Thoughts From Printing Experts

Brian Shakley

Not All Printers are Created Equal

There are many factors to consider when creating artwork for a decal, and we’ve discussed those factors on this blog before.  You can read about them here. But there are also things to consider when choosing a literal printer, as in, the machine that prints the ink onto the material.  Not all printers are created equal.  Whether it is an ink jet, laser or digital printer, all will reproduce your logo or design differently.

The more complex your design, the easier it will be to mask the differences, as the human eye will only be able to see the DPI, or dots per inch, up close.  However, you begin to see these patterns more clearly with solid colors.  In order to understand this completely you need to understand color modes - CMYK vs. RGB - and computer monitors, so I’ll break it down briefly for you.

Monitors display colors in RGB (Red Green Blue) color.  Printers operate using CMYK (Cyan Magenta Yellow Black).  This is why printing can be referred to as “4-color process.”  Each color printed is created using a combination of those four colors.  Unfortunately, there is a significant difference between RGB and CMYK, so what you see on the computer screen is not what you get out of your printer.

The struggle doesn’t end there, either.  Substrates change.  You might want to print your brand on a magnet for small business advertising on your car, or maybe you need election signs printed on coroplast, or you want vinyl decals printed to match your logo.  If you were to print the same logo on all three of those materials, it may not look exactly the same each time.  Some printers may utilize different methods to print each, therefore creating some difference in the final product.

It is also important to begin with a high-resolution image.  Grabbing a picture from the internet and submitting it to be made into a decal simply won’t work.  While there are great tools out there to “re-create” artwork, it’s best that you begin with your own design created by a graphic artist using professional design programs.

Above all, the best way to make sure your design is being printed the best possible way is to ask.  Make sure the printing company you choose knows the difference and understands how to create the product you’re looking for.  If they only have one printer to work with, chances are they don’t have the resources to print what you need in the best way possible.  Your brand is important, and unfortunately, marketing dollars don’t grow on trees.  You want to spend wisely, so save money by asking.  As technology continues to improve, so will printing.  We’ve invested heavily in making sure we have updated printing methods, and it makes a big difference.

To recap, here are some questions to consider before choosing a printer (literal and company):

1.  What type of product are you looking for? (Decal, magnet, sign, poster, banner, etc.)

2.  Is your logo detailed?  Was it set up in CMYK or RGB?

3.  How long has the company been in business? (Did they just open their doors, or have they been in the printing industry for a decade?)

4.  Does the customer service representative understand what you need?

5.  Will they stand behind their product if it is printed incorrectly or if you’re unhappy with the quality?


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