Making designs for print

Digital to physical

When you’re creating designs for a business, keeping consistency between their online and offline look is essential. Just because a design looks great on the screen doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be prepared for print marketing- especially with how much there is to keep track of between digital & physical media.

So today we’re going over some places in your designs were you’ll want to take extra care as you prep for making prints & other physical marketing materials!

Cmyk vs pantone

There are two main color options to save your file in for print media.

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, & Key (Black)) blends 4 colors of ink to create almost any color imaginable. Every printer understands the CMYK system, and most design tools will auto save print designs as CMYK, so this is the simplest option to implement.

Pantone consists of 2,161 patented standard colors. This means anything using a Pantone color will look consistent no matter what designer or print professional you go to. Because these colors are patented however, you would need to buy a Pantone catalog to know which colors to use.

While CMYK is more versatile & accessible, sometimes prints can come out slightly differently between different printers. On the other hand, Pantone can take more work to use, but allows for the ultimate consistency!

How to make designs for screen printing

Imprint & bleed

While printing & cutting out materials, like business cards, you might be sent Imprint & Bleed area sizes for your file.

The Imprint is the area of your design that will show up on the final product.
The Bleed is the overall design that is printed, before being cut out.
Printing & cutting out merchandise can oftentimes be slightly imprecise, so you will put a safety Bleed area on designs sent off for print. A Bleed is usually 0.125″ extended around your main design, in a space where your background stretches onto. This means that even if the cut is slightly imprecise, your background will still show up just fine.

All main elements & text are put inside the imprint area, and even in some cases, a smaller area within the imprint so that the text doesn’t get too close to the cut line.

Image showing a design with a bleed, a black dotted line representing the bleed, and a white dotted line representing the trim area

Product Cutting

Preparing a vector file for Vinyl cutting, or any kind of path cutting, requires a bit of patience.

Vector art is based off of calculated points, like that on a graph. A blade follows these points to cut out your design. In order to get clean, fluid cuts, you’ll want to make sure your “geometry” (the points & lines) aren’t too complicated.
In turn you’ll want to make outlines of all of your text, so the letters are “paths”, rather than editable text!

Image of a machine cutting out vinyl, with a circle around the blade. text: If you have bad geometry, the tiny blade could accidentally tear or rough up your design!

Best File Formats

Different file formats have different uses! Generally we mainly use .AI (Adobe Illustrator) or .EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) file types to transfer vector designs.

Various print companies you work with may have different file types they prefer for their machines. Some might want a variation of a .PDF, or maybe even an .SVG

For print artwork, we sometimes receive vector files to edit that have non-vector, pixel based images or text in them! We can always convert these to vector with some work; but be sure to check your design for these before sending them off. Just because something is saved as an .EPS, .AI, or .SVG doesn’t mean it is a vector design.

And to businesses paying for design work:
Make sure you have a vector or high definition file of your graphics from your designer! Your logo files are one of the most important things for your business, so it’s important to keep them on hand.


Knowing these aspects of printing design will save you a lot of frustration & money later down the line! When you’re creating physical materials, every misprint, bad cut, or off color is money spent.

This is just scratching the surface of the digital to physical pipeline, but it’s great to have a general idea of what to keep in mind when you’re ready to dive in!

Free Social Media Images

Get access to our social media freebie portal! We have sized images for Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, & Twitter. You can brand any of these images for your business or use them for your personal social media platforms. This portal will always be available, and we will continually add fresh new content.

Samples below, and there are more in the image portal. 🙂

Canine Daycare
Canine Daycare
Canine Daycare

Image & Newsletter Sign-Up

Access our free image portal by signing up for free design and marketing tips! If you decide our suggestions are not for you, unsubscribe with no hard feelings, and you can still use the images. Give it a try; we think you'll be pleasantly surprised! 🙂

Get in Touch

The incredible thing about the internet is that we can work anywhere!
Woodchuck Arts is geo-located in Pickerington, Ohio, but we serve clients all over the United States.
Cultivate Pickerington Business Center
19 N Center St, Pickerington, OH 43147