What to Consider When Printing Your Artwork and Photos

Guest blogger Carla Eaton shares some tips and tricks to ensure your printed artwork is perfect…

No matter how good your computer, camera or editing skills are, your artwork is going to look different from the original once it has been printed.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are prepping to print in order to get the sizing and quality you desire.

Printing Process

Most commercial printers offer several ways you can choose from to print your artwork. Here are some of the more popular methods:

Offset Lithography: In this printing process, ink is applied to a special printing plate to form the image, which is then transferred to a rubber blanket that presses is against paper to produce the final print. This method creates high quality prints and very popular.

Giclee Printing: High-tech 8- or 12-color ink jet printers “spray” inks onto the substrate, which creates the final product. This method creates high quality images that reproduce your artwork in various sizes and onto various surfaces (canvas, paper, textured papers, etc.) easily.

Laser or Inkjet Printing: The most common types of printers, these may not be the best route for prints. This method is best for smaller prints, or for those who are just starting out and printing from home. Image quality will not be the best.

Print Sizes (Image size vs. print size) and Proper Resolution

Chances are, your original artwork isn’t going to be in the size that people will want as a print. Offering different sizes of your piece is common and creates more options to buy your art.

Resizing an image is not that simple, however. You will want to consider resolution and pixels. Standard print resolution is 300dpi. Make sure your files, documents and images all are set to that; any image with a resolution lower than 300 will be printed fuzzy and blurry. Read more on understanding image resolution here.

Most image editing software (Photoshop, Illustrator, GIMP, etc.) will allow you to resize the image easily. Keep in mind you want a high resolution and that really depends on what size prints you want. A high resolution file may cause your computer to be slow, but the printed product will be well worth it. You can also avoid that by taking your artwork to a commercial printer.

Bleed, Trim and Safety Margins

Bleed: The bleed line extends past the trim “to which artwork or a background color is extended so that the blade will cut through it.” If your artwork extends to the edge of a document, you should set a bleed line so that your artwork doesn’t get cut off awkwardly. The bleed margin establishes an area to account for a small margin for cutting error.

Trim: The trim refers to the edge of the paper or the size of the finished product. These lines indicate where the product will be cut down to for the desired size. It’s important to remember, however, that errors can be made during the printing and cutting process, so important content should be kept within safety margins.

Safety: The safety lines refer to the area of your document/artwork that is not meant to be trimmed. Any important content or text should be kept within the safety lines to ensure it does not get cut off.

Although it varies by what you are printing, it’s important to set up the bleed, trim and safety line for every file. Generally, your bleed line should be 1/8” beyond the trim line, while the safety line should be 1/8” inside the trim line.

File Type (TIFF, JPG, or PNG?)

There are so many ways to save your image file – TIFF, JPG, PNG, PDF, GIF, etc. – that is can be hard to figure out which is the best for printing your artwork. Whatever you choose to print, make sure the file is saved as a TIF, JPG or PNG.

TIF: Lossless type of file – generally considered the highest quality format for commercial work. It does not lose any of the data associated with the original image, is highly versatile, and works with almost all color profiles (including CMYK which makes it great for commercial printing).

PNG: Lossless type of file – no compression and no JPG artifacts. It uses ZIP compression which is somewhat more effective color compression than with TIF files, which makes it smaller than TIF but larger than JPG.

JPG: Lossy type of file – generally used for photo images. High quality JPGs can be used for printing as well, but the files can be extremely small and unable to effectively scale up in size. Also, the more you edit and re-save the JPG file, the more quality you will lose.

If file size is not an issue, work with TIF images to maximize quality and size of your artwork.


External references and resources:


How do I prepare and optimize my art images for the web?

Carla Eaton has a B.A. in Mass Media with a Minor in Art and Design. She enjoys writing on the topics of business, technology, and design, and currently blogs for inkfarm.com, who specializes in Dell printer cartridges.

Recent Posts