Often customers will send an image of a logo they pulled from a website to me thinking it can be used as is for reproduction. I always have to send it back and explain that it won’t work.
Logos taken from websites are usually saved as .jpg, .png or .gif files at low resolutions. These file types are not vector files but raster files, and as was discussed in my previous article in this series (see them here and here), these cannot be enlarged without the image becoming severely distorted. As you can see in Figs. 1 and 2, the image will be blurry and pixelated.
Usually, if this is all that the customer has available, I will use the image as a base and trace over it to recreate what the customer needs. This extra time needed to recreate the logo can end up costing your customer more money, so it’s always good to explain to your customer why logos from websites won’t work and to try and get the best file possible up front.
What is spot color? Four-color process? Differences between Pantone, CMYK and RGB? Which is preferred?
Spot color is probably the most common type of job used by screen printers and is often used by printers of specialty products. It is usually used for simple images using only a few colors, and when specific colors are needed to recreate an image. Generally, images using spot colors will have solid areas filled with the color (Fig. 3), but halftones and tints of the colors can be used to incorporate various shades within a layout. The number of spot colors that can be used in a job is often based on the press capabilities of your printer, such as in-screen printing, and can also affect cost. Some printers have a per-color charge, so the more colors used the more the job will cost. Remember to check with your printer when starting a job to see how many colors can be printed and how the number of colors will affect the cost.
Spot colors can be specified from specific color charts provided by your printer, or they can be specified by a universal color system used by all printers. This universal system is called the Pantone Matching System (PMS) and is where PMS colors can be selected (Fig. 4). This system includes hundreds of colors, each with its own number. Since this system is familiar to all printers and included in the swatch palettes of most software, you can select a color and give its corresponding number to anyone who may reproduce your image and the colors should be the same each time the image is reproduced. Sometimes, when using PMS colors, there may be an up charge for the additional time it takes to mix the color, so check with your printer when requesting PMS colors.
CMYK, or process color, is used to reproduce full-color photo-realistic images, such as photographs or full-color paintings (Figs. 5 and 6). Since this process uses only four colors to reproduce an image—cyan, magenta, yellow and black—it is sometimes referred to as four-color process. For this process, screen printers and offset printers require the use of only four screens to reproduce a full-color image. However, because of the limitations of only four colors, sometimes it’s hard to reproduce specific colors. Therefore, if a specific color is required, a bump plate or extra color may need to be printed as a spot color to achieve the exact color needed.
Because process color allows for the reproduction of an image with an infinite set of colors, it is the color mode generally used by digital printers. An image such as this is preferred by digital printers over an image of limited, solid colors because streaking by clogged print heads is more visible in images with large solid areas. Full-color images with various color and tonal changes can help camouflage any streaking. Besides, when you have a printer with the capability to print full color for the same price as a one- or two-color image, which would you rather do?
RGB color is the type of color that we see on our computer screens. It uses red, blue and green pixels at various strengths to help create the secondary and tertiary colors in an image. The RGB spectrum is much larger than the CMYK spectrum, and therefore, it is the mode that we like to use when creating artwork. While you won’t necessarily print in RGB, using this mode to create your artwork helps you initially take advantage of a larger color range, which can then be adjusted to set up the final file as needed.
When you go to print, check with your printer to see what color mode he or she needs. Some digital printers can print in RGB mode, while others need art set up in CMYK. Offset printers need files set up in CMYK. Depending on how a screen printer creates your separations, he may need the file in RGB. So always check to see what color mode your printer needs in the end to reproduce your image to get the best results.
Is there a standard or acceptable image or file size? What if the file size is larger than 10 megabytes and cannot be e-mailed? Can I easily reduce the file size?
There isn’t a standard or acceptable image or file size because so many things can affect the size of the file, and it all depends on what you are printing and what is required by your printer. The file size for a four-by-eight-foot banner is going to be a lot larger than a file for a one-color vector image. So the best thing to do in the beginning is check with the customer to see what is expected for the artwork. What will it be used for, and how big will it be? (Fig. 7) Then check with the printer to see what kind of artwork specifications it requires to reproduce the image. Does the image need to be actual size? What resolution does the image need to be? What file format do you require—tiff, pdf, jpeg? All of these things will determine what the file size will be in the end, and by getting this information up front, you’ll be able to set up your artwork to the proper specifications without going overboard.
If the final file is too large to attach in an e-mail once it’s saved, there are other things you can do to help reduce the size and/or transmit the file. First, try compressing your image by “zipping” it. There are various programs available that allow you to compress your image and create a .zip format file. This new .zip file will be smaller and can be sent to your customer so they can “expand” or open the .zip file to access the original full-size file. Most operating systems come with software that allows you to create zipped files. However, if this option is unavailable, check out software such as WinZip that will create .zip files.
Sometimes even zipping files will not make them small enough to e-mail, but there are online services that allow you to upload larger files and send links to customers so they can download the files on their end. One such service is You Send It. They actually have a free service available that will allow you to upload files up to a certain size. If you find that your file sizes are even larger than the minimum file size offered by their free service, you can pay a monthly fee that will give you the ability to upload even larger files.
If you don’t send large files often enough to warrant signing up for the additional service, you can always save your files to a CD-ROM or DVD and provide the disk to your printer.
Dane Clement is well-known for his expertise in computer graphics and color separations. He is the president of Great Dane Graphics, vice president of GroupeSTAHL Creative and has authored T-Shirt Artwork Simplified books for Adobe and Corel users. For more information or to comment on this article, e-mail email@example.com.
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