Printing Feature Image

Clients and friends often ask me questions about commercial printers. It can be quite daunting to have something printed, especially if you are unfamiliar with the basic concepts and terms. If you are printing business cards or flyers for the first time, here are a few key ideas to better understand the process.

Meg Link Design Business Card Design


RGB and CMYK are color models. RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue and is an additive color model, which means if you add the colors together in equal parts they will create the color white. RGB is the color model of the web and is what you see on your laptop, digital camera, or computer monitor. The colors are bright because they are based on light.

CYMK is short for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (or Black ) and refers to the 4 inks used in commercial printing to reproduce a full color image. CYMK is also called 4 color process or process color. Typically, CYMK colors look duller on a computer screen than RGB colors since CYMK is a subtractive model with a smaller range of colors. When you send a file to a commercial printer such as Moo, Vistaprint, or a local press, it should be CYMK.

Pantone Color Book

Spot Color:

Spot Colors are premixed inks such as the Pantone Matching System (PMS). Spot colors ensure greater color accuracy and are often used for logos in offset printing. These inks can be more vibrant than CYMK or process color. Each spot color requires its own printing plate on an offset printer.


Poster Design by Meg Link


Resolution refers to the number of pixels an image contains. A pixel is the building block of an image, much like the cell is the building block of the body. PPI, or pixels per inch, counts the number of pixels in a square inch of a computer screen. Typically, 300 ppi is the standard resolution for commercial printing. When you print a photograph with a resolution below 300ppi it may look grainy or pixelated.

Don’t Make Me Bleed:

When the printed area of a document extends beyond the point where the print will be trimmed, it is called a bleed. Basically, a bleed gives the printer wiggle room for trimming the document.

Meg Link Design Atlanta postcard

Offset vs. Digital Printing?

Both offset printing and digital printing have their own benefits. Offset printing can result in a higher quality print and more accurate colors since offset printing inks a sheet of paper using etched metal plates. These metal plates are specifically made for each job. Due to the initial print setup costs, offset printing is typically used for larger print runs of over a thousand prints. To learn more about offset printing, watch this short video.

Over the years digital printing has become increasingly economical. Digital printers do not use plates since they apply toner directly to paper using rollers called drums. There is not much of a setup process for digital prints, so it is a great choice for smaller print runs and prints that you need in a hurry.

If you have any questions about printing, reach out to me on Instagram at @meglinkdesign.