301 Moved Permanently

Business Cards Print Darker than Artwork - Shopsafe Media

Shopsafe Media

Business Cards Print Darker than Artwork

I started using Flash (Version 5) in 2001 to make animations and since then I’ve loved using it as a drawing tool as well.

In fact, I remember reading somewhere that Flash was initially designed as a graphics program and the animation features started off pretty basic. Having said that, there doesn’t seem to be many out there that use Flash over Illustrator for vector design.

Even though the use of Flash animation for web has waned in recent years, in it’s heyday designers still didn’t tend to use it for graphic design. This was true back in 2004 when I was making my first business cards for my little Affiliate Marketing site called Find Buy Save (no longer online). I made the cards in Flash and exported them as massive JPEGs for digital printing. The business card site preferred CMYK over Flash’s RGB, though I was prepared for some minor colour discrepancy and went ahead with the printing.

The cards arrived about a week later – and a few shades darker than I’d expected.

Technically they were fine, they still looked OK. And though I don’t have any on hand to upload, I was pretty happy with how they turned out.

I put the darker printing down to my use of Flash’s RGB exports over Corel Draw/Illustrator’s CMYK and kept it in mind to make my designs for print a little lighter than they needed to be on screen.

Recently I purchased a copy of ‘Thou Shall Not Use Comic Sans’ and found a tip that addresses this exact issue. And it’s not entirely down to CMYK vs RGB – No matter what you print, it will always come out darker than you thought.

I don’t have the book on hand either, so I’ll paraphrase a sentence that stuck out to me: ‘How many times have you looked at product packaging and thought, this looks too light?’

The conclusion was never, or at least not very often. And this is true for business cards, flyers, or pretty much any printed media. Because computer screens are back-lit, they add a vibrancy and luminosity that you don’t get from print. So when you send off your artwork to the printers, you often lose all the subtle detail and shading that you put so much effort into. Your shadows, textures and background effects become flat, dull and featureless because they just aren’t light enough.

With this in mind, here’s a mock-up I made for my Girlfriend’s mother’s eBay store:

Horton Girls Mockup


From this digital mock-up, we might assume that the printed cards will look this bright too. But they don’t, they look like this:

Horton Girls Back  Horton Girls Front


So whenever you’re creating something to be printed, export it a few shades lighter than you think it needs to be. And always be sure to get proofs along the way before you place a big order.

Comments are closed.