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What are QR Codes and how to use them?
Shotz print Blog - SHOTZ Print Tutorials
Tuesday, 25 January 2011 09:06
Image from brisbane printers of a QR code.

A QR code is a small image which can be read by most modern mobile phones with internet access. They have been around a long time in various guises and Microsoft even has its own version. Originally developed as a simple bar code for production line auto parts it was seen as a potential marketing tool. 10 years ago the Japanese went nuts on it and its still popular today. The QR code seems to be fairly well accepted and the software is free and downloadable straight to your mobile phone.

The square box of dots and squiggles is not much to look at but it can contain up to 4,000 characters.  That means you can put a special offer or a promotion code in it or your web sites address.  You can place them on flyers. Business cards, Posters, T-shirts or even you web site. They can be around 20mm square or as big as a billboard.

When the user scans the image they are taken to the web site embedded in the image. The web page can be set up to only be directly accessed which means only people who use the code can see the special offer. This is the payoff in people bothering to read your code. When considering using a QR code for your next promotion. Just remember that there needs to be a payoff when they read it, if you just send them to your home page they will have a negative response you your company.

How to get the QR code reader/application.

Go to www.i-nigma.mobi on your mobile ph with internet access.  It will automatically work out your phones model and you can download the application directly.  Then just open the application.  Point your phones camera at the QR code box and you will go to the site or your phone will display the message.

If you want to make a code yourself, http://invx.com/




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graphic design Preparing images for professional printing
Shotz print Blog - SHOTZ Print Tutorials
Tuesday, 11 January 2011 14:44

pixelfish

It's important what to know when supplying images for print. Here are the main points you need to know when supplying them;

  • Generally, images downloaded off the internet are low in resolution and will be pixelated when printed. Nobody wants that. Screens generally have a 72dpi (dots per inch) resolution and print uses approx 300dpi (depending on the print process).
  • You can reduce an images' resolution effectively, not increase it. Well, this is not entirely true as you can open a 72dpi image in Photoshop and increase it's dpi; quite like making more beer by adding water (we've tried this also and sadly it doesn't work). You really need the quality from the offset.
  • When taking photos yourself make sure you have your camera jpeg setting set at maximum resolution.
  • File sizes are generally bigger when high resolution so that's a good indication. For example a 50k file will not print as well as a 1mb file. More pixels increase the file size. More pixels are good.
  • The larger the photo will be printed, the larger the file size will need to be, thus more pixels. More coverage means more pixels are required.
  • If you are reducing your image dpi (for web purposes for example), save it as a different name and keep the original high resolution version for future use.
  • Images on screen are set to RGB colour mode as that is how they are displayed. When printed, CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black) processing is used. Changing colour modes can create unexpected results so be aware. Rely on your printer at this stage.
  • Avoid making any image 'enhancing' on image software like Photoshop unless you know what you are doing and ensure your screen is calibrated reasonably well. Best leave it to the professionals.
  • If you have a photo you need scanning, bring the photo in for SHOTZ to correctly scan and retouch any scratches, fading or blemishes. Avoid scanning with a cheap home scanner when looking for a professional finish.

On a side note, back up your photos on discs aswell as on your hard drive. Even then another back up is recommended for important files.

Oh, and considering today's weather, do keep those photos dry!

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15 tips on how to design your own business card
Monday, 08 November 2010 08:54

Business Card Design Tips

This is your last chance for a good first impression so it is worth getting it right.

Your business card is a take away reference, a courtesy for those who can't remember names (adds comfort, so they can concentrate on what you are saying and not on remembering your name) and in many ways is a statement of stature. Your name is associated with it and if it looks cheap, then by extension, you look cheap.

It is good business to have a good business card.

Building good business card artwork

First some technical basics:

In all products there are slight variations between units. The allowable variation is called "tolerance". In the Printing industry generally, the sheet to sheet tolerance allowed in printing is +/- 0.5mm the front to back tolerance is +/- 0.5mm and the guillotine cutting tolerance +/- 0.5mm. (When other finishing processes are involved (cello-glazing, foiling, varnishing, scoring, perforating, etc) the guillotine tolerance can be extended up to another half a millimeter). All those plus or minus half millimeters add up, so the final cut can be up to 1.5mm away from the intended cut and worse; that can be in either direction making 3mm overall (OK, extreme example - hardly ever happens) and still considered to be: "within tolerance"

To cater for these tolerances we use "margin" and "bleed". Margins are simply keeping essential stuff away from the edges of the card and out of harms way. Bleed means running colours and borders right past the cut edges so that the guillotine cuts through it and no white lines show up were they shouldn't.

Other tolerances to be aware of are skew and square. The rest (every measurable element of every industrial process has a tolerance allocation) you can ignore, as they are well outside the scope of this discussion.

