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Design With Printing in Mind

Don't Commit to a Design Until You've Printed It


Michael Toy hands out free copies of 'The Printed Blog'

Printing comes after the design phase but it's really a part of the entire process. | Michael Toy hands out free copies of 'The Printed Blog' outside the Embarcadero BART station February 3, 2009 in San Francisco, California.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
Some of these tips will save money. Some will save time or frustration. Most will do all that and you'll end up with a great design and a happy client (whether that client is a freelance customer, you, or your boss).

It's easy to plunge right in and start throwing around sketches, shuffling text, tweaking images. Spend a little bit of time on that, sure. But before you become too committed to a certain idea or layout step back and think seriously about the end result. What will work best that meets your money and time restraints? Make a plan. Talk to your client, collaborators, and especially your printer. Throw around a few more sketches and then work on the ones that are most practical given the constraints of the job.


Color can be costly. Plan out what colors you will use and where you'll put that color to achieve your design goals as well as your budget goals.


How you arrange text and images on the page and the overall dimensions of your project affect cost as much as the look. If a photo bleeding off the page is going to bump you up to a larger sheet of paper with lots of trimming (and waste), rethink it. Do you need that bleed? Could you make the overall document smaller then keep the bleed? Could you find something else to print on that otherwise wasted paper?


Sometimes paper choices are a balancing act between appearance and cost. Paper doesn't come only in card stock thick and Bible paper thin weights. When differences are slight and money is tight, go for the less expensive paper and wow them in other areas such as your awesome font choices and use of color.


You can do some incredible things after your project comes off the printing press. Weigh your options carefully. Instead of a custom diecut in the shape of the client's logo, how about a standard square or circle diecut with the printed logo showing through?


If you're going to splurge on an extra color of ink or a finer quality paper, don't find out at the last minute that your creation is 1/8 of an inch too big and you have to pay extra to go up to the next larger envelope size (that makes your design look as if it's suddenly too small for the envelope!).

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