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Poor Print Quality? It's not your Printer's Fault

By Jake Gourd

Designing a identity for your small business can be a daunting task when your budget doesn’t stretch to hiring a professional to help you do the job. Digital artwork files need to be created to a correct size, resolution and color mode. Providing poor artwork files to printers will result in a unprofessional looking final product which wont leave a positive mark on your customers.

This tutorial goes over the basics of creating digital artwork files for business cards and marketing postcards.

The following tutorial can be used to create business stationery including letterheads, compliments slips and label artwork files by adjusting the sizes.

The dimensions mentioned are for landscape items and should be transposed for portrait cards.

To create a new document in Adobe Illustrator select File > New (Ctrl+N). Set the Color Mode to CMYK and enter the Artboard size. For business cards set the size to 95mm x 57mm and for A6 post card to 151.5mm x 108mm. These dimensions include the bleed of 3mm (8.5pt) for and business cards and 1.5mm (4.2pt) for post cards.

Ensure you have the page rulers showing (View > Show Rulers) and that they are displaying in millimeters (Edit > Preferences > Units).

Set the co-ordinates of your artboard to be 0,0 at the top left-hand corner by clicking and dragging the cross from where the two page rulers meet at the top left of your screen.

Now drag a guide from the top ruler down to the center of your document to 28.5mm for business cards and 54mm for postcards. Add a second one from the lefthand ruler to the centre of your document to 47.5mm for business cards and 75.75mm for postcards.

Adding a bounding box

The bounding box does not show in your design when printed but dictates the size of your eps file.

Select the rectangle tool and click once on your document, this will open a window into which you can enter the size of the box. Set the size for business cards to 95mm x 57mm and for A6 post card to 151.5mm x 108mm. Ensure the box has a transparent stroke and fill. (Window > Show Colors).

Using one of the arrow tools, click on the dot in the centre of the box and drag it to the centre of your document, as marked by your guides. Now lock it by selecting Object > Lock.

Trim and Text Area Guides

Create two more boxes as before but this time don’t lock them, instead right click (For Macs, Control click), choose Make Guides.

For the first box set the size for business cards to 89mm x 51mm and for A6 post card to 148.5mm x 105mm.

For the second box set the size for business cards to 83mm x 45mm and for A6 post card to 142.5mm x 99mm.

You can now add your design within this template. The only items that should touch the outer line are those that bleed off the edge of your card. The middle line shows where the cards will be cut, you should try to keep all your text and images within the inner line to avoid the possibility of anything being ‘clipped’.

Use the Document Info pallette (File > Document Info) to ensure any images you use are all at least 300dpi and are CMYK.

When you are happy with your design, save the file as an Adobe Illustrator (.ai) file, this is your back up in case you need to make alterations at any time in the future. This file cannot be uploaded.

Save as EPS

*note: Using Illustrator filters and transparencies sometimes produce elements in your design that do not print correctly. If you have used these effects in your Illustrator artwork, we recommend that you export your artwork as a 400 DPI TIFF.

View the document at Actual Size, ensuring you can see all round the outsite of your page, now Edit > Select All. There should be nothing outside the outer box other than your two centre guides. If there is, delete it.

All text within your document should be changed to outlines, Edit > Select All, then, Type > Create Outlines.

You must ensure there are no hidden characters (∞) on your artwork. (Type > Show Hidden Characters). If there are any of these on your document, delete them. All black text should be set to overprint Filter > Colors > Overprint Black. Unselect stroke and select include Blacks with CMY.

Select File > Save As. Choose Illustrator EPS (.eps) and save the file.

Hidden font fields in your artwork will register as fonts that are not outlined. Our system will reject this file as a bad file. Please make sure to to delete hidden characters and outline your fonts.

About The Author

Provided Goodprint Ltd, providors of instant online business cards and matching stationery via their website http://www.goodprint.co.uk.

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Last Update: 14-Mar-2009

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