9 Costly Print Mistakes and How To Avoid Them


Ouch. Print mistakes – we’ve all made them, and doubtless, some of them have been extremely costly in terms of time, money and levels of embarrassment!

Even the smallest errors can render a job unusable, with all the incumbent issues of waste and missed deadlines. So what are the classic common printing mistakes, committed from time to time by even the most experienced, and how can we avoid them?

#1 Grammar and spelling mistakes

Let’s start with the simple basics to avoid print mistakes! Proofreading. We’ve been given a gift with tools like Spellcheck and Grammarly. OK, so they’re not perfect, but they will pick up on the most obvious errors and enable us to put them right quickly and easily.

Then we need to take it a step further. Always use the check, check and check again method, and make sure more than one person looks at each job. We can easily become word-blind with something we’ve read more than once, and assume it says what we want it to say and not what it actually does say!

If in doubt about spelling, word usage or point of grammar – research it. Also, pay particular attention to titles and subheadings. It’s easy to skim over the main issues and miss an error which will be glaring to anyone who picks up the job after you.

#2 Forgetting about bleed

Forgetting about printer bleed is something we’ve all done from time to time, and ranks amongst the most common printing mistakes. Bleed is the print beyond the trim edge of the page to make sure there are no unsightly white edgings once the job is cut to size.

To avoid this issue, always make sure your initial dimensions are set at the full bleed size. Use your safety lines so you are always aware your graphics and text fall into the right areas. Easy? It is once you’ve made the mistake once!   

#3 Going beyond the safety line

So we’ve mentioned safety lines already, but they’re there for a reason. You don’t want an important part of your image or text to be literally cut off in its prime!

The safety line (or safety zone) is usually set at 3mm inside the trim line. This keeps text and graphics far enough away from the cutting area to ensure they don’t get lost. Maintain your safety margin and you’ll never have an issue with print-ready artwork.

Want to make it easy to border set? There are free templates you can download with bleed, trim lines and safety zones already marked out. If in doubt, take a look at these, or ask your printer.

#4 Leaving your print guides in the file

So you’ve abided by all the rules of print design, paid attention to your safety zones, trim marks and bleed, and your design is all ready for print.

Just don’t commit one of the commonest print mistakes of leaving your print guides in the file or they might just appear on the end product!

To avoid this mistake, it’s easy to put your guides on separate layers, which also helps to ensure you remember to remove them at the end before your job goes off to print.

#5 Text that’s too small

None of us is getting any younger, and it always tells in our eyesight! Font sizes we could once read with ease start to need reading glasses, then become almost impossible to decipher (think ingredients and instruction on food packaging).

We want people to be able to read what we’re producing with ease and not struggle to make out the smallest print details. Using font sizes that are too small can also result in letters and numbers ‘filling in’ or blurring, adding to the problems.

Choice of font can play an important role here too. Certain fonts are far easier to read even at a smaller size. As a rule of thumb, don’t use anything smaller than 6pt if you want the information to be clear and legible and avoid mistakes!

#6 Missing fonts

So you’ve spent time and used your significant design skills to choose the right font(s) for your project. You’ve positioned it correctly and you’re happy with the end result, as is your client at the proofing stage.

If you embed fonts, then all the necessary font information will be stored in the file you pass to your printer. This will increase the size of your artwork slightly, but with today’s internet speeds and assets like DropBox, this is rarely a real issue.

You will then be confident that the fonts you have selected will be displayed correctly, avoiding common print mistakes.

#7 Resolution

Print resolution is all about the level of detail. Print resolution plays a vital role in determining how the end result will look. The higher your print resolution, the better the quality of your project and print design.

Files really need to be at least 300 PPI to achieve a satisfactory printed result. You can set your document resolution to 300PPI at the very beginning to make sure you achieve this. Always remember to ensure that any images etc you are adding to your document match this resolution, quality and size.

Quite aside from the obvious copyright issues, just taking images or photos from someone else’s website is usually a dangerous thing to do because they will simply be at too low a resolution to match the rest of your document. Stock images and photos are of great quality with an astounding amount of choice. These are now easily affordable, creating the right impresion for your marketing materials.

#8 The RGB/CMYK debate

It’s advisable to use CMYK from the start as your default setting when setting up a new file for any digital design which will eventually be printed in physical form. Why? CMYK colour mode gives a far more accurate result than RGB, approximating more closely to the finished result when printed. Many printers will make a charge to convert from RGB to CMYK.

Diagram explaining the difference between RGB and CYMK

Whilst RGB is better for screen and digital applications, CMYK works better for design for print, determining exactly how much CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) ink is required to create each colour exactly.

We know it’s often not an exact science. The paper you choose to print on can affect the final document or printed result significantly. Proofing and discussing paper and colour images with your client and your printer can also help to avoid print mistakes.

#9 Not choosing the best tools for the job

Don’t choose to design a print job without using the tools designed for the job. OK, so there’s a cost associated with the favourites like Adobe InDesign and Illustrator, and you need to learn to use them to their best advantage.

The end result will pay dividends and make your design work more rewarding in the long run, fitter for purpose, you’ll help avoid common print file mistakes and make it easier for your printer to match your aspirations!

Wrapping things up

We all love to share in each other’s misfortunes (and hopefully learn from each other’s simple mistakes!) If you have any print mistakes and their results you’d like to give air time to, why not share them with us?

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