DIY Graphic Designer’s Tips

Designers Top 10 Check-List

  1. Use of one of our Summit Layout Templates to ensure proper cover layout sizing is essential. Links to these templates can be found on our CD, USB & Vinyl Pricing pages as well as on our Downloads page.
  2. All files and images must be in the CMYK (process colour) format. RGB images are unacceptable.
  3. All photo Images must be 300dpi at final cropped size.
  4. Keep all text a minimum of 1/8″ (inside) from any finished edge, crop-mark or fold.
  5. Add 1/8″ bleed (to later be trimmed off edges) to all outside edges of your design.
  6. If supplying “working files”, be sure to include all images & fonts used in your QuarkXpress or InDesign layout, then export final layouts to 300 dpi print optimized PDF’s.
  7. If using Adobe Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator, convert all text to curves and then convert final layouts to 300 dpi print optimized PDF’s..
  8. DIY designers – see Preferred, Alternate & Unacceptable File Formats below to make sure your layout is useable.
  9. Upload your print optimized PDF design files via: WeTransfer to our Summit graphics department – OR – Courier your completed design files to Summit Sound Inc., 184 McAndrews Rd. Westport, ON K0G 1X0, on CDR or USB flash drive along with a printed colour proof.
  10. Be sure to include your CATALOGUE NUMBER and MADE IN CANADA on all cover & CD or DVD imprint graphics. UPC BAR CODES are available from Summit Sound at our cost of $50. each.

Call Summit Sound at: 1-800-403-9755 if you have any questions before proceeding with your design 

Design Basics 

A clear understanding of graphic colour systems (CMYK, PMS, RGB etc.) file formats (EPS,TIF, JPG, PSD etc) image resolution (72, 300, 600dpi) line screens (ie. 85, 133, 150 line) as well as how computer programs deal with drawings/illustration and text (vector) and photo images (raster) is critical to obtain optimum results on your cover design. 

While it is possible to do a complete cover design in a program such as Photoshop, you need to understand that because Photoshop rasterizes (which is ideal for photo images) it is not the best choice for text as it makes it less sharp. On the other hand, a program such as Adobe Illustrator which creates vector images (and is thus ideal for text) does not process photo images as well as raster based programs like Photoshop. This is why professional designers use page layout programs such as QuarkXPress or InDesign for layout, as it allows them to utilize raster (photo) images from Photoshop and vector images (illustration/text) from Illustrator, ensuring the best possible end result. 

While we do have clients who provide complete designs in Photoshop, or Illustrator, understand that this is not going to yield the best result. Doing your design entirely in Photoshop will optimize photos but compromise (especially smaller) text. Conversely, doing a complete design in Illustrator (or exporting to Illustrator) will optimize your text/illustrations but compromise photos… This is why we recommend you use our Summit design services or employ the services of another professional designer who can create your design using the correct software tools, with a full understanding of the complexities involved, when files will be printed by a commercial offset printer on a 4 colour (CMYK) press. Doing your cover layout in QuarkXPress or InDesign so that you can combine any vector (Photoshop) and raster (Illustrator) images is the proper way to create a design for professional commercial offset or digital print output.

Preferred Graphic Design Formats

The professional graphic design and print world primarily uses Apple (Mac) computers with page layout in QuarkXPress (or *InDesign), photo or image manipulation in Adobe Photoshop and drawings or illustration in Adobe Illustrator. When a design is complete, these files are then converted to hi-res print optimized PDF’s.  

This is the preferred format for all files supplied to Summit Sound, and the way we and the majority of other professional designers create their cover designs. 

To ensure optimum results and to avoid cost over-runs, we highly recommend that you create your design using these industry standards. 

Finally, convert files to Adobe Acrobat (PDF format) with colours converted to CMYK, fonts embedded, resolution set to 300 dpi and files printer (not screen) optimized.

Alternate Formats

In the event you intend to attempt your own cover design and are unable to use a professional page layout program like QuarkXpress, you must provide your digital files in one of the 3 EXACT formats listed below: 

1.  Adobe Acrobat files with colours converted to CMYK, fonts and images embedded, resolution set to 300 dpi and files printer (not screen) optimized. 

