Thursday, November 21, 2013

Printing Best Practices as a Designer - Logo Do's and Don'ts

Best Do and Don't Tips on Logo Design and Printing

I often see designers asking for critiques on their logos. 9 times out of ten, the logos are unprintable and don't take into consideration that it will be shown in all different sizes and on different mediums. It's absurd how few designers actually have a good grasp on what goes into printing your logo (and I'm not talking about your Epson CMYK home printer.)

So, here is a small checklist on what you need to revise your logos:

Start your logo in black.

Straight up, only use black. C0M0Y0K100. Don't you dare touch the opacity or consider putting that K down to 50 or 20 or whatever. Do everything in black. This is your 1 color logo. When you have a one color logo THEN you can start coloring. Also, limit the number of colors you use. 4 is a good maximum number, but I try to stick around 3.

F*ck you and your gradients.

Gradients are the bane of a printer's existence. It may look great on computer monitor, but hand it to a flexographic printer and he might not be very happy with you. Gradients don't translate well in print. Even in CMYK printing, they can be messy and don't have the same tolerance from one color to another, printer to printer.

Play and experiment with your logo.

So, you've created a logo, huh? Well here's what you need to do. Print it. As small as you can without losing it's integrity. Not very legible? Did your anorexic ultra-thin type disappear? Yeah, time to go back to the drawing board. Create versions of logo that can be placed horizontally, vertically and without type (unless the typography is your logo). Your skinny type isn't going to show up on a piece of fabric because it's going to be lost on the threads. Always have longevity and functionality in mind when you design! That's design 101, and it's amazing how many designers forget that.

I get told a lot by a lot of amateur/small time designers that, "This is 2013, my logo can be as complex as I want!"

NO. And here's why:

Printing is expensive.

I don't know if you know this, but CMYK printer ink is more expensive than human blood. That's why you need to think ahead and consider alternative printing methods. That's why you need a 1 color logo. You have clients. Clients aren't into the most elaborate bang for their buck. They are looking for ways to cut down on costs and maximize profit. You owe them that.

The other thing is that using alternative printing methods price by the number of plates/screens/inks used. Right now, my printer charges $200/flexographic plate made up. 1 plate = 1 color. So, LIMIT THE NUMBER OF COLORS YOU USE, because YOU WILL end up having it printed or someone else will print it for you (ie, sponsor, advertisement, etc). And I'm sure you want it looking good and recognizable.

What alternative methods? I'm talking about offset and flexographic and screen printing. All of these forms of printing have their pros and cons, but all are meant for mass production. You need to learn how each of these work, because it's important to know what to expect.


Your logo needs to be vectored, converted to outlines and expanded. Turn it in as either an EPS or Illustrator PDF file. If you don't know what that means, then you probably aren't a designer.


Buy yourself a pantone book, preferably 2 for solid color coated and uncoated inks. A pro-tip is to work from pantones. Convert all of your CMYK colors and RGB colors from a Pantone color first. It is much easier to match from a pantone color than to match TO a pantone color.

Color Match

Finicky about colors? It's your job as a designer to request that your colors be color matched to an already made up hard copy. Inks are typically transparent and the paper or substrate behind the ink has a tendency to come through. That means your logo has a chance of always being printed darker than it's intended color.

Ask for your colors to be color matched against an already perfect print of yours on the paper or medium you are printing it on.

FINALLY: It's your fault, not the printer's.

This one is simple. If you sign that proof, the ink is on your hands. Don't be angry at the printer. Printers may be nice and try to accommodate for your mistake (cheaper re-run, maybe?), but all in all, you are probably going to eat that cost.

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