Graphic Design Tips

Graphic Design

When you are designing a project to be printed, there are a few considerations to keep in mind to ensure the best finished product.

Page Layout Size

When you start designing a print project, it's important to consider the size of the finished product. For example, if you want to make a letter sized flyer (think a normal sized sheet of printer paper), you need to make sure the page layout is set to 8.5"x11". Other common print sizes include 8.5"x14" (Legal) and 11"x17" (Tabloid/Ledger).

For Illustrator, go to File > Document Setup. Set the Units to inches and set the height and width to the desired dimensions.

For InDesign, go to File > Document Setup. Set the height and width to the desired dimensions in inches. InDesign measures these in a different unit, but if you enter "8.5 in" for example, it will convert the measurement for you.

For Photoshop, go to Image > Image Size. In the Document Size area, set the height and width to the desired dimensions (inches recommended), and the resolution to 300 pixels/inch.

For Word, go to File > Page Setup. Select Paper Size to select "US Letter" or some other dimension, either select from the pull down menu, or select "Manage Custom Sizes".

Image Resolution

If you are adding images to your print project, or getting your print project from the web, please make sure these images are of a high enough resolution. While the internet standardly uses 72 pixels per inch (DPI), printing is best with at least 300 pixels per inch.

If you are working on a Mac, open the image with Preview and go to Tools > Show Inspector. This will show you the resolution settings of the file, if it is a pixel based file. If you see no pixel per inch value, then the image is good to go.

If you are working with Photoshop, you can go to Image > Image size to see the resolution of the image.

Saving Your File as a PDF

Once you have finished creating your print project, you should save the file as a PDF, or print it to a PDF file. If you do not have this option and must save to a JPEG, for example, Please make sure to select a resolution of 300 pixels per inch, or a maximum quality setting.

*For InDesign files, to save your project as a PDF, go to File > Export to export the project as a PDF.


Question: Someone else created a PDF, but I want to make some changes. How do I know if the file I have is something I can work with?

Answer: Try selecting some of the text or graphics in the file with your cursor. If you can select specific image elements or text characters, then this is likely a good file to work from. If you cannot select any of the text or images, the file has been 'rasterized' and you should ask the graphic designer for the original file.

Question: The image or file I am working with is less than 300 pixels per inch. Can I just resave it as 300 pixels per inch to fix the resolution?

Answer: No. Think of an image as a photograph. If you take a really high resolution photograph of a small or blurry picture, all you get is a really big version of that small or blurry picture, with no added image quality.

Question: So I saved a file as a JPEG/GIF/PNG or TIFF, and the Copy Center is asking me for a PDF instead. Can't I just save the JPEG/GIF/PNG/TIFF as a PDF?

Answer: No. If the Copy Center is asking for a PDF, it is likely because the file you've supplied is not a high enough resolution. Saving a JPEG for example as a PDF doesn't fix the resolution.

Think of JPEGs, GIFs, PNGs and TIFFs as photographs. If you take a photo of a a document, and the resolution is too low, saving this low resolution photo as PDF is just making a PDF of a low resolution photo.

Instead, you should go back to the original file, (the word, photoshop, illustrator or indesign file) and save these files as PDFs.