  1. Double sided card: Use that real estate: Use it to advertise, use it to inform, use it to inspire, use it to amuse, use it for anything you want, but use it, don't waste it. Sure it costs a little more, but not a whole lot more.
  2. K.I.S.S: "Less is more" applies especially to business cards ("keep it simple stupid")
  3. Margins "Room to breath": keep a margin between the important elements (eg: text) and cut edge of the card. 5mm is normal, 3mm a rule-of-thumb minimum. Margin also influences "white space" a subject worthy of its own article, which aids in the simplicity and clean appearance of any final design.
  4. Bleeds. Run background colours, borders, and any element which touches the edge of the card, straight past the edge by another 2mm or 3mm

    cardguide

  5. Font Point Size: Understand who your audience is and the limitations of Ink. 4pt helvetica light in black text on white background will reproduce fine and be clearly readable with good eyes, but invisible to a pensioner. That same text may not even reproduce as white text on black. Rule-of-thumb: smallest: 7pt, biggest: 11pt but print it out at size and be critical of your own work from your audience POV.
  6. How many Fonts? Choose fonts with care... Every font should work for a living, be able to justify its existence. Every font conveys a message within itself, the trained eye understands these messages, the untrained eye still receives them but subliminally. Using "Palace Script" in place of "Comic Sans" or vice versa is unforgivable.
  7. Lots of Colours: Use as many as you want to reflect the position of your business. A clowns card can use dozens of colours, Buckingham palace will use just one.
  8. White space is important. white space (aka quiet space) helps to pace the design, it leads the eye, it develops the mood and you don't even know it is there until it is gone.
  9. Look at other cards for inspiration. Inspiration, I said "inspiration",  don't copy it!
  10. Standard sizes? There is no such thing. OK there is such a thing: 55x90mm is the Australian "standard" 2.25"x3.5" is an American "standard" but there are so many exceptions that it is hard to call it a "standard". The cheap bulk card suppliers like "Vista" do insist on a standard size to suit their mass production systems, but when your cards are being individually produced and optimized for you, like Shotz" do,  then go wild, stand out from the crowd, make it any size that works for you.
  11. Microsoft Word is a word processing program, it is not a design ap. Oh what the hell, if that is all you have got and you are not going to use a designer, then go for it. But be warned it doesn't matter how many days you waste formatting it, it still won't be pretty.
  12. Keep all images at 300dpi. Pixels should be felt not seen.
  13. Don't use website templates. Imagine swapping cards with someone who has the same card design as yourself...
  14. Print it out. Always print out your design for final approval even if it's just black and white. You won't believe what you missed on screen.
  15. One card per person. 2 names on one card... Why? How is that going to work? It saves no money at all, but is the ultimate in looking cheap.

These are just tips, food for thought and if any of it struck home then your design will work much better than it was going to.

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Choosing colours for print
Thursday, 23 September 2010 11:18

Every professional in any print industry knows what PMS means: Its the Pantone Matching System. It's a simple system for colour matching.

For those who us who are not print professionals, lets look at how it affects you and your print job.

Here is the situation: You have an exact colour in mind for the background on your business card.

You need the printer to know what that colour is.

You can't just email it because the colour you see on your computer monitor will be different to the colour he sees on his screen. A monitor is not a precise tool and without calibration, could be many shades off.

Test printing it on your home printer won't help much either as the colour you get from the file in your computer will be very different to what the printer gets through his professional system. I.E what you get from your printer is not what's in your file.
Pantone Books

PMS


This is why PMS was created. It's a common language for colour identification and communication. When you specify red 182. The printer knows exactly what that colour is and can re-create it for you.

With the Pantone booklet, (which contains over 1000 different colours.) You can tell the printer the pantone code of the colour you choose. It means it will be the same colour every time, whether its screen printed shirts, business cards or car graphics.

Don't have a pantone guide? Drop in and have a chat to one of our reps. They will be able to show you a Pantone book or arrange to supply you a set at cost. (around $600 as of 11/2010)

cmyk

CMYK


CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and key, or black. These are the four colors of ink used in the traditional method of printing called Offset printing(the term offset relates to how ink is applied)  The three colors, plus black, roughly correspond to the primary colors(red green and blue), from which you can make any colour.  It is a color mixing system that depends on pigments to achieve the desired colour

Before home printers which use Red Green and Blue, most images printed on paper used offset printing with CMYK colors. A color picture is separated into its separate, constituent parts to create four related pictures in cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Each separate colour is etched onto a plate onto which the right concentration, or amount, of colored ink is applied. When the four plates each print onto a page, the colors recombine and form the original image. For example, a deep plum might have equal amounts of cyan (blue-green) and magenta (pink), with a tinge of black.

CMYK cannot reproduce every color that exists in the world. It's impossible to match things like a parrot feather, rose petal, or oak leaf, but the color system can get remarkably close. CMYK creates many colours by adjusting the percentage of a particular pigment.  I.e., a percentage of yellow will warm an image. These combinations create colors that span the gamut of colour.

Conversions between CMYK color and RGB, or red-green-blue colour


 

Clashes often occur in print jobs where a CMYK project has an element of RGB.  This happens because though on screen, its just another colour, the computer sees it as an entirely different thing. When we send your files to print the computer breaks it down into colour separations. CMYK.  During the separation of colours, the computer places a box around the RGB object so it can treat it separately. Unfortunately any CMYK elements inside that box get the same treatment as the RGB.

The work around here is to always use one system when your building the job. Or come up with the ideas and get SHOTZ to build the job for you.

 

 

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