What Is The Designer’s Toolkit?

The Designer’s Toolkit is, simply, a set of helpful articles that will guide you through the process of correctly creating your graphics and print files for your project. There is actually more to creating the artwork than many would think and, if you’re new to the process, these articles will help you navigate the often confusing printing process. The Designer’s Toolkit will be an ongoing blog you can reference whenever you need to discover or refresh yourself on how files need to be set up and how they need to be saved so you know they will print perfectly ever time  we do a project for you.

In this first article, we will look at some TERMINOLOGY you will need to know as you build your files.

  • Resolution – This is the number of pixels that make up an image. Many use the term ‘resolution’ to refer to a file’s width/height, but it is actually the number of pixels that make up each inch of your document. Print resolution is 300dpi, or dots per inch. This means that each inch of your file contains 300 tiny dots that, when displayed, make up what we see. Anything less than 300dpi, and you will end up with a professional print that has jagged lines or looks “muddy”.
  • Color Mode – Refers to whether the file is Duotone, RGB, CMYK, HSB or LAB
    Duotone – A halftone image made up of two contrasting colors.
            RGB – Refers to Red, Green, Blue, the three main colors that make up a full color image on a screen or monitor.
           CMYK – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black (the K designating Black rather than B, which refers to Blue). Used in the 4-color printing process so up to 16 million colors are reproduced.
           HSB – Hue, Saturation, Brightness. Hue is the actual color; Saturation is the color’s purity or density; Brightness is the color’s percentage from black to white.HSB is device independent.
           LAB – L stands for Lightness, A for colors ranging from green to red, and B for colors ranging from blue to yellow. It’s a mathematical equation that defines a color.
  • File Format – This refers to the type of file it is. There are two formats:
           Pixel-based: This refers to files made up of pixes (squares) or dots and is resolution dependent. This means you cannot take a pixel-based image that is 3 x 3 and turn it into a 6 x 6 without losing clarity. The best way
    to think about this is, if you drew a picture on a balloon then blew the balloon up, that image would stretch and tear. With pixel-based images, you are locked into the width/height and resolution. Plus, the more
    pixels per inch, the larger (storage-wise) the file will be as there is more information being store inside the image.
    Vector-based – These images are resolution independent, meaning you can take them from the the smallest file size possible to wrapping around the moon without loss of quality. This is because vectors are
    mathematical equations that define a curve, so that equation never changes, no matter the dimensions of the file. Vector files remain fairly small in relation to their pixel-based counterparts.

SIDE NOTE: Your computer monitor and any other monitor you have attached to your computer displays at a resolution of 72 or 96ppi (pixels per inch). Low resolution. The quality of the image comes from the number of Lines of Resolution, not the dots that make up the file. If you use a video editing program, you will notice that your files are in low resolution (72dpi) because you don’t need a higher resolution to display correctly on a screen. So, when working in a program like Photoshop, the higher your resolution, the further in you can zoom to work on finer detail. When you see 100% in the title bar, you know that the pixels within the screen are matching 100% with the pixels in your image – for instance if your have a 300dpi document, you can zoom in until 96 pixels on the screen and 92 pixels in your document are at a 1:1 ratio.

Make sure you work on your file while in RGB mode, and that your file is at 300dpi.  In RGB, you will have access to all the filters and effects that Photoshop has to offer. Once finished, switch to CMYK before saving your file. In addition, always save at 300dpi. You cannot add pixels where pixels never existed, so you can’t take a lower resolution and turn it into a 300dpi document. (You can, however, remove pixels. So, if you happen to work in a higher resolution, you can reduce pixels in your image without losing image quality.)