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Working with Print for In-House Marketing Teams: Color, Collaboration, and Toolkits

With so many marketing activities going digital, it’s easy to overlook the significance of print design—and knowing the technical nuances of print can ensure your next run of brochures meets your standards for quality. We’ll cover best practices on selecting and working with printers, color, file setup, and the tools you need to produce effective collateral that communicates value through and through.

Why Choose Print?

Print materials offer a uniquely engaging and sensory experience that digital content often lacks. When you hold a well-crafted brochure or catalog in your hands, you immediately feel the weight and texture of the paper, fostering a tangible connection that digital mediums can’t replicate. With prints, readers can focus solely on the content without the constant digital distractions. Moreover, the ease of sharing print materials by simply passing them on enhances their impact.

One often underestimated aspect of print is the sense of quality and permanence it conveys. When a company invests in professionally designed print materials, it sends a clear message of commitment to quality and attention to detail. This attribute can be especially vital in industries where reputation and trust are important, such as manufacturing.

From a psychological perspective, certain colors, such as reds, blues, and purples, are perceived differently in print compared to their digital counterparts. Leveraging these nuances in color perception can help reinforce your branding and make a memorable impression on your audience.

Picking the Right Printer 

When it comes to picking the right printer, there are several essential considerations to keep in mind. First and foremost, it’s essential to grasp the printer’s capabilities from the get-go, particularly concerning color choices (CMYK vs. Pantone). Understanding this aspect ensures that the colors in your design align with the printer’s capabilities, guaranteeing the best possible final print quality.

Furthermore, delve into the printer’s expertise with templates and presets. Compatibility in these areas is vital to ensure that your files seamlessly integrate into their printing processes.

Lastly, establishing a clear point of contact with the printer is key. This ensures effective communication throughout the printing process, allowing for any necessary adjustments and clarifications. By taking these steps, we ensure that the files we create meet the printer’s exact specifications, resulting in the highest quality final prints.

Demystifying Color: Pantone vs. RGB vs. CMYK


Pantone is a color-matching system that mixes custom ink colors to achieve specific shades. These are collected into swatch books that serve as a reference. The Pantone books allow designers to select an exact color that will look consistent across different materials and printing methods. Within the books, there are coated and uncoated versions of each color. Coated refers to colors on glossier, finished paper stock and uncoated is for plain, matte papers. Using Pantone helps maintain color accuracy, especially for tricky shades like neon oranges and greens.


RGB stands for the red, green, and blue light spectrum. This is the color mode used for anything displayed digitally on screens and monitors. The colors are very saturated since they involve light rather than ink on paper. RGB provides a wider range of achievable colors compared to CMYK or print, but the colors don’t translate directly. Designers have to be aware that RGB colors will look different when converted to print.


CMYK refers to the four ink colors used in traditional printing: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Mixing these four inks in varying degrees allows printers to recreate a wide spectrum of colors. However, some colors like neon oranges and purples can be difficult to reproduce accurately. When possible, choosing Pantone colors ensures better results for tricky shades. CMYK also cannot reproduce the entire visible color spectrum like RGB displays can. The CMYK gamut has a more limited range.

Print Design Rules

What Are Crops, Bleeds, and Trim?

Understanding these terms in print design is important for achieving professional and polished results. Here are some important terms defined:

Bleed: Bleed involves extending your imagery or graphics 1/8 inch beyond the trim line. This ensures that your graphics extend fully to the edge of the final printed piece after the cutting process. Bleeds prevent unwanted white space from appearing if the trimming isn’t perfectly precise. It guarantees that your design looks seamless and professional.

Crop Marks: Crop marks indicate where the final piece should be trimmed to its intended size. These marks act as guides for the printer, directing them precisely where to cut the paper to achieve the desired layout dimensions. 

Trim Marks: Trim marks outline the boundaries of the final printed piece after the cutting process is complete. They provide a visual reference for the printer, specifying the exact dimensions the finished product should adhere to. Trim marks are essential to maintain the integrity of your design and ensure it matches your original layout intentions.

Safe Area: The safe area ensures that no essential information will be lost during the printing and trimming process. By adhering to the safe area, you ensure that vital elements stay intact and visible in the final printed piece.

Working with Spreads

Spreads refer to facing pages, like an open magazine layout. Understanding the distinction between printer spreads and reader spreads is fundamental to effective print design:

Printer Spreads: Printer spreads are designed to ensure that the pages are in the correct order after binding. In a printer spread, the pages are deliberately arranged out of their sequential order. This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s done with a purpose. When the printed pages are folded and bound together, they align in the proper consecutive order for seamless reading. 

Reader Spreads: Reader spreads are created to keep pages in their natural numerical order, making it easier for clients and collaborators to review the layout. Reader spreads should also be used for PDFs that are published digitally. This straightforward layout allows for a more intuitive examination of the design, as it reflects the order in which the content will be read. However, it’s important to note that reader spreads need to be rearranged into printer spreads before the actual printing process.

File Preparation Tips for Print Projects

Achieving pristine print results requires careful file preparation and adherence to best practices. Here are some essential tips to ensure your print projects come out looking as crisp as your digital designs:

Select the Right Adobe Programs: When creating layouts, use Adobe programs like InDesign for comprehensive layouts, Illustrator for vector graphics, and Photoshop for image editing. Each program is tailored to its specific task, allowing you to work efficiently and produce high-quality output.

Outline Fonts: To avoid font-related issues, such as font substitutions or missing fonts, always outline your fonts. This converts text into vector shapes, ensuring that the printer doesn’t need to have the exact fonts you used in your design.

Package Your Files: Consolidate all your design assets and links into one place by using the packaging feature provided by programs like InDesign. This ensures that the printer has access to all necessary resources, reducing the risk of missing or broken links when your project goes to print.

Utilize Pre-Press Tools: Leverage prepress tools like Adobe’s Preflight to catch potential issues before sending your files to the printer. Preflight can help you identify problems such as color space discrepancies, missing links, or low-resolution images that could compromise print quality.

Send a PDF for Consistency: To maintain consistency across different devices and printing environments, it’s advisable to send a PDF to the printer. PDFs encapsulate all design elements, fonts, and formatting, ensuring that your project appears as intended on the printed page.

By following these file preparation tips and integrating best practices into your print design workflow, you’ll enhance your ability to produce crisp, professional-looking print projects that align with the quality of your digital designs.

While many marketing tactics have gone digital, print remains essential for manufacturing to support the success of trade shows and career fairs. A marketing partner well-versed in print design understands the enduring power of tangible materials, the significance of color nuances, the precision of spreads and layouts, and the meticulousness of file preparation. They ensure that your printed materials convey credibility, engage audiences effectively, and make a lasting impact. So, when seeking a marketing partner, remember that their understanding of print is more than just an asset; it’s the key to unlocking the full potential of your marketing efforts.

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