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Artwork Specifications

Card Size, Artwork and Format

The majority of our cards are offset printed in large sheets before lamination and punching (same as a standard credit card). For these we need a 2mm bleed, and all important, non-bleed information should be 2-3mm from the edge of the card to cover for movement when punching. For small runs requiring a quick turnaround we use a digital (thermal) print method. These don’t require any artwork bleed, as cards are printed after punching of the base stock.

For best results, supply logos and text as vector shapes (avoid embedding fonts), and all images at a resolution of at least 300dpi.
Formats: We can accept pretty well all file types, but for best results we prefer artwork to be supplied in vector format, saved as PDF or native files (such as .ai or .eps)

If you have any questions on the above, please contact us for clarification. If you are new to design in general, you may like to read on.

What are vector files?

There are two types of basic files – bitmap (also called rastor), and vector. The word “vector” in printing context basically means shape. True vector images are pretty well only applicable for drawn logos and text, as it is a mathematical calculation relating to relative size and shape of the components. For a simple example, let’s take the letter “ T ” This can be represented by a vertical line (actually a thin rectangle), with a horizontal line on top, which is about 2/3 of the length of the vertical line – at least for this font type. The beauty of this is that we can re-produce the letter T at any size using this formula, from infinitely small to infinitely large, with the file size unchanged, and extremely small at that. We cannot easily produce a mathematical formula to describe a detailed picture of a face or a nice landscape, so we need to break it up into pixels and assign a colour for each.

Below is a simple animation to show the difference between vector and pixel based images. Both spheres look pretty well the same at 100%. Zoom in by dragging the slide-bar on the right, and you will soon see how the bitmap image is broken up into pixels. The vector drawing however, retains perfect sharpness at any level.

What are bitmap files?

Bitmap files are pixel based, so resolution and size become important factors. The more pixels crammed into a square inch of image (dpi), the better the resolution and the crisper the picture looks. The benchmark resolution for printing is 300dpi. Anything higher than this is good, but from a practical point of view you will see little if any difference in the end product without using a magnifying glass. Besides, most printers will not be able to get detail much better than 300dpi due to the nature of the machinery. A bitmap (.bmp) file can be compressed and saved as the most common type of raster file – a jpeg. The greater the compression, the more “artefacts” will creep in, which can ruin the clarity of an image.

Duck 100%
Duck 50%
Duck 0%

Highest Quality Jpeg

(30.5k in size)

50% Compression

(3.98k in size)

Highest Compressed Jpeg

(1.63k in size)

Very “crisp”. No compression produces the largest file size.
Lines start to blur and some detail is lost. Not bad overall, and file size is reduced to just 13% of original.
Artefacts very apparent. While the file size is reduced, the clarity of the image is ruined.

So what does all this mean?

In short, for best printing results supply artwork with logos and text in vector form, and pictures with little or no compression, and resolution of at least 300dpi. It’s important to know that you cannot convert a bitmap image into a vector image. Some applications can try, but the results in most cases are pretty poor based on the fact it has to “guess” what shapes to make. Just as important to note is that once you compress a bitmap file, or reduce the size by taking pixels out, you cannot undo the damage.

A note about file types

We often get supplied PDF files which do not contain any vector images. For example, saving a jpeg logo as a PDF will not magically convert it to a shape. Remember, you cannot convert a bitmap file to a vector file. If you have a PDF and you zoom in, you can soon see if the text and logos are actually shapes. If everything is pixilated, the printing results may not be so good. There are many programs which enable you to produce vector files. We use Adobe Illustrator, from which we produce EPS or PDF files. Photoshop does have some vector capabilities, but it is quite messy. As a general rule, use Photoshop for pixel based work only.

Feel free to send us an email or call us if you need clarification about artwork.