Print Design in a Digital World

Print Design in a Digital World | Easy Artisan Websites
Don't let anybody tell you that designing for print media is dead in this age of digital design. The need for designing hard copy or physical brand collateral is alive, and kicking - albeit not to the degree it once was.


Don’t let anybody tell you that designing for print media is dead in this age of digital design. The need for designing hard copy or physical brand collateral is alive, and kicking – albeit not to the degree it once was.

Designing for digital applications is definitely more common these days. Paperless and easily transmitted files are uploaded to the internet and shared across the cloud every day – that’s the nature of digital design, but in fact it exists side by side with print design because hard copy printed materials will always have a place in our real tactile world.

If you look around you will see print design everywhere. When you drive and stop at an intersection, look up and you will see transit signage and billboards – that is print design. Walk around your city center and you may be handed a pamphlet advertising various products or services. When you get home, you might receive a printed invitation to your nephew’s birthday, in the mail. As you can see, print design is still very much in demand. Print design is especially relevant for your brand marketing and advertising campaigns. Think business cards, design brochures and postcards, hang tags for pricing your physical products, packaging designs and more.

Your audience should be communicated to, in both the physical and digital world, so it’s important to incorporate both print and digital design across your brand to maintain consistency. Let’s take a closer look at designing for print.


When creating designs for print there are a variety of tools you can use. My favorite to recommend to business owners and entrepreneurs – who don’t work in a design capacity – is Canva. Try Canva Pro free for 30 days to see if it’s right for you. Canva is an amazing investment for women entrepreneurs because it comes chock full of “done for you” templates for both print and digital applications. Need a facebook cover? Click on “Create a Design”, type in Facebook and choose the appropriate project type. Scroll through the wide variety of ready made templates then customize it to suit your brand and business. How about business cards?

Business Card Design

Check out this video where I walk through the process of business card design, but also send it to print directly from Canva.

Design and print directly from Canva

If you happen to have some design software at your disposal like the Adobe Creative Cloud, then you can design virtually anything for print, but you will need to take the appropriate steps to ensure that your files are suitable to send to your printer. I won’t go into detail explaining how the Adobe software works because it is more in depth than I have time for in this post, plus there are a million tutorials out there already. If your business is design intensive the Adobe suite of products may be a great option for you. Give Adobe Creative Cloud a try here.

I will however, briefly go into some things to consider when designing for print using Adobe software, or similar.


When designing for print CMYK is the color mode used. It stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key – or “Key” color, which is black. Again, explaining the difference between CMYK and RGB is it’s own lengthy topic, so if you’re interested in learning more, check out this article by Print Place.

Suffice it to say, in order to get as true to color as possible, you want to use the CMYK color space – NOT RGB. If you happen to have a file you want to use that is in RGB color mode, you must first convert it to CMYK. The image below shows the navigation path to do that: FILE > DOCUMENT COLOR MODE > CMYK COLOR

One great feature of the Adobe products is the ability to choose a template to start your project, that is specifically for “Print” or “Digital”, so choose the template that is most appropriate for your project.


When designing for print it is most commonly used for brand assets like business cards, stationery or marketing materials where you would use your brand fonts. It’s important to finish off your artwork according to the specifications of the printer you will be using, so if you don’t know that information you should find out from them directly. Typical print file specs look something like this:

PDF files, 300 dpi or higher, CMYK color mode, .125″ bleed, outlined fonts

IMPORTANT: If you need to create outlines of your text before submitting your artwork, please be sure the licensing allows for this.

Outlining fonts is the action of turning your text from editable fonts to vector artwork. This way the printer doesn’t need the font file installed on their machines to render the text correctly. Alternately the printer might be ok with embedded fonts in the artwork. Find out more about embedded fonts here. Be sure to check with your printer to see what their file specifications are before you create outlines. PRO TIP: Always, always, always make a copy of your file – retaining the original font text (not outlined) – just in case, because once you’ve outlined those fonts and saved the file there the fonts are no longer editable.

To outline fonts, first select them then navigate to TYPE > CREATE OUTLINES

You can outline fonts in both Photoshop and Illustrator, but I’d recommend doing any print design artwork in Illustrator – which I’ll explain more in depth below.


Vector artwork is created using software such as Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw. A vector is created using math – not my strong suit – but the end result is a graphic that can be infinitely scaled without loosing its quality of resolution.

Take your logo for example. You will use a small version on your business card files, but a much larger version in a marketing brochure, or even a billboard. The same file can be used for each of these applications and scaled to the appropriate size for the project. You cannot do this with a raster (or bitmap) graphic – which is any graphic that isn’t a vector.

Vector file vs Raster (or Bitmap) file.

There are a couple settings you’ll want to check in your file to ensure it is fully outlined, besides the font characters. When you create shapes in Illustrator they consist of a fill and a stroke. You’ll want to select your shape – whether that is a circle, a square or other shape that you’ve drawn by freehand and outline the strokes.

Check out this video to see how to outline the strokes of shapes in Illustrator.


Adobe Illustrator or .ai is the standard type of print ready file as long as all team members for the project are using Illustrator. Encapsulated PostScript or .eps is a good source file alternative in case Illustrator is not available. Finally, PDF files or .pdf are also used now for CMYK printing because they are widely compatible with most programs.


I hope this clears up some misconceptions about designing for print and gives you some tools to use going forward. In order to ensure your brand is consistent across all your platforms and assets you must be able to design for both print and digital. Ensuring you can prepare your print files correctly is the key to making this work to your advantage.

In my next article I will talk about simple steps to maintain brand consistency across all your platforms. Keep your eyes peeled for that in the weeks ahead.

Hope you’re having a wonderful day!

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