Printing Basics – Designing For Print

CMYK. RGB. DPI. If these words confuse you at all, you’re not alone. Unlike a decade or two ago, most graphic designers are taught the fundamentals of digital design before they ever learn designing for print. At Ink Rebels, our goal is to make sure that your print job exceeds your expectations, and ships out when or before you expect it to! Starting with a couple of designing for print basics will help ensure this happens!


One of the most common issues we encounter with files? Incorrect color mode. It’s just one small setting in your Adobe product of choice, but it will mean some SERIOUS color shifting if you switch halfway through! When creating your new document, simply set your color mode to CMYK (also called four color process) as shown below. If you want to get extra-specific, feel free to set your color profile to CMYK U.S. Web Coated SWOP (V2), Ink Rebel’s color profile of choice. Unless you have specifically requested offset printing with Pantone values, if you send us a file that is not CMYK your order will be delayed and we will contact you with the option of resending it to us, or having us convert it for you. Keep in mind, there may be some color shift even using our prepress conversion tools.

File Resolution

If you’ve ever tried to print an image from Google Images results and wondered why the quality is so terrible, more than likely it has to do with a combination of factors: the resolution of the file, also referred to as DPI (dots per inch) and the dimensions. Whereas it’s standard for web images/graphics to be at around 75dpi, print usually requires a resolution of AT LEAST 200dpi, with 300DPI being ideal for most jobs. That said, we print files with 75DPI images all the time (even professional cameras put out 75DPI files) – but the images themselves need to have large enough dimensions! Just as with color modes, it’s best to start off with the correct document resolution (300DPI), insert your images and judge your element choice from there!

Black is the new black

There is often a lot of confusion about black – there’s rich black, true black…it gets a little overwhelming at times. So we’re going to keep in REALLY simple. For black type (text), use CMYK values C:0 M:0 Y:0 K:100. For large solid black shapes, our Prepress department likes to use CMYK values C:40 M:30 Y:30 K:100. Is it a big deal if you don’t use rich black? Absolutely not. We don’t recommend using rich black for small type – there is no visible difference, it uses more ink and has been known to cause issues.
Offset: 40 30 30 100