In the process of learning how to create digital prints, I think I may have forgot to educate myself on another process: printing. When I first started learning how to use Adobe products, I created a poster for myself. I sent it off to a local printer using their online app. When it was ready, I picked it up. It looked awful. The colors weren’t very vibrant and the paper looked like computer paper, not brilliant or shiny at all. The poster is still in my basement reminding me that I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.
Printing Tips from a Printing Failure
I guess it’s a good thing I failed so I could teach you a little bit about what I’ve learned since then. I’m still learning. Even though I don’t print my products (it’s all digital), it’s important to know about printing so if anyone has questions on how to order prints, I can head them in the right direction.
Get a Proof First
First of all, if you order a digital print, it’s always a good idea to go to a print shop and ask for a proof first. Proofs allow you to see exactly what the colors will be and what the paper will look like but on a smaller scale. That way, you don’t waste all your money on printing. Yes, it is an extra step in the process, but places like Office Max or Staples can do this if you bring the file in to them. Also, some places charge for a proof. If you use Staples online, they will create a PDF proof for you instantly. Of course, the colors aren’t going to be the same as monitors can sometimes display differently depending on the model, but overall, it gives you an idea of what you are getting from that specific place where you want to get prints.
Choose a High Quality Printer
Secondly, you have your choice of printing places. Places like Target or Walgreens might be ok for inexpensive 4×6 photos, but for posters and high quality prints, I find them lacking. One of my favorite places to print photos, posters, and prints is Mpix.com. I had them print several 8×10 prints with high quality graphics and fonts and they turned out beautiful! I highly recommend them for printing.
The prints aren’t too expensive, but you do have to pay shipping. For a comparison, to print an 16×20 print, it’s about $20. I like to get the Lustre coating which is another $2 and shipping is around $4 for economy; $8 for standard. Another good option is a place like Office Max or Staples. I just printed an 18×24 print with high gloss paper and it was around $17. I picked it up as it was near my home, so I saved about $10 picking it up myself and having it printed locally.
If you want to print at home, it might be a good idea to invest in a printer. I don’t have any personal experience with a good printer, but I have read a few posts from graphic designers who recommend printers. Here’s one from Every-Tuesday that might be helpful. If you are doing a lot of photo type prints, opt for a photo printer instead of a regular printer as it prints quality that beats out Walgreens and other photo store prints. (On a side note, I had greeting cards printed at Target last year and the quality was not very good at all. If I was going to do a lot of prints at home, I’d opt for something dedicated to printing photos.)
For things like invitations, I’d use a heavy stock paper like 100 lb. with a matte finish. For art that I want to frame, I’d probably opt for a semi-gloss or high gloss paper. I’ve also heard really great things about the Staples Photo Supreme paper if you plan on printing at home. Greeting cards are also good on photo papers. Of course, there are so many paper types available now, it’s a good idea to ask the printing place since they are experts at that kind of thing. For your own printing, most jobs will do well on photo paper if you use a photo dedicated printer.
Most places accept JPG files to print your artwork or photos. Some places prefer PDF files. Places like Staples or Office Max will take the JPG files and convert them into PDF’s so it might be best to have it in PDF format to begin with. Even though this is better, I have used JPG files and they turned out really well despite not being in a PDF format. If you use a photo lab, the JPG format is best to use. If you aren’t sure, it never hurts to ask the printer first.
Be sure that your print is in CMKY format and not RGB. RGB is for web based uses. CMYK is for printing purposes. Here’s an article that explains the differences better than I can.
When buying a digital print online, it’s best to order a 300 DPI, JPG created in CMYK format. If you can get a PDF version, that’s helpful too, but not necessary as most printing places can handle JPG formats. If you aren’t sure about how the colors will turn out, get a proof from the printer. Papers and quality vary, so if you aren’t sure, ask the professionals.
A Personal Note on Why I Don’t Offer Print Services
The main reason I don’t offer print services myself is that the cost to ship my items to you would be extreme. In most cases, you can print the files yourself at home with a quality photo printer, or opt for a place nearby. For instance, I just helped my sister with a custom print that was 18×24. The total cost was $24 which included my custom fee and the printing at Office Max. If I would have created the print, sent it to a print shop, bought supplies to ship it, and then sent it out in a delivery, I would have to charge a lot more than $24.
I also would have to charge sales tax and in my home state, I’d have to submit the sales tax according to the tax rules (which I think is every three months) and track the tax. If I keep things digital, I don’t have to charge or submit sales tax at all, which keeps my costs and yours very low. In the end, digital makes sense because I can focus on the thing I love to do–creating–and focus less on the things I don’t enjoy–shipping, trips to the printer, storing shipping supplies, packaging, taxes, etc. So in the end, customer and business both win. Visit my Etsy shop to see my new prints!