The art of designing for print or screen

Your pre-flight print check

The file format you need to prepare your artwork and documents as will depend on each job and its specified output. However nine times out of ten, pdf files are the best file format to use for printing, unless otherwise specified by your printer for a particular job.

A pdf file (portable document format) captures the format and settings of your file. Unfortunately it’s not just a simple case of saving your file as a pdf and then you’re done. You need to optimise each of the elements for print (the same applies for screen).

‘Measure twice, cut once’.


  • Spelling and grammar*
  • ‘Orphans and widows’; are there any words that would look better on the following line instead?
  • Images optimised and embedded (correct colour mode, resolution 300dpi)
  • Transparencies flattened
  • Text outlined (converted to a shape/object rather than editable text)
  • Clipping masks expanded
  • Lines, textures, brushes and special effects expanded (converted to a shape/object)
  • Page layouts in the right order and orientation
  • 3mm bleed (where images/colour extend off the edges of your document)
  • Inner bleed, (avoiding placing text or important details within this area, so these don’t get cut off or lost under folds)
  • Document colour palette using only the featured colours
  • Special finishes saved as spot colour, overprint on separate layer
  • Print marks; saving with bleed (3mm) and relevant print marks (crop marks, registration marks, score guides, drill hole guides)
  • Bespoke shaped cutting guides saved as separate file
  • Special finishes (e.g. foil / spot uv / glitter) saved as separate files with same registration and crop marks
  • Save as PDF / press setting (or setting provided by your printer)

*Grammatical errors are one of those things that quickly influences ideas about your organisation and services. Think back to when you’ve received an email, read an article or piece of literature that was littered with mistakes. It doesn’t give a great impression; and it can be perceived as the organisation not caring or professional. ‘If they don’t care about their own work, will they really take good care in delivering us the service they are providing?’

Now that’s not to say that the odd mistake is the ‘be all and end all’. We’re all human and mistakes can and do happen. Sometimes it actually shows that we are human. However, scheduling in time to carry out a double-check is an important stage to put in place to help catch any slips that otherwise might have fallen through the net.

A fresh pair of eyes is always a good idea.

Designing and formatting files for print and screen is an art form in itself.

Becks Neale resources presentation slide deck brand design

5 avoidable mistakes

To help save embarrassment in print and on-screen

One of the attributes gained from a trained eye, developed through a career in design and print design management, is that mistakes have a tendency to stand out like a sore thumb. Typical mistakes you see are:

  1. Low resolution photos and imagery, looks blurred, pixelated print
  2. Stretched and distorted text, images and logos (a huge ‘do not’ in your brand integrity guidelines)
  3. Rasterising (flattening) text as part of an image designed for printing – loses its crisp edges when printed and can blur and pixelate the text making it harder to read
  4. Lack of white space, important breathing space
  5. Text cut off at the edge, missing or hidden behind objects. Cut off can be avoided by following inner bleed and fold guidelines. Missing text could be down to the hierarchy of layers or having the overprint setting selected if it is white text that has disappeared.

What about digital files designed for viewing on screen?

These issues aren’t solely on printed material it can apply to digital literature, web pages, emails, presentation slides and downloads as well. I’ve attended webinars and e-courses where the downloads and resources hadn’t been optimised ready for purpose, and unfortunately there were elements missing, information hidden within tables, random pages with only one element on etc.

Has this happened to you? How did it make you feel as the end user or perhaps even as the presenter?

These mistakes cause confusion, making it tricky to follow and to concentrate on your message, and potentially throwing your train of thought during your presentation. I want to help you avoid any embarrassment and frustration this can bring – especially from something that can be controlled.

Unlike those things that are beyond your control like power cuts or tech gremlins. ‘Keep calm and carry on’.

Top Tip: Have trusty handouts at the ready that you can refer to (and perhaps some markers and paper for physical workshops) so that you can get by, and you can always send attendees copies of the slides etc afterwards. And to be super prepared for the unexpected, especially if hiring the venue’s equipment, take along some spare connector cable options, extension leads, and your presentation saved in different formats. 

So why do frustrating and unexpected alterations appear within your hard work?

You simply don’t know what you don’t know. Professional designers have learnt the best practice for creating, preparing and formatting digital files for print and screen, each output requiring different settings. We use specialist design software and tools according to the task, so that your files are beautifully constructed to be print ready or screen ready files.

One thing in particular you need to keep an eye out for is the fonts. Fonts are one of the most common elements that will throw out your beautifully prepared and styled layout.

The fonts

You’ve handpicked them to work really well together. It all looks perfect on your computer and you’re pretty proud of your document. You upload it to cloud storage, send as an email attachment, perhaps upload it to your website as download, or even save to your USB drive ready for your presentation. However, when you access your file from a different device, or share with a client, it’s unlikely that their device has your specific fonts it its system – so what happens?

The device replaces your fonts with the fonts already available and installed on its own system and this can create all sorts of havoc with your layout and styling, for example:

  • Text suddenly too big or too small to read
  • Not fitting on the screen
  • Shifting information or elements to a different page or slide etc.

When you’re trying to make that great impression and add real value with your content, the last thing you need are these ‘digital monkeys’ messing around with your beautifully prepared design and layouts. You want to be concentrating on listening and meeting your clients needs, explaining your services, doing what you do best. Not worrying if the document will open up exactly as you expected.

The solution?

Where possible outline all text and save your document as a pdf file (this maintains your styling and layout). If it’s for digital viewing, say for a presentation or workshop, export each slide as an image and bring it back into your presentation and save as a new file, or as an autoplay movie file. That way it can be viewed without distortion or alteration.


If you’d like professionally designed and constructed resources or a presentation slide deck that is consistently on brand, tells your story and saves you precious time and effort – let’s chat through what you need.


Portfolio examples:


Becks Neale resources presentation slide deck brand design storytelling


charity-brand-design-communication-dorset-becks-neale  Brand literature design

Becks Neale resources presentation slide deck brand design

Becks Neale resources presentation slide deck brand design quotation


Design to tell your story – contact Becks today


Image: Raphael Schaller| Unsplash

Design: Becks Neale

Becks Neale is a Dorset Designer & Brand Consultant, working alongside charities, community initiatives and purpose-led organisations to achieve a brand they love and live, by distilling their brand story.

Design to tell your story.

© inkshed design studio