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10 Frustrations Only Print Designers Will Understand

Peter M March 31, 2021 · 4 min read
Great print and web design has a lot in common. They both require solid skills in typography, color and layout, to name just a few. But there’s a few ways in which the two fields are completely unique. If you’re a designer who works primarily with the printed page, we want you to know we feel your pain. Here’s a list of annoyances that only print designers will truly get. Let us know in the comments any that we’ve missed.

1. That typo.

If a website or blog goes live with a typo, it’s N.B.D. The developer can just login and make a change within a few nanoseconds. There’s even a chance nobody will notice. But if ten thousand brochures or a hundred foot billboard goes live with a typo, someone always seems to notice.


2. Receiving RGB artwork.

Color on the web isn’t the same as color in print. Without wading into the weeds too much, it’s because computer monitors use a light source to create color combinations of red, green and blue (RGB), while printed publications use ink to create color combinations of cyan, magenta and black (CMYK). So how something looks on screen can often be pretty different to how it appears in print. Sending RGB artwork is an effective method of getting a print designer to emit a long sigh.


3. Getting Low Resolution Photos For Print Jobs.

How many times have you asked the client to send you the photo they need printed and gotten back a jpeg they’ve obviously saved from the website? “But can’t you just scale it up in Photoshop?” they ask. If only it were that simple. High quality printed materials means starting off with high quality imagery. And when it comes to resolution, bigger is always better.


4. A Limited Canvas.

On the web, pixels are free. Within the bounds of reason and good UX, a digital layout can be as long or as wide as you want. On a blog, if an article’s word length needs to be extended by 100 words, no biggie. The user can just scroll a little further. But in a newspaper or magazine, the space you’ve got is the space you’ve got.


5. Blacks That Aren’t Black.

On a computer screen, black is well, black. But in print there are many different ways to represent black. You’ve got plain black, rich black, cool black, and even warm black. Oftentimes a digital designer will supply you with a “black” background based on what they see on their computer monitor (r0, g0, b0) and get upset when it turns out differently in print.

6. The Wrong File Format.

Don’t you just love getting the client logo in the form of a GIF? No? We didn’t think so.


7. Non-Outlined Fonts.

It’d be awesome if had every designer had access to every font under the sun. Imagine the Comic Sans free world we’d live in. But that’s not the case. Receiving an Illustrator file or PDF without outlined or embedded fonts is a headache most print designers will know only too well.

8. Bleed (The First Kind).

Trying to print and crop a brochure or business card that hasn’t been set up with proper bleed is like the world’s tallest man driving around in a old school Mini Cooper – there’s just not enough room to move.

9. Bleed (The Second Kind).

It’s easy to mix colors on a screen. Just open up the Photoshop palette and get your creativity on. But producing the right color for the job can sometimes be a messy affair when it comes to print design thanks to ink bleed. Smudges and smears are something only print designers have to get used to.


10. An Ever-Changing Marketplace.

Like a lot of industries these days, print design is always evolving and in some cases – on the decline. However, it’s not all bad news.


Digital designers might like to brag about the slickness of their latest app interface, but there’s something that’s always going to be satisfying about holding a piece of polished print design in your hands. Whether it’s the professionalism of that double-coated bright white business card, or the elegance of that smooth, silkscreened letterpress wedding invitation, the tactility of print design offers more than enough satisfaction to make up for any of the frustrations.
Now it’s your turn. Tell us about your frustrations as a print designer. And any other designers out there – we’d be happy to hear your side of the story too!

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About the Author
Peter M
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  • Wow! Hits the nail on the head. I work with both print and digital and my pet peeve is receiving a logo (especially for print) in some dodgy format, like a tiny, pixellated screengrab. 6 years ago
  • Right on! Not only is it frustrating to receive a low res gif logo, I remember waaay back in the day (early 80's) when all I had to work with was a logo from the (printed) phone book! I think that would be the analog version of a gif file today. 6 years ago
  • My ex non-design savvy boss could never understand why I wasn't able to grab logos from tiny little web pngs and scale them up to fit on trade show banners. He also didn't understand why I worked from home on my old iMac in Illustrator instead of going into the shop and using MS Paint on the shabby pawn shop Windows machine he provided for me. I lasted less than 6 months there and quit via text... le sigh. 6 years ago
  • A gif is a step up to what I'm used to, our clients are forever sending their logos in word files... the struggle is real people! 6 years ago
  • images stuck in Word and Powerpoint documents! Bah 6 years ago
  • First of all, as a designer working in a print shop, the bleed one should be #1. Fixing this is an incredible waste of my time and if you call yourself a graphic designer, you should know about bleed. Second is logos designed by web designers who don't provide their clients with a print quality resolution version. You are hacks and the bane of my existence. That is all. 6 years ago
  • Speaking of typos, where's Yellow in #2 when describing CMYK? 6 years ago
  • Hahaha to all the comments! Agreed! And I was also wondering where the yellow in CMYK went! Hurry and fix it! 6 years ago
  • Shouldn't No. 8 read an old school... and not a old school...! 6 years ago
  • I spent many hours in a dark and stuffy room with the stat camera back in the day. The digital logo issues we face today — wrong format, not high res, etc. — have replaced that. Also, typeset galleys and waxers, don't miss those too much! 6 years ago
  • Registration. I'm a layout designer for a newspaper and when the registration is off, all that hard work means nothing. 5 years ago
  • Wahaha! These are so true. What about having to do a manual spot colour separation from a jpg because the client didn't have vector files of their logo. Or 'Can you also send me the print file in Word so I can edit it myself for next time?' Nope. 5 years ago
  • Agreed! hahahaha great post! 4 years ago