What exactly is DTP (Desktop Publishing)

May 23rd, 2018 / Graphics Basics
Printing Methods

Let’s start with the ways we can print. There are few of them:

We have digital printing at our disposal, i.e. a good printer, standing probably in many home offices. If we print something quickly, in several copies, this method is definitely enough for us. I recommend, however, to choose tested printing house. It happens that in some cases the quality of a digital printout is not perfect, which may be caused by the printer that has already been used. Then we get such imperfections on the work as burns of color or dust particles stuck to the internal elements, resulting in spots on the printout.

Offset – ff we need to print something in a large number of copies, we choose the offset. It is definitely more expensive – and therefore unprofitable – with a single use, but the mass printout is much more economical. You can find more about the differences between these two methods here.

In DTP, especially for beginner graphic designers, cooperation with a printing house is extremely important. I have a huge respect for printers for their knowledge of the craft. It is worth asking and asking for advice, but let’s try to learn at least the basics not to overuse their patience. I have very positive experiences in this area and I always prefer to ask something than to despair over the printout deviating from the project.



The preparation for printing should be guided by several principles:

  • Which project format should I choose? PDF will be the most appropriate. Currently, this is a kind of standard (remember, definitely not a Microsoft Word file!). You can still ask what file format is preferred in a given printing house, but most often it is just a PDF.
  • Pattern files, eg business cards, files, etc. – each printing house can have its own. If you care about the correct printout, it is worth downloading them.
  • Colors – CMYK (check my previous article about CMYK and RGB differences). Here the matter is simple: by directing work to the printing house, we always change the color model to CMYK.

In addition to chromatic colors, it is also worth mentioning black and white printing. The rule is as follows: if we have a black text on a colored background in the project, enable the overprint option. An exception from this rule is the case in which we deal with metallic colors.

To enable this option, you must debug the appropriate field when exporting a PDF file. For white, turn off overprint, which is equivalent to the knockout option. This means that the white color cuts the background underneath (in the print preview we can see if we have everything set up as it should be). This is usually done by default.

Print preview – it’s worth to enable this mode in the graphics program, if we prepare a file for the printing house. Be sure to look at the generated PDF as well, as you may find errors already visible on it.

Those interested in this issue are referred to the source.

basic colors for printing purposes

In addition, when the text is on a white background, we use 100% black (C 0% M 0% Y 0% K 100%).

When printing large black solid surfaces (so-called aples), we use deep blacks, i.e. values ​​of C 60% M 40% Y 40% K 100%. It is best to ask about the values ​​in the printing house, because they may differ depending on whether we print on coated paper or not.

Proofing, i.e. a color sample – a special print made with a digital proofing device. It allows you to check in the most reliable way what colors we get from the printing machine. In this way, elements that are important for the publication – the cover or important illustrations – or the appearance of, for example, the packaging, are often checked. When proofing, we should also remember about several rules, such as white (or preferably gray) room walls and neutral lighting. We never proof with digital print, it is not reliable.

Working with the choice of colors will also save us a well calibrated, not necessarily high-end display.

Let’s also remember that the type of paper affects the color values. Whenever possible, let’s use pantone templates, at least the basic ones (student sets are the cheapest). They present the appearance of a given color on a specific substrate. It will be a better investment than very expensive displays. You can also ask for ready presets (color settings) in the printing house. Basic is for printing on newsprint, coated and uncoated paper. In this way, we will avoid a shortage or excess of paint, because in both cases the effect looks just wrong.

Types of paper for printing and final adjustments

We have several paper refinements to choose from and they all change the appearance of the printed color:

  • Offset and dispersion varnishing,
  • Shiny, matte and velvet films,
  • UV selective varnish

We always set a high resolution for printing: 300 dpi (dot per inch) – we will get a high quality print (the printer will put many dots of color on the paper).

Job formats are best served not as a name – e.g. a4 – but in millimeters/inches or pixels.

Spades and cutting lines are one of several printing marks (the other is a magazine that helps set the paper in the right position and gray scale or color bars to help determine the appropriate ink). The falling and cutting lines determine the net and gross size of the work. We set them in graphic programs, just like that.

Thanks to these measures, when cutting finished printouts in a printing house, neither they will cut out valuable text, nor leave a white card around the print. More about printers’ tags you can find here.

proffesional printing machine

What else should I remember about…

Typography – before saving the finished file, remember to exchange letters for curves!  Printing house – what is very likely – will not have the proper font installed, which we used in the project. So the program will replace it with another one and the printout will give us a disaster.  Also worth changing are lines and gradients, because sometimes they like to play tricks and the results are just weird.

Folding, or expertly speaking – creasing. Sometimes we may need our work properly bend. It is worth agreeing in a print shop or use, as I mentioned before, from ready-made designs for files, folders, catalogs, etc. It is better of course not to use patterns from one printing house in another, because each can have its own blanks.

The composition and breaking of the text. I only mention it, because it is a topic for a separate post. These are prepared in paid-for programs: Adobe Indesign or in free like Scribus. When it comes to preparing books for printing, I do not have so much experience in this field. I only prepared books for publication only in digital version (pdf).

And that’s all you need to start your adventure with DTP. It is really worth knowing at least the basics. It helps to not to expect nervously, whether the project that we have prepared for the client will leave the printing house correctly printed or not. Especially when it comes to several thousand copies. I hope this article will give you an overview of very useful knowledge when it comes to printing. Till next week!