How to set up your artwork for label printing

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In custom label printing, all projects starts with the digital artwork. Whether it’s just simple text that says “Property of” or a full colour logo and design, we need a suitable digital file that works for large format print output and is compatible with the method of printing your labels require.

Vector artwork is best

As far as print output is concerned, you just can’t beat a vector file. Vector graphics are superior because they are not comprised of pixels like bitmaps are, rather they are made up of lines or paths that are defined by a mathematical equation between a start and end point. Unlike raster graphics, which become blocky and pixilated when enlarged, vector-based images do not lose image quality when their scale is increased, they maintain smooth, even lines and stay proportional accurate relative to all the elements within the design. For some projects, we require vector files and there is no way around it. For example, if we are printing with spot colors on a flexographic press, we need to create separate ink plates and we need to ensure sufficient clearance for the die so the design isn’t cut off if there is some slight registration shift during the cutting phase.

Vector files are also ideal for matching specific pantone colours or correcting colour output because it enables us to adjust the colour on one part of the design, which is not possible with raster graphics. Raster graphics are flattened images that cannot be colour separated, so for example, if one part of the design is printing “too pink” then we must adjust the magenta levels for the whole image, rather than having control over the area of concern. Adjusting colour levels for an entire image is not something that we generally like to do as one colour will inevitably become out of balance as another is adjusted.

When we can use a bitmap

Certain printing methods can use bitmaps for printing, provided the resolution is at least 300 dpi or higher. Just like printing a photograph at the processors, there needs to be enough quality to the image for it to print clearly, otherwise it will have blurred lines and potentially fuzzy text.

Convert your fonts to outlines

If you are creating your artwork in design software such as Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw, it is optimal to send your fonts converted to outlines in the event that we don’t have your specific font in our font library.

Allow for 1/8″ bleed on all sides

If any part of your design extends right to the edge of your label, you must include a 1/8″ bleed in your artwork. For example, if your finished label size will be 1″ x 2″ and you have a photographic image covering the background – send in artwork that is 1.25″ x 2.25″. This extra bleed area accounts for the minute registration shift that may occur during the cutting process. Printing a little bit extra on all sides ensures that there will be no visible unprinted white space at the labels edge.