How Print Design Differs from Design for the Web

Design for print and design for viewing on the web truly are different animals, and many are unaware of just how many medium-specific factors there are to consider in both types of design. Items that are designed for print are made to be held at an arm’s length, while items for the web become part of an entirely different viewing experience altogether. Here is a quick guide to tailoring your design skills to design for print rather than design for the web.

CMYK

The range of colors that is available to you when designing for print (also known as color gamut) is actually a great deal smaller than the range of colors you have when designing for the web. This is because of the nature of printing. In offset printing, a print is created by going through the printer four times—once for each of the spot colors cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Small dots of each color are placed strategically during every print so that after the fourth run you have a complete colored image. This makes for a much smaller color selection to work with in print, so when you are working on your design on the computer, be sure that you are working in CMYK mode and not RGB mode (the color gamut for web design.)

Fixed dimensions

Print designers must pay a great deal of attention to dimension whenever they are designing because the final product will likely need to be a standard dimension that feels natural in the hands. Moreover, print designers must take margin and bleed into account to ensure that a printed piece is well-balanced and that imperfections in cutting haven’t left edges without ink. This makes for a delicate dance in monitoring dimensions as you design and eventually send your project to the printer. Moreover, dimensions in print design are, of course, much more fixed than they are in design for the web, as the designer has the final say in what a printed product’s dimensions will be. Designs for the web tend to be much more fluid and are subject to browser settings that could alter dimensions.

Higher resolution

Because print designs are made to be viewed from a comfortable reading distance, they must have a higher resolution to stand up to intense scrutiny with the eyes. Designs for print tend to have a resolution of 200 to 300 PPI. Designs for the web, on the other hand, tend to have resolutions of only 72 to 100 PPI, which offers ample resolution needed for clarity and allows for files to load quickly online.

Larger file size

File size is not as much a concern for print designers because the only obstacle with large file sizes in print is ensuring that a file makes it to the printer, and this is usually quite simple. Print files tend to be much larger than those for the web because they involve much higher resolutions.