Paper Matters Blog
Designing for Digital Printing

Digital printing offers unparalleled flexibility for designers and printers, but some designs may need to be adapted to meet the file setup standards of digital presses. If you’re new to the print industry, here are some quick tips to help you get up to speed quickly when it comes to designing for digital printing.

Digital printers have specific paper requirements. Designers should consult with printers to select the optimum digital paper for their job, giving special consideration to grain direction, ink type and print technology.

  1. Finish First – if a project requires folding, binding, scoring or die-cutting, designers should discuss file setup with printers beforehand, making sure to plan for finishing requirements in the design.
  2. Size Matters – it pays to use standard stocked sheet sizes in digital printing – they’re precision sheeted for optimal performance in digital presses, and nonstandard sizes can cause registration, alignment and ink transfer problems.
  3. Fight Flaking – the maximum coverage of toner or ink for most digital devices is 280%.  Printing upwards of 400% process color can cause toner or ink to flake off, increase dry times, and cause offsetting or chipping during post processes.  Printers may suggest CMYK blends for rich blacks.
  4. Smooth Out Solids – large areas of solid color, blends or gradients tend to show mottle or banding with digital printing.  If you can’t avoid solids, use filtering techniques such as patterns or textures.
  5. Check Resolution – save images at no less than 300 dpi, and keep line art at a minimum of 600 to 800 dpi (depending on the type of digital press) for optimum results.

Here are five more tips often overlooked by graphic designers when designing for digital printing.

  1. Find the Right Font – Using Adobe Type 1 or TrueType fonts is recommended for variable data in digital printing and there are many from which to choose.  To ensure readability, don’t set type below 4 points in size.
  2. Vary Your Variable Data – You can place variable information anywhere you like – it’s not limited to one place on your design.  Just make sure there’s room for the longest entry in each field.
  3. Get Proof – since no press setup is needed for digital printing, proofs can be printed quickly on the actual substrate, allowing designers to make adjustments before the full run.
  4. Know Your Boundaries – verify printable areas, which may vary from one digital press to another, and extend image bleeds to 1/8” past crop marks, allowing ¼” between images that bleed.
  5. Make a Mock-Up – many digital presses allow inline finishing, such as binding, folding and trimming.  Providing the printer with a mock-up helps them ensure proper file setup and address design issues before the piece goes to press.

As with all printed projects, choice of paper is of the utmost importance in ensuring your project turns out it’s best. With options that include Cougar Digital Color Copy, Cougar Digital, Lynx Digital and Husky Digital, it’s safe to say Domtar has an option for every budget.


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