “snaps” the guide to the increments on the ruler.
For technical reasons the margins must be at least 3mm, but larger margins generally look better: 4-5mm on a business card or A6, 6-8mm on an A5, 10-12mm on an A4.
Now move to the bottom right of your page and set the corresponding margins there.
As you create your content, make sure that nothing extends outside the margin guides.
If your document requires bleed:
Zoom right in to the top left hand corner. Drag two horizontal and two vertical guides from the ruler. The guides should be at 3mm and the size of your margin plus 3mm, i.e. if you are going to use the minimum 3mm margins, your guides should be at 3mm and 3 + 3 = 6mm.
Repeat this at the bottom right of your image.
Now when you create content make sure that anything which is to bleed off the edge of the finished piece goes right to the edge of the image. Any text or other elements that are wholly within the finished piece should be placed inside the inner guide lines.
Saving the file for print
When you have finished creating your document, we recommend saving the file as a Photoshop PDF. Don’t flatten, or rasterise any text or vector object layers. Save Photoshop PDF and when prompted for PDF settings, choose high quality print.
If for some reason you can’t supply the file as a PDF, for example it is too large to email, then use one of these formats, in order of preference:
.TIF (use LZW compression to reduce the file size without reducing quality)
.JPG (use “Maximum”quality setting)
Any questions? Just ask!
Postcards and greetings cards
If you are an artist and want to showcase your work, a small business needing cost-effective direct mail, or are looking to publicise an event, then postcards may be the perfect answer. They are colourful and economic to produce, and can be distributed in lots of different ways.
If you are going to use postcards for a mailing campaign, then we can add addresses as we print them, and even personalise each card for extra impact. We’ll also handle the whole mailing operation using our Royal Mail licence.
We also produce a lot of greetings cards: for special events, of artists’ work for them to sell, and of course for Christmas. Card production can get very hectic in October and November – so it’s never too early to order for Christmas! We produce customised designs, not cards selected from a catalogue, and our minimum quantity is 1.
If you would like to know more about postcards and greetings cards, just give us a call on 01453 764251 or email email@example.com and we will be happy to offer advice.