4 Common Print Formatting Questions

When creating a print project, formatting can be a common issue. Designs can be created using the wrong colour formats, causing prints tocome out a different colour than you expected. This can cause disappointment and a need to reprint, which is a waste of both your time and money. Make your printing budget stretch by remembering these four commonly asked formatting questions on your next printing project.

What Is the Difference Between Print Resolution and Screen Resolution?

When creating a print design, you will see references to different resolutions. The screen resolution is the dots per inch on your computer monitor. Depending upon the monitor you use will determine what your screen resolution is. In most cases, users will have a screen resolution of 72 dots per inch (dpi). Files created at 72 dpi are fine for website designs or for on-screen viewing (ie when sending files for firends to see online or email).

Print resolution requires a much higher resolution. Most printing companies will request your designs be viewed at 100% in size with a minimum of 300 dots per inch. Items with smaller dpi resolution can appear blurry or have a “broken” look to them. They may look great on screen, but they can look very blurry or dull and ragged when you print them. Always make sure you set your camera to its highest resolution when taking photos for printed output. The large files will produce crisp clear images with good colour production. When sending these files from your smartphones, always send at “actual size” never downsize, otherwise you wont be able to print from them.

What Formats Are Accepted for Printing?

The most universal format used for printing is the Portable Document Format, or PDF file. Most software programs give an option to “save as PDF” or “print to PDF”. If you have the option to choose a PDF output size option, always use “Press” or “Print”.

If you are unable to submit your file using PDF check with your printing company to see what other formats are accepted. In most cases, one or more of the following file formats are accepted by printing companies:

  • Adobe Acrobat (.pdf)
  • Adobe Photoshop (.psd, .jpg, .tif, .png)
  • Adobe Illustrator (.ai, .jpg, .tif, .png)
  • Adobe InDesign (.indd, .indt)
  • Microsoft Publisher (.pub, .jpg, .tif, .png)
  • Microsoft Powerpoint (Best to save or convert .ppt, .pptx, etc. to PDF)
  • Microsoft Word (Best to save or convert .doc, .docx, etc. to PDF)

What is the Difference Between CMYK and RGB Colour Formats?

There are two main colour formats RGB, or Red-Green-Blue, and CMYK, or Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black. When you look at your monitor screen, or another electronic display, you are viewing an RGB colour format. Any web-based designs typically use RGB formatting, while print designs should use CMYK.

The RGB colour format has a wider array of colours than the CMYK and tends to have more vibrant colour options. Basically, this means any CMYK colour format document will appear somewhat the way you designed it on-screen (depending upon the calibration of your monitor). However, a RGB colour format document willappear bright and vibrant on-screen, but print a much duller clour to your desktop printer. To avoid colouring issues or converting documents, always prepare your print design using a CMYK colour format.

How Can You Covert Files From One Colour Format to Another?

The process to convert files from one colour format to another varies depending upon the software program used. Below are the methods used for converting colour formats for Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, two commonly used program choices.


Adobe Photoshop has a very easy converting process. Once you have opened your file, simply click on the Image tab. Click Mode, and then CMYK. You may also have to accept file changes or decide if you want to flatten the image.


Adobe Illustrator is also a user friendly converting process. Once you have opened your file, go to the File tab. Click Document Colour (Color) Mode, and then check CMYK.

With Microsoft programs such as Word and Powerpoint, you don’t have the option to convert the files. They will always be RGB. Only your printer can do this conversion for you.

After converting files from RGB to CMYK, you may need to check your colours for any issues. Depending upon the colours used, the design may appear dull or slightly darker.

Formatting is a key component to each design job. It can help you to save both time and money by preparing your files accordingly. Remember to always use CMYK for any print design jobs. This will help you to avoid any colour issues between viewing on-screen and the final product. However, if your design is already complete, you can easily convert your file from RGB to CMYK in just a few quick steps.