Firstly, there is no such thing as bulletproof artwork. Secondly, it is only by being given the correct information from the start that the designer will stand a pretty good chance of delivering production artwork that needs no or little adjustment.
The importance of getting digital artwork right
I cannot stress this enough. Get it right the first time as it saves time and money. Like anything in life, if you rush in with little or no knowledge and understanding the odds of getting it right are slim to say the least.
Nick Brittan | Marketeer
Step 1: Understanding the production process
The best way for me to explain this is to ask a question. QUESTION: How do car designers know how to design a car? ANSWER; They understand the production processes. It is no different when designing for print or digital media.
Your designer may have designed packaging before, but was that card, flexible, tin or plastic? There are different specifications, print methods and limitations for every type of packaging.
For example the original BRIWAX packaging was design by my father. Some years later it was restyled by myself. The new tin was seamless which meant that it was punched from one piece of metal. Hence there is no seem on the side of the tin.
This production process required the artwork to be optically distorted for print. Later when punched the design would form back to the correct size and shape when punched. It was a challenge and one we met, but only once we understood the production method.
Step 2: If unsure ask and ask again
The BRIWAX project is a point in case. Through working closely with the packaging manufacturer and understanding the production process there were no mistakes or delays.
Production lines have production schedules. Miss them and you will be paying a penalty. This is even more prevalent in today’s “just in time” working methods.
Step 3: Measure twice, cut once
It’s an old saying, but holds true. You may be amazed by the amount of artwork where the measurements are out. Only slightly maybe, but there is no excuse for it. If the specification states 185mm width x 185mm depth why would the designer not enter the correct values into the computer. A top tip. Always check the measurements and correct to the exact specified sizes. A millimetre here or there really can make the difference in the final packing.
Did you know a barcode requires a minimum clear space around it for it to be read correctly? Even a millimetre can stop it being scanned, bringing the whole production run under question.
Don’t be surprised if retailers send the products back if the barcode does not read correctly. It cost time to manually enter codes on their tills.
Step 4: Vectorise and optimise
Vectorise is where a path is used for shapes and text. These paths are resolution independent, meaning that you can scale them without any loss of quality.
The artwork may contain images which are pixel based. These will be resolution dependent so should always be optimised to the resolution and size specified by the manufacturer.
For belt and braces, some designers outline all fonts. This eliminates two possible issues. One, that fonts are substituted when the artwork is processed. Two, no one can change the artwork copy from the approved design. This also results in smaller file sizes too.
Step 5: Send the correct artwork format
I don’t just mean the file format, I mean colour too. Colour format is one of the biggest errors within digital artwork. There should be no colours outside of the required colour format. That could be CMYK or Pantone or a combination of both.
Artwork for print should never be produced in RGB (Red, Green, Blue) as this would require a colour conversion. The problem here is that there is no consistency in the conversion. Send the file to two different suppliers and you will more than likely get two totally different colour results. I will not go into the technical side here, but if you are interested please do get in touch.
Step 6: File delivery services as an alternative to email
Nearly all manufacturers accept artwork via email. Some have dedicated upload systems. However if the file is too large there are many platforms to help. Both the sender and receiver will need to subscribe, but most offer a free service.
These include: –
Step 7: Always proof
When I started in this industry many moons ago you wouldn’t go near production without a printed proof. I don’t mean a printout from your desktop inkjet printer. I mean a production proof that the printer will match to.
So there you have it. Some simple steps in producing better production artwork. If you have any questions or would like some free impartial advice I am always here.