Designing for Digital Printing

Secrets to great digital color

Print gamuts

Gamut is the term used to describe the range of colors that a specific device can produce. If you’re accustomed to designing within the limitations of the traditional color gamut of the CMYK offset process, you’ll find that most digital presses make it possible to exceed that gamut by 20%.

Blacks and grays

If you want to print a solid black area, use a formula that combines all CMYK colors to create a “rich” or “super” black. We recommend a black mixture of cyan = 40%, magenta = 30% yellow = 30% Black = 100%.

For neutral shades of gray, you’ll get the best results with straight tints of black.

Spot colors

Digital presses use spot color mapping and special look-up tables to automatically match Pantone colors using CMYK dry inks. That means you don’t need to alter or reformulate Pantone and other spot colors.

Achieving the best printing results

Tints & Blends Tips

  • Areas of solid color, tints and blends may reproduce better if filtering techniques are used (i.e., noise or texture) at the design stage. Apply from image manipulation software such as Adobe Photoshop.
  • Create blends from QuarkXPress, Adobe Photoshop and InDesign, or other common desktop publishing applications.
  • Tints should not be less than 10%.
  • Limit blends to less than 50% value change over 2-4″ for best results.
  • For tints less than 40%, apply noise or texture.

Large areas of solid colors, tints and blends

There are several design techniques you’ll want to learn to help improve the way large flat areas of solid colors or tints reproduce on a digital press. To maintain a smooth appearance, introduce a slight pattern to modulate the color. The pattern can take the form of texture, subtle graphics or simple noise. Adding a pattern can also improve color reproduction and eliminate banding. The same holds true for large areas of color blends and gradients.

Use all your design options

One of the best ways to optimize quality in large areas of color is to incorporate imagery, photos, graphics or text in your design right from the start. When you naturally break up large areas of color with design elements, you’re also taking advantage of one of the strengths of working on a digital press—that is, the ability to reproduce high-quality, full-color images.

Photo reproduction

Sharp, crisp reproduction of photography and illustration is one of the greatest strengths of a digital press. So take full advantage of this by maximizing the use of photographic images whenever possible.


With digital printing your font choices and sizes are as limitless as they are in conventional printing. And most digital printers can print 4 point black type clearly and legibly.

Dot gain

You’ve probably found yourself dealing with optical and mechanical dot gain. With a digital press, the dot gain is constant and routine calibration controls the dot gain for all conditions. So, you should not have to make any adjustments to your files.

Scanning Tips

  • Scan continuous tone images for 300 dpi at final size.
  • Scan line art at a minimum of 600 dpi, up to 1200.
  • To capture a larger color gamut, scan continuous tone images in RGB mode rather than in CMYK mode.
  • Save at 100% of final size and orientation.
  • Do not include screen angles or transfer functions.
  • Using compression can result in image degradation.

Scanning and scan resolution

Scan continuous tone images at a resolution that will provide 300 dpi at the final layout size. Higher resolutions only increase raster image processing (RIP) time with little or no visible improvement in image quality. Perform all scaling, rotation and manipulation of your images in your image editing application before linking them in your layout.

Imposition, folding and finishing

When it comes to folding, one concern with electrophotographic imaging systems is cracking in heavy coverage areas. You can reduce the possibility of cracking by designing your job with less coverage on areas to be folded. If you laminate the final pages—especially covers—you can eliminate cracking and provide a durable, finished look.

Output from our Kodak NexPress press can be varnished, laminated, and finished with an aqueous coating or a non-oil based UV coating.

We also have a fifth imaging solution for clear coating or dimensional clear dry ink.

Trimming and binding

Virtually all commonly used binding methods are available for use with digitally printed documents. If you’re taking advantage of the fast turn around possible with digital printing though, you’ll probably want to keep your binding options simple to save time. Learn more about the binding options that we have here.

File preparation tips

In addition to designing your document to take full advantage of digital printing’s unique capabilities, proper file preparation is essential to ensure that your job runs smoothly.

You can supply native files or final PDF files to us. We have a guide on how to create documents for us on our web site, you can access it here.

It is a good idea to supply us with your source files as well. Should anything go wrong we can troubleshoot the file easier.

If you ever have any questions about digital printing here at Printing Partners, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

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