If you’ve ever designed a photo book with a dust cover you can appreciate how small changes to fonts, rules, overlays, and drop shadows can have a huge impact on the finished design. What looked good on the screen may not look quite right after printing.
This is because, unlike photographs, photo books (and post cards, business cards or any other press-printed products) must be cut and trimmed after printing. This results in pages and prints that are close – but never exactly – the same size. Combine this with double-sided printing, folding, stapling, binding and die-cutting, and even more layout problems can arise.
Below are three design mistakes we’ve all made when laying out photo books and other press-printed products. Avoid them, and every design you create will look better for it.
1. Backgrounds that don’t go up to the edge of the print. “Back in the day” we all sold bordered prints. In modern design, background colors and images are always printed to the edges (called full-bleed printing). For press-printed products like photo books, the paper edge is trimmed to create the same full-bleed effect you get with a photographic print. However, if the image doesn’t go all the way to the edge, a thin line of non-printed white paper is left. The only way to fix this is to trim the entire photo book shorter than the shortest page.
- Solution – Unless you’re printing an image in the center of a white page, cover the entire background.
2. Elements that are too close to the edge of a print. Text, logos, graphics, borders, and drop shadows that are too close to the edge of a print “look funny” and in some cases can be cut off.
- Solution – Graphic elements should always be at least 5% of the image size away from any edge. For example, on an 8×10 layout, 5% of 10 inches is 1/2 inch. This means nothing except the background should be closer than 1/2 inch from the edge. On small items like wallets or business cards, never put an element closer than 1/4 of an inch from the edge.
3. Elements on or near a fold. In ROES we sometimes assume that the blue “safe lines” on a product are exactly where the fold or edge will be, and push elements up to them. Actually, they are only an approximation to remind you that any parts of the photo like heads or feet outside the “safe lines” may be cut off or wrapped around the edge in the finished book.
- Solution – Don’t put text, borders, pinstripes, key lines, heads or feet up against safe lines.
Avoid these three design mistakes and your designs will look better to you – and your customers.