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Producing Flyers in Photoshop
So.. You’ve been asked to produce an event flyer in Photoshop. Your concept is awesome and you feel confident that you can create a great looking piece of design; but what about all the finnicky details to ensure your work will be ‘print-ready’ once complete? The following walkthrough will go over the main considerations to ensure your work will be ready to roll; avoiding those pesky formatting problems that can often arise.
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Print Process & Colour
The most popular methods for the production of flyers are predominantly litho and digital. An in-depth knowledge of these print methods isn’t essential, but a basic understanding is definitely helpful. More often than not flyers will be produced using litho, on large traditional presses – so there are a number of factors to have in mind when formatting your work.
Litho uses CMYK process printing, meaning that four colours are mixed to reproduce the varying shades on paper – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key (Black). On-screen you view your work within the RGB colour range (Red, Green, Blue) – and this is where issues may arise. The differences in these colour-modes and the limitations of the print process can often result in vibrant colours or tones to be dulled / faded when printed. There are workarounds however that can help optimise your workflow, we’ll get to them in a bit
When formatting your flyer for print production, it is very likely that you will have to include ‘Bleed’ on your work – but what does this mean? Well, Wikipedia nails this one concisely, so I’ll quote:
Bleed is a printing term that refers to printing that goes beyond the edge of the sheet after trimming. The bleed is the part on the side of a document that gives the printer a small amount of space to account for movement of the paper, and design inconsistencies. Bleed ensures that no unprinted edges occur in the final trimmed document. (Wikipedia)
In a nutshell, this basically means that you will have to increase your Photoshop document size a notch (1/8 inch USA, 2mm – 5mm UK & Europe) to account for the trimming process used. Sounds tricky but actually nice and straightforward.
99% of the event flyers and posters I produce are ‘A Series’ (A4, A5, A6 etc.), the ISO 216 international standard. These sizes are the most prevalent, however if you have a localised paper size that you are working at, a quick Google search will help you out
Here are the dimensions for the more common flyer / poster sizes. I usually add a bleed of 3mm to all edges of my work, but some printers may vary in their specifications – it’s good to get a headsup before you start. Im from the UK, so the units here are mm
A2 594 x 420 mm / with bleed: 602 x 426 mm
A3 420 x 297 mm / with bleed: 426 x 303 mm
A4 297 x 210 mm / with bleed: 303 x 216 mm
A5 210 x 148 mm / with bleed: 216 x 154 mm
A6 148 x 105 mm / with bleed: 154 x 111 mm
Check out more paper sizes at > papersizes.org
Being bombarded with a load of exotic ‘print-speak’ may not be the best way to learn, so heres a quick example to see the above principles in action. I want to produce an A5 flyer that is to be printed using the litho process, heres how I go about it:
I fire up Photoshop and create a new document. Within the preset menu theres an option for International Paper – I choose that as it has all the A size presets.
In the Size dropdown, I select A5 as my paper size. I’ll want to tweak the values to account for the 3mm bleed to be added to the edges.
..And heres the values once Ive added the bleed to the overall dimensions:
It’s very important to ensure you are working at 300DPI Print Resolution, and not something like 72DPI (screen resolution). This is essential when producing work for print; to find out more about resolution check out the Document Setup in Photoshop article.
You’ll notice that the colour mode on the dialog is RGB. I like to work in RGB as it has a broader colour range and is generally a lot more pleasant to work with, but I need to be conscious of the fact that the finished work will be printed. To keep a track of how the document will look printed, I use a function called Proof Colors (Ctrl / Cmd + Y or View > Proof Colors) – which allows you to preview your work in CMYK. Very handy, particularly when working with rich shades of blue (CMYK struggles with blue at times).
There will be occasions when the CMYK mode isn’t capable of reproducing vibrant colours, so you’ll have to tweak your work to find a good middle ground.
When producing your flyer it’s important to make sure that you don’t have text or important information too close to the edges. This will ensure nothing essential gets ‘chopped’ when the flyers are trimmed and also looks a lot better compositionally. Sometimes it’s good to set up some guides around the edges of your work which can act as a visual reference.
Saving for Print
All printers have their own preferences regarding the formats of the print-ready files. There are a number of ‘lossy’ formats you’ll definitely want to avoid though, such as JPG which uses image compression. The majority of the stuff I do is saved as a PDF, so this is the process I go through to save my flyer for print:
I like to keep my original PSD unflattened, so I create a copy when saving the final print version. Within my document I select all, copy merged, create a new document and paste from the clipboard. In the new document I convert the image to CMYK (Image > Mode > CMYK Color), which will also flatten the image for you.
I save the flattened image using the PDF format, via the Save dialog (ensuring there is no compression selected in the PDF options screen). There’s propably a super-fast, automated method of doing this whole process, but Im happy with my archaic method of working! That’s the flyer done and dusted; and it may be silly to add, but this process is the same for both the front and back of the flyer.
This walkthrough is by no means the definitive guide to producing flyers in Photoshop; but hopefully it can illuminate some of the lesser known aspects of preparing for print. Some points have been omitted to keep the guide concise, so feel free to share your own thoughts and tips in the comments section below.
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>> Bonus Tutorial!! >> AsylumSeventy7 has written a great article outlining CD Formatting for Print, go check it out