General commercial printing guidelines

General Commercial Printing Guidelines

Commercial printing and offset lithography

Commercial printing has always been and still remains a highly technical process.

Very little has changed in commercial printing other than the fact that graphic designers are forced to do most of the work that the pre-press department of a commercial printer used to handle.

Unfortunately, few graphic designers today have the knowledge, experience, or training to produce files that result in perfect printing quality.

Poor print quality is almost always the fault of a graphic designer with little or no knowledge of ‘pre-press’ and the steps needed to insure best print quality.

Commercial printing remains a ‘garbage in garbage out’ type of process, where the quality of the printing completely relies on the quality of the original files, and the technical quality of the digital printing files made from the original files.

Commercial printing is not inkjet. Therefore, printing out a file in a program such as Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Publisher, Abode Illustrator, or other software to an inkjet printer without any ‘printing press’ simulation will not produce an accurate result.

The basic rules:

All image files must be 300ppi (sometimes referred to as dpi) at print size
All files should be Quark Macintosh files
All files must be CMYK (not RGB)

In offset lithography, there are four printing colors known as ‘process’ colors.

The process colors are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.


The process colors CMYK can make ‘almost’ any color, yet will never be as brilliant as RGB colors that you are seeing on your monitor.

CMYK offset lithography commercial printing will never completely equal the brilliance of what you see on your monitor since your monitor is showing ‘projected’ color rather than ‘reflected’ color. Reflected color is what you see in printing.

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