One of the most common situations we encounter when customers provide graphics to us for printing either as stand-alone art or as a completed project is the quality of the graphics. Most often the DPI, or Dots per Inch, are not high enough at the size that the printed piece is supposed to be.
The technical explanation for DPI is this:
DPI, or dots per inch, is a measure of the resolution of a printed document or digital scan. The higher the dot density, the higher the resolution of the print or scan. Typically, DPI is the measure of the number of dots that can be placed in a line across one inch.
The higher the DPI, the sharper the image. A higher resolution image provides the printer and printing device more information. You can get more detail and greater resolution from an image with higher DPI.
A lower DPI will produce an image with fewer dots in printing. No matter how powerful your printer is, a low-resolution image doesn’t provide enough raw data to produce high-quality images. The ink will spread on the page, making the edges look fuzzy.
For our purposes, for a piece of printing that the viewer will be looking at from a close distance we need 300 dpi or greater, again at the size that the printed piece is supposed to be. If it is not high enough DPI it will not look good printed and the customer will not be happy and we will not be happy because it reflects badly on us.
We sometimes have to ask for better artwork, often multiple times, and our customers often get very frustrated with us. They don’t understand why we won’t go ahead and print what we have been sent. Often, so frustrated that they give up on having us print whatever it is. We regret that but we will not print junk just to get your money and get the job done.
Some important points:
The internet operates at 72 dpi. A picture, etc. that looks good on the internet will not look good printed. The only exception is if the artwork, picture, etc. is large enough to be reduced to a size where the DPI increases to 300 DPI or greater. That is VERY rare. Most internet pictures, etc. are not that large.
A 2" x 4" picture, logo, etc. that is 300 DPI at 2" x 4" will not be 300 DPI at a larger size. If you need a larger size for you print job that is a problem.
Pictures, etc. on a business card are not generally of sufficient DPI if they have to be enlarged any at all.
A bad picture, logo, etc. will not miraculously get better when it is printed. It will get worse. Garbage In, Garbage Out.
One other requirement for a successful print is that a print project must fit a template that allows for not only the actual printed area but additional area for cuts and bleeds. So, for example, for a 4” x 9” Door Hanger card one doesn’t just design a 4” x 9” card. You will need a Safe Zone where all text, images, etc. must be contained, a Trimming Zone for cutting tolerances, and a Bleed Zone for background images and/or colors to extend on out. Most people don’t have the skill set for that level of design without training or a lot of experience.
So, what are we saying? How do I get the best looking print project with the least hassle?
We don’t mean to scare you with technical terms or to offend you, but this is the truth. Everyone does what they do. Whatever your business is that is your specialty. Design and printing is our specialty. Go do what you do and let us do the design work.
There is an old joke that a mechanic has one hourly rate for working on your car, another higher rate if you watch, a higher rate if you offer advice, and an even higher rate if you want to help, and the highest rate if you have already tried to do the work. This is true for printing also, we will charge the same price if you have already designed something as we will if we do the design work. It’s much, much harder for us to make something work that wasn’t designed properly than to do it as it needs to be the first time.
Think of us as a designer and a marketer for you, not just a printer. Tell us what you want – write it on paper, choose your artwork, or let us find the artwork for you, and consult with us about the best type of printing and size to meet your needs. If you still wish to lay it out we can use that for a visual, but we most likely won't be able to print from it.
We would love to do your design and printing. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (615) 449-3490.
Robert & Amy