What program(s) would you recommend for designing printed materials?

Any layout and design program that allows you to convert files to high resolution pdf, jpg, tif, or eps files will produce fine results.

For optimum layout flexibility, we suggest bringing your text, photos, and illustration into a program such as QuarkXPress or Adobe InDesign. To expertly manipulate or edit photographs use Adobe Photoshop (or another program that can properly handle rasterized images). For line drawings or illustrations use a Vector based program (like Adobe Illustrator).

Note: Word is for word processing and Excel is for creating spread sheets. Neither is recommended for layout design.

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What is wrong with using Word or Excel when designing my marketing materials?

For trivial jobs, these programs would suffice. However, they are not adequate when your goal is creative design for marketing purposes. The results are usually compromised due to the limitations of the tools in the software. For the best results, use one of the more powerful layout and design programs such as Adobe In-Design or QuarkXPress (at the very least, Publisher).

Try to only use Word or Excel for their intended purposes; Word should be your word processing program and Excel should be used for spreadsheets and calculations. If Word or Excel is all you have, see below for some tips that might help.

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I've already used Word, Excel, or Publisher to design my layout. How can I still achieve a high quality reproduction?

If you are sure all of the elements are high resolution, it is possible to export your file to a high resolution PDF. Send our designers the high resolution PDF along with the original Word, Excel, or Publisher file. Allowing a professional designer to complete your project with the right software will assure high quality work.

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Jpg, tiff, eps, gif, png, pdf... What extensions should I use? And when?

Jpeg or jpg - Joint Photographic Experts Group is great for creating small, fast loading images for the web, however, the relatively low file size of JPEGs is achieved with a lossy compression, so each time you save a jpg you are losing information. Photos should be converted to tiff for editing without lossy. Don’t use jpg for logos or text. Advantage: Smaller file size with millions of colors. Disadvantage: Lossy factor each time you save, cannot have transparent background.

eps: Encapsulated PostScript is a vector format designed for printing to PostScript printers and imagesetters. It is considered the best choice of graphics format for high resolution printing of illustrations. Advantage: Great for Line art and precise enlargement or reduction. Disadvantage: Larger file size, some program and printers don’t support the postscript image.

tiff or tif: Tagged Image File Format is one of the most commonly used and versatile graphics formats. It is ideal for high resolution printing to PostScript printers and imagesetters. TIFF offers great flexibility for use in page layout applications in part due to multiple color modes, multiple compression types, and cross-platform compatibility. TIFF images support both embedded paths and alpha channels which can be used to create transparent backgrounds for images in a page layout application. When editing a tif in photoshop there is not lossy compression and the high resolution quality you start with will be maintained unless you change it. Tif is great for print, it is too large for web use. Advantages: High quality image. Disadvantage: Large file size.

gif: Graphics Interchange Format is low-resolution and best suited to on-screen display on the Web. The vast majority of non-photographic images seen on Web pages use the GIF format. It is a bitmap graphics format that supports transparency and animation, but is limited to 256 colors . Use it for images that have solid lines and solid colors, or images that have few colors. Advantage: Small File Size. Disadvantage: Color limitation.

png (Ping): Portable Networks Graphics are raster images that can support millions of colors, like JPG. PNG has variable transparency through alpha channels and has fully lossless compression (that is, saving and re-saving doesn’t degrade the quality). These and other features make PNG a better choice than GIF and sometimes better than JPG or TIFF -- it can depend on the specific image and how it will be used. Advantages: Clean image that supports transparency. Disadvantage: larger than gif or jpg

pdf: Portable Document Format is a file format created by Adobe Systems, Inc. PDF uses the PostScript printer description language and is highly portable across computer platforms. PDF documents are created with Adobe Acrobat Distiller or other programs. Some desktop publishing programs can create PDF files from within the program, usually with the assistance of helper programs. Adobe Acrobat Reader is the main software for opening and viewing PDF documents. Advantages: You can share files with others who don’t have your software, and send high resolution files to printers. Disadvantages: Not ideal for image presentation on the web, but it is fine for sharing information via downloads.

