The digital age has certainly changed the way companies advertise. More and more businesses rely on boosted social media and targeted mobile advertising, and the specifications (specs) of the images required have changed along with the times. It seems super easy for anyone to get an image off the internet and use it in digital advertising—NOT without permission from the owner, of course, but that’s another conversation. Print advertising is a different animal. As someone that has worked in the magazine industry for a long time, I have handled lots of print ads submitted by in-house designers who are not familiar with best practices to achieve great print reproduction. An image that is fine for screen viewing is most likely not fine for the printed page. When the wrong type of image is used in print, the result can be a hot mess of pixellated blurriness. And for every designer that says, “Duh, I know that,” there is a designer that may say, “What is this print advertising that you speak of?” There are also paper trimming issues that must be considered.
Bottom line, if you’re spending your hard-earned money on print advertising, make sure you will be as pleased as possible with the result. Here’s how:
Use High-Resolution Photography
This is PRIORITY ONE. An image that has been optimized for web or screen viewing has been made to have as small a file size as possible in order to load quickly but still look good on a display. But when it comes to print, bigger is better. Without getting too technical, printing is still transferring tiny dots of ink to paper (I know…old school) and there needs to be a lot more pixels in the photo in order for it to look sharp.
If you are using a stock photography source, make sure that you acquire a high-resolution version of the image you choose. We’re talking several megabytes (MB) and not kilobytes (KB) in file size.
And if you hire a photographer, make sure that you get the high-resolution image from them. You don’t want to pay a photographer for their time and then skimp by trying to get away with using one of their proofs. Not to mention, it’s WRONG! (This may seem obvious, but ask any photographer, it happens.)
Consider the Specs of the Publication
Get the specific dimensions of the ad from the publication. Again, it seems obvious, but even if you have an ad already done that is close in size but a little off, take the time to make it an exact fit. An ad that is “floating” in the space just looks less polished.
If you are running a full page ad, it’s likely that it will “bleed.” This simply means that any image that goes all the way to the edge will print a little bit beyond where it is trimmed, so that there is no chance of a sliver of the paper that has no ink on it. By the same token, you want to make sure that any important information that you DON’T want accidentally trimmed off is inside a safe margin. This is called the “live” area.
Save the File Correctly
Most publications are fine with a print-quality PDF of the finished ad, but it’s best to check with them to make sure there are no specific instructions that their printer requires. And if the ad “bleeds” off the edge as indicated above, you will want to make sure that the “extra” appears past the trim size on the PDF.
If you have someone on staff that designs your ads in-house, make sure they take all of these things into consideration to ensure your ad prints as accurately as possible. If you don’t, there are agencies and experienced freelance print designers all around that know what to avoid. I am just one of them, and would be happy to layout your print advertising if you need help in that area! Shoot me an email here to let me know how I can help.