Have you ever wondered what it takes for a graphic to go from idea to design to final printed form? For a graphic designer, the workflow is something that has become second-nature to them. They understand every step of the process, but for those who aren’t in the graphic design industry, this process isn’t that clear.
Understanding the workflow of a graphic designer is very helpful for other professionals so that they know why the process takes time and how they can contribute to simplify the process. By optimizing this processes efficiency, it’s possible to save both time and money – especially when working with large format printing and large print runs.
Develop the Design
The first step, of course, is for the graphic designer to create the initial design and text of the graphic. During this step, they will work closely with the client to create the initial image and fine tune the graphic. There are still several things this professional needs to do before the print run is finished.
Proofread and Adjust the Copy
In the eyes of a designer, the graphical part of the piece is usually their main focus. It is common for them to expect the copy to be correct before the design phase, but that is not always the case. To ensure there are no typos or grammatical errors, the designer will need to proofread the text, or copy, before moving onto the next phase.
Double-Check the Graphics
While every designer wants to be confident in their work, they are still required to double check the graphic for technical mistakes. This includes double checking the image size, resolution, and export quality. Anything that will be printed needs to be at least 300 DPI or higher, especially for huge print projects such as banners or wall art.
The second part of checking over the graphics is to revisit the accuracy of your color scheme. Often, the color that appears on the monitor isn’t the exact shade that will show after printing. Different color settings and spectrums can make it difficult to get an exact match between the screen and the printer. That’s why it’s important to make certain that the file is saved in CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) color mode that most printers use rather than the RGB (Red, Green Blue) color mode used by monitors.
One way of doing this is to calibrate the monitor and use color checking tools before the final design is sent to the printer. It also helps to show this test print to the client to make certain it’s the colors they want—they may have their monitors set a little differently and be expecting different shades.
Set the Crop Marks and Bleed
Before any image can be printed, the graphic designer needs to define the bleed and the crop marks. The crop marks indicate where the image is to be cut. In most cases, the image doesn’t fill up the entire roll of paper, vinyl, or canvas. If the image is on a white background or should have white space around it, there must be some indication of where the image ends. That’s where the crop marks come in.
The bleed marks indicate where parts of the image or text go past the edge of the page. Sometimes, elements on the design do go past the crop marks. This helps compensate for any trimming that’s done. If there’s no bleed, it’s likely that there may be a white border or line on one side or the other, throwing the image off.
Any print that needs to be finished on a cutter needs registration marks. The MCT Cutter, for example, require .25” black dots, some use fiducials, etc. This is what the camera reads before the machine begins cutting.
Without these, it’s more difficult to cut accurately. Registration should be placed throughout the print file for accuracy. Textiles require more registration typically as the material allows for more error.
Rigid materials don’t require as much registration, as the room for error is less than that of a stretchy material like fabric.
Nesting, or set imposition, is the term used for arranging pages in a design onto the print material in the most efficient way possible. It’s often not efficient to print each page of a design sequentially on a page—that can leave a lot of unused material that gets cut off and thrown away. Instead, it’s often possible to line up the pages so that multiple images can be printed on the same material.
Nesting is also important for printing brochures, signage, and pieces that need to be assembled. You want to make sure the design is correctly positioned so the print will abide by any needed folds or necessary overlap in the design.
The MCT Cutter offers a nesting option, Tilia Griffin, which is a software that nests your images in the most efficient way possible to reduce material waste and lower costs.
This is very commonly seen in the apparel side of the industry to ensure you are getting as many pieces to a pattern as possible without wasting materials that can often be costly.
Make Sure the File Is Finished and Select the Print Material
The next step for a graphic designer to do is to make sure the final document is saved as a PDF with as high a resolution as possible. This is often the final step for the graphic designer, although in some cases, they are responsible for selecting the paper or other material for the print job. Other times, the client will decide on the print medium. If the print file requires finishing, a corresponding cut file is needed as well. It is also important to make sure all registration is placed on the print before sending it off.
Design, Check, Double-Check
Much of this part of the graphic designer’s workflow has to do with double-checking everything they have done. That’s because any small errors in the text, color, resolution, or crop marks can lead to the entire project being reprinted and/or refinished at a high cost.
The designer’s job in the process is tedious but prominent. They are portraying the entire company/brand with their work and want their workflow to reflect the business.
Gerber – MCT offers software packages specifically for designers to ease manual workflow including Tilia Griffin, a nesting software and TigerPack, a 3D packaging software which makes it extremely easy for package designers to visualize in real time, scale, shift, and design their package.
Are you a graphic designer in the printing industry? Would you like to learn more about how to reduce the bottlenecks in your process? Feel free to reach out to us at Gerber – MCT to see how we can simplify your workflow.