While print and digital publications are very similar on the surface, the process and guidelines to create these publications is quite different. Designers who are not aware of these differences could end up with a final product that does not reflect what they intended to create. Here are some guidelines for designing publications for print and digital.
Choice of software
The first decision to make when creating a new publication is deciding what software to use. Microsoft suite is widely accessible and a popular option for creating both print and digital publications. Despite its popularity, it is not the best option to use for print design. This is because Microsoft suite works with a RGB colour profile which is designed for screen and not for print. When creating print publications, especially ones with a lot of imagery and graphics, it is highly recommended to use more professional software like Adobe InDesign.
As touched on before, colour profiles is another important factor to consider. Digital design should use RGB (Red, Green, Blue) or Hex as its colour profile, both of which are additive colour profiles designed to work with screens. Print design should use the CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) colour profile. CMYK has a more limited colour gamut compared to that of RGB and Hex. When converting from RGB to CMYK, the colours can appear washed out if they are outside this gamut. This is why its important to be designing in CMYK for print publications so you can get a more accurate range of colours for the design. For more information on colour profiles, check out our article on colour.
Designing for print publications
Bleed and crop marks
Bleed marks are the little horizontal and vertical lines in the corners of the artwork that tell the printer where the trim line is (where to cut down to). Bleed is the area outside the trim marks that you extend images and visual elements out into so that there is no white edge appearing when cut. Both crop marks and bleed are important aspects of print production and need to be considered when creating a print design document. Microsoft Word and PowerPoint do not offer an automatic bleed option when creating a new project, they need to be added in artificially by extending the page size 3mm on each edge and creating guide lines to show where the trim marks will be. It is much easier to use Adobe InDesign where you can add bleed when creating a new artwork file.
Margins and gutters
When creating print publication, you need to make sure you add space to accommodate the binding method. Wire and spiral binding need extra margin in the centre to avoid any text/important visuals being cut off. The minimum margins for print is generally 10mm on all sides, with a 15mm margin in the centre side if it is being wire or spiral bound. Margins of 20mm are generally standard when it comes to print publications as they look more pleasing to the eye.
Gutters need to be big enough to clearly differentiate between columns, they are usually anywhere between 4-10mm depending on the size of the text – the smaller the font size the smaller the gutter can be. When in doubt, bigger is generally better for gutters to make the text as readable as possible.
For more information on how to set up your file for print, view our article: how to make your artwork print ready.
Always make sure that your fonts are legible and easy to ready. Body text especially need to be easy to read to keep the reader from getting exhausted. Basic San Serif (eg. Arial, Helvetica, Roboto) or Serif (eg. Times new roman) fonts are ideal here. Heading fonts can be more stylised but always try to keep them as readable as possible as to not confuse your readers. Print publications have the advantage of being able to use rather small font sizes (8pt or less) which allows them to have more content to a single page. Make sure that you break up the lines to a max of 8-10 words per line to make it easier for the reader. This is why newspapers and magazines often have 3-4 columns in their spreads.
300 dpi (Dots per square inch) is the standard image resolution for print. If the image has a DPI of less than 300 DPI it can start to look pixilated or blurry. Vector graphics are ideal for print publications as they can be scaled up or down without loosing clarity.
Try to keep your images and graphics constant with the message or theme of the publication to make it feel more cohesive.
Spine width comes into play when creating publications that will be book bound or perfect bound. You will need to contact your printer with the number of pages and page thickness so they can tell you the width measurement for the spine. To see more about paper stock and paper thicknesses, read our article coated and uncoated paper stocks.
Designing for digital publications
Unlike print, digital publications do not need bleed or crop marks, however they should still adhere to the general principles of margins and gutters. Because digital publications will be viewed on a screen, you need to consider how you want the page to appear. Digital publications are often presented as landscape documents so that they take up most of the screen and are easy to view. Digital publications of print items can be set up to appear as an open book with two pages up on one screen.
Text is harder to read on a screen than on a page. To compensate for this, designers need to increase the font size and to make sure that there is also high contrast between the text and the background. This does mean that less text will fit onto a digital page, but it is necessary to make digital documents much easier read.
When creating a digital design, readers these days expect some level of interactivity within the document. This could be as simple as a clickable website link, or an interactive contents page taking the reader to the appropriate section they click on. As software becomes more accessible there are even more opportunities to add interactivity with digital publications. Using a software like Adobe XD or Figma are great platforms to explore interactive ideas.
Need a designer?
Here at Q Print Group our team of designers can help create both print and digital publications. With years of experience in print and digital design you can be assured that your vision is in safe hands with us.