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I need quality pictures, how should I aquire them?

There are several ways to get great pictures, but you’ll want to be sure they portray the best possible marketing imagery. Our huge library of stock photos can almost certainly meet your needs. We can also send a photographer to your location or provide product photography as needed. Finally, if you have a digital camera and want to take the pictures yourself, we can enhance your digital photos to produce a professional quality image for you. All of our photography and photography services are very reasonably priced.

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Hi Resolution or Low Resolutions? How can I tell if my photos and artwork are the right resolution for the job.

Photography for print production requires High Resolution. Web production can use Low Resolution.

NOTE: you cannot take a low resolution picture and make it a high resolution picture. Once the picture is reduced to low resolution the information that would make it look cleaner has been lost and cannot be retrieved, you would need to start with the original picture.

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What is a the difference between a Vector and a Raster Image?

A vector image stores image information as mathematical data. A vector image can store more colors and shapes in less space while resizing smoothly. The lines, curves, and fills are all recalculated during scaling to create a more precise image. Vector images are easily converted to raster images.

The raster image stores pixel data and has to save information about the color of every pixel in the image. A high resolution raster image is usually large and when you resize a raster image, the data doesn’t scale well; if you shrink it, you lose pixel data as larger areas merge into smaller ones. If you enlarge it, you end up with a jagged image as single-pixel data has to fill a multiple pixels area via interpolation. Raster images can rarely be perfectly converted to vector images.

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How can I be sure I am designing something that won’t cost a fortune to print?

The right choices can easily save you up to 50% on an order. Ink, paper, and bindery selections should all be considered carefully before you begin your design. Choosing standard inks and papers is an easy way to keep your budget manageable. Also, combining smaller orders into one larger order can potentially reduce costs.

Feel free to take advantage of specialty processes such as die cutting, embossing, foil, or unique folds because there are ways to save there too. Start with a rough idea and send it along for a quote, we can help tweak your ideas to save money, but we won’t compromise your marketing goals. The right software for the job is also helpful in completing a design project within budget.

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I'm not sure how I am going to design this, how am I suppose to get printing bids?

Most ideas can be effective in more than one way. Create your rough ideas, but be flexible at first. Show us your ideas before you show your boss or client. That way we can help guide the design in a cost effective direction. Also, don’t spend a lot of time on your roughs drafts, a general idea is usually good enough to get some great feedback that will help your project get moving along swiftly.

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Is it always cheaper to purchase larger quantities?

This can be a tricky question. It depends on the equipment that the final product is being printed on, but the short answer to this question is usually “yes.”

Generally the time and material to set up a job are the bulk of the cost. Once a job is up and running it moves quickly and then the only addition to the set-up cost is the cost of the paper.

Example: Let's say your run cost is .10¢ per sheet and your set-up cost is $75.00 (Set up might include a press wash for 2 ink colors and metal plates for finer quality, plus the time it takes a press operator to set up a press).
Cost breakdown:
.10¢ x 500 Pieces = $50 + $75 (Setup) = $125 / 500 pieces = .25¢ per piece.
.10¢ x 2500 Pieces = $250 + $75 (Setup) = $325 / 2500 pieces = .13¢ per piece.
This example shows how the cost per piece goes down in higher quantities because the set-up cost is constant.

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What is Rich Black, Cool Black, Warm Black?

Rich Black is color combination of the four process colors (CMYK). One Rich Black example would be a color made up of 60% Cyan, 50% Magenta, 50% Yellow and 100% Black. Rich Black will appear darker, or richer, than 100% black alone. This adds a nice touch when printing large solids or headlines. However, it is not usually used for printing the body copy of materials.

Cool Black is a variation of Rich Black that contains more Cyan than Magenta. Warm Black would contain more Magenta than Cyan. When refering to Pantone (or PMS) colors, cool black or cool grey is more blue, while warm black or warm gray is more red.

