File Printing Expectations VS Reality
Staff Business Cards
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How to Make Sure the Reality Meets or Exceeds Your Expectation!

Every customer wants their file printing job to turn out perfectly.  We want that too.  But good quality results should not be a matter of luck. One of the most frustrating things printers encounter is getting low quality files with the direction that “I want the business cards” – substitute flyer, brochure, sticker, or anything else – “to look really professional”.  This is particularly frustrating when it is obvious that someone has gone to a lot of work and expense to create nice artwork.  Often the weakness in the process is in the file handling, though not always.

The artwork you can see vs what you are looking at

It is always a bit exciting when you sit back and look at your business card or flyer design on the computer monitor in front of you, satisfied that it is what you want.  I know how it feels.  But let’s step back for a second and talk about what you are really looking at.

Artwork on a computer monitor

Font Size

Chances are, your computer monitor is quite large.  This means that everything on your business card artwork, for example, is potentially magnified in the neighbourhood of 400 times its actual size.  Given that, a font that is small on a business card or label design, will be TINY when printed in the actual size.  Interestingly, even professional designers submit fonts that are illegible. If possible, print your card or label  in the actual size to check it before submitting an order.


Secondly, your monitor is lit from the back  and uses an RGB colour scheme.  The backlighting will enhance the peaks and valleys in the contrast.  In other words, it may make a dark font on a dark background look fine when in print it will look awful. In addition, monitors use RGB colours, while printers use CMYK.  RGB colours may appear more vibrant than CMYK colours. To make sure you are happy with the font sizes and colours, you may want to request a hard proof, a printed sample of your artwork, before printing the final version.

Page Size

Finally, the size of your artwork on a monitor may not be clear to you.  What you are often looking at is what you would like your business card or flyer to look like, but not necessarily a file that is suitable to achieve that goal.  If the file is too large or too small, if it doesn’t have the correct size or aspect ratio for the project size, quality may be lost.  It is common for customers to send a letter sized (8.5″ x 11″) design to be printed on a half letter (5.5″ x 8.5″) flyer. It doesn’t fit.  In addition, for a print to turn out the way you expect, it has to have extra background around the edge, called bleed, to allow for cutting.  Most customers, even professional designers, forget about that.

Between your monitor and our printer

Another issue we can encounter is when there is a significant loss in quality in your print file between what you are seeing and what we are given to print.  This often happens when people forward emails with pictures in them, rather than attaching or uploading original artwork.  Create nice artwork, check it for quality, save it at high resolution (300 dpi), and then make sure the file you send to the printer is the best one you have.  Pdf is the best format, or high resolution .jpg.  .Png files are only in RGB format, so not appropriate for printing.

Who is responsible for the quality?

This question is at the heart of the discussion.  In short, responsibility mostly lies with the customer.  In this brilliant post, the author lays out a bit of a checklist to help you check your file:


This article will only take you a few minutes to read, and this resource for print designers, is well worth the read.  It reminds you that as the customer, you have key responsibilities.  For instance, having the legal right to use images, and what standards are needed for print artwork need to be resolved before the file goes to the printer..

It is also worth noting that these responsibilities remain, even if you are asking us to do your design work.  The final word is always yours.

We Help

At Laser Sharp Printing & Signs, we want you to get the best print result we can.  We have invested in the most recent, high definition digital press to give you the best business card, flyer or brochures possible, with exceptional print resolution and registration.

We get that this stuff is not easy to understand and that you may not have the tools you need.  If we see issues with your artwork, like small fonts or low resolution, we will try to let you know.  When you send files without bleeds, we can fix them for you.  If we work together, the printed product you pick up is sure to meet or exceed your expectation. But overall quality ultimately depends on you.