2.  Adobe Photoshop or In-Design files with colours converted to CMYK, images cropped to size at 300dpi and text embedded by flattening layers (rasterized) before saving in EPS or TIF format. Avoid text under 8 point for maximum legibility. When design is complete, these files are then converted to 300dpi printable PDF’s. (If using In-Design for page layout, be sure to note this in writing, so we can check files for errors before going to press) 

3.  Adobe Illustrator files with colour converted to CMYK and text embedded by converting all text to curves and flattening layers (vector format) before saving as EPS or TIF. Avoid very small or condensed fonts when converting text to curves for maximum legibility. When design is complete, these files are then converted to 300dpi printable PDF’s. 

Layout Programs to Avoid

We do not recommend the use of programs such Corel Draw or Corel Photo Paint, as this software is not supported by most professional printers and results can be very unreliable. 

If you must provide Corel files, convert all colours to CMYK and always use “artistic text” so you can embed fonts and export in a vector format such as Adobe Illustrator. You must provide finished layouts as complete EPS, TIF or PDF (picture) images that combine both text and any photos. 

Please note that choosing to use Corel software may result in extra set-up costs unless you can output final layout as a fully completed 300dpi printable PDF with all bleed, crop and registration marks included. 

Layout Programs That Absolutely Cannot Be Used

Any layout created in programs such as Microsoft Publisher, Microsoft Word or CD Creator etc. does not have CMYK output capability and as such is not acceptable except as a “rough mock-up of your intended design (unless it allows you to convert your final layout to CMYK and output as a hi-res PDF).

Designs supplied in any “non-standard” format may need to be totally re-created by our staff designers at additional cost.

Direct To Plate CD Cover Print

Most CD cover designs printed today, bypass the traditional CMYK film stage, by going “direct-to-plate” using a pre-press format that allows CMYK plates to be formatted directly from the designers printable PDF files. (This is instead of requiring the traditional film separations and metal plates that were previously  “burned” from CMYK negatives for this process.) 

The PDF – direct-to-plate process has reduced production costs (due to the elimination of expensive CMYK films and metal plates) and replaces CMYK colour key or colour laminate proofs with electronic PDF proofs that can be easily emailed or printed for client approval. Note: Always open your final PDF file in “Adobe Acrobat Reader” to check it’s integrity before submitting it.

Disc Imprint Films 

As CD or DVD surface imprints are commonly done using Pantone or PMS colours applied in a high quality silkscreen (or offset printing) process, the associated films are still required for each colour (plus any white backgrounds if needed). Our standard pricing includes up to 5 colour CD imprinting although 6 colour printing is available at additional cost. Films are generated as right reading positives, emulsion side up, 2550 dpi using a 100 line screen with elliptical dots for any halftones. See Summit CD Layout templates on our Downloads page, for further specifications and exact dimensions.

NOTE: Summit Sound also provides complete disc imprint design services, but these may be at additional cost on some packages. 

Tips on Background or Text Colour Creation  

To ensure optimum  colour matching (and avoid being fooled by your computer screen) ALWAYS generate any colours using a CMYK colour chart that shows a printed colour swatch with values you can manually enter in your design program for each of the CMYK colour values. Here is an example: If you wish to create bright red in your design and find a suitable red on your CMYK colour chart (such as Pantone’s process colour S 73-1) in your design software, create a new colour and enter the individual colour values as listed on the process colour guide such as:  C=0, M=100, Y=100, K=0 Once you have done this, when you look at this new colour on your screen, if it looks different than the printed sample on your colour guide (ignore your screen and believe the colour guide) you may also wish to recalibrate your monitor to avoid confusion. Never create important colours at random on screen, as you will have no way to accurately estimate what they will look like when printed. 

Tips on Image Scanning 

For  any important photos, to ensure the highest photo image quality and colour balance, use hi res digital camera images, or consider the use of a “service bureau” who can provide you quality hi resolution scans of your prints or transparencies.  If you will be using images from a digital camera, use the highest possible resolution (minimum 300dpi at final cropped size) and consider having Summit Sound (or the service bureau of your choice) “tweak” the colour on these images.

The importance of the above can’t be over-stated, to ensure that your cover turns out as you expect it to, and with the colours you had originally envisioned…. Never trust your computer monitor or even your printer for critical colour decisions, as most printers use colour management software to match your print-outs to your screen – a process that will not be implemented when you go to a CMYK press.