Note: The text in the program Microsoft Word defaults to Rich Black and the results are not always desirable. Be sure that your text is just 100% Black and not Rich Black.

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Where do I begin when I need something designed?

The guidelines are similar for most printed projects. Here we are using an example of a brochure:

  • Review your goals and write them down. Listing several goals is fine, but one primary goal should be considered paramount.
  • Write down anything you might say in a sales pitch for your product or service. Focus more on the content rather than the grammer; record all of the facts that you believe are important to share with your clients or target market. This will be your project outline.
  • If you are a creative writer, you can use your outline to begin writing the text. Otherwise, we’ll take care of the actual copywriting. We’ll take the notes you provide and then write your message clearly and concisely with the additional panache needed for effectiveness.
  • Images do a tremendous job relating your message. Create a list of pictures that you think would best convey your message. Don’t think about what you can and cannot do with photography, just focus on the ideal images for your project. We can provide effective custom photography or stock photography for you. If you're not sure where to begin, let us help; we are experts when it comes to choosing the right images that will help target your entire demographic.
  • That’s it. We’re ready to take your message and create a brochure.
Remember, brochures or any visual materials are sales representatives for you in your absence. It is a fact that these items can impact your business greatly. We will always provide service and products that exemplify your corporate image with your profitability in mind.

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I would like to create my own design. What should be my first step?

This really depends on the design's final intent (i.e. web, print). Since a design can be taken in so many different directions, its best to first talk your ideas over with a professional. Consulting with an expert can impart several money saving techniques and will ensure that the design heads down the right path. If the final design is intended for print, it is also important to consult your printer before you begin. Since Express Press is a print and design firm, we are ready to assist in all aspects of your creative process.

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I don't want to worry about the design. Can you take care of it all?

Definitely, we are approaching 25 years in the business of successfully designing marketing materials for a variety of industries. You can be confident that you’ll receive innovative, effective designs followed by quality printing. Whether your plans include print materials, web design, or other media choices, our team will make sure that your campaign coordinates seamlessly.

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Why should I have my logo and marketing materials professionally designed?

In business, image is everything and the right design can help you establish a positive image. Many people choose not to use a professional designer in an attempt to save money. However, the do-it-yourself approach can be trying as well as cost you time and energy. Also, the wrong design may hurt your reputation and cost you profitability.

We have had many very satisfied clients express that they wish they would have come to us in the beginning of their project. We are reasonably priced and very experienced. In the end, it's simple, effective marketing will make you money and using a professional designer helps to ensure that.

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How much should be spent on designing marketing materials?

Many factors will determine the cost of your marketing materials, but your marketing goals will play the main role. The image you want to portray, the scope of the project, and the profit you are interested in gaining must all be considered before creating a marketing budget.

In the end, there are so many different options, each affecting the final costs. It’s like the difference between a pick-up truck and an expensive sports car. Both will get you out on the road, they also have their own features and abilities. However, they tend to appeal to different audiences. The marketing vehicle we use for you will be different than what we may use for another client.

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How do I provide the right information for the design process to begin?

We have a helpful questionnaires and example information on this web site. The questions help to review your products or services, your goals, your budget, and ideas. Submit the questionnaire and we’ll provide some helpful tools to get your project underway. CLICK LINK

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How do I save or export a high resolution PDF, suitable for printing?

Most software has the ability to export or save a file as a PDF. When you export or save you are sending your file through a “distiller” that is like a virtual printer; instead of printing to paper it "prints" to a portable file. For printing you need the portable file to be high resolution for the best results. The following picture show you how to set up the options for Adobe Acrobat, or other distiller.

Choose PDF as your printer in your print or export dialog box. You’ll need to set up the options for your PDF. Go into you options (or advanced options) settings. There you will find a dialog box with several tabs. For the highest resolution printing, follow the diagrams below:

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