Q: I only have MS Office - what should I do?

A: If you've put together some kind of layout for your job in (for example) Word, and you don't have any way of exporting as an Adobe Acrobat (.PDF) file, here's what to do:

  1. Save your layout document with 'Layout' in the filename.
  2. Copy and paste any text into a new Word document with 'Text' in the filename.
  3. If you've created graphic elements within Word, copy and paste them into a new document with 'Graphics' in the filename.
  4. Locate the original versions of any image files (JPEGs, TIFFs, etc.) and supply them along with your documents (don't copy and paste from a Word document)

We'll try to recreate your layout as faithfully as possible.

Q: RGB - CMYK - CIELab: what are they?

A: Converting from RGB to CMYK is key to getting good reproduction.


RGB is the colour system used by most imaging devices: cameras, scanners & monitors.

CMYK is used by (and is required by) many printing systems, including our digital press (but not Giclee).

CIELab is a 'device neutral' colour system through which almost all RGB-CMYK conversions will pass, and is supported only by high-end imaging applications such as Adobe Photoshop.

If you aren't familiar with RGB-CMYK conversions, don't attempt it. We're happy to do it for you.

Q: What finishing options are available?

A: All prints are supplied trimmed and, where appropriate, scored for folding. Cards can be supplied with or without envelopes.

Other finishing options include kiss-cutting and perforating (for 'tear-off' sections). More complex die-cutting can be specified, but for low-volume print runs the cost is likely to be prohibitive.

Q: What is 'unsharp masking'?

A: The term originates from the days of process cameras and photographic plate production: it was a photo-optical technique used to increase the acutance, or apparent sharpness, of printed photographs.

In the digital age, this effect can be simulated in applications like Photoshop; we adopt a slightly more  sophisticated approach using an advanced technique which protects skin-tones (and other key areas) from unwanted over-sharpening.

Example here.

Q: What is meant by "300 dpi" and why do I need it?

A: In the 'Good Old Days' continuous tone originals had to be 'screened' to convert them into small dots that could be printed. This was achieved by exposing the original photo through a finely-ruled screen onto photo-sensitive film. The most popular screen 'pitch' was 150 lines per inch (LPI).

When electronic drum-scanning replaced cumbersome photo-optical methods, it was found that generally, photos had to be scanned at a higher pitch than the screen to reproduce fine detail. Doubling the screen ruling - i.e. 300 DPI - was used as a good rule of thumb: it's now more or less universally accepted as a standard, even though 200 DPI can be perfectly acceptable.

Now, in the digital age, many print technologies are designed and built around the '300 DPI standard'.

On it's own, '300 DPI' means nothing: combined with the physical dimensions of a required reproduction, it tells us how much information - the number of pixels - is required to ensure a good print.

For example, let's say we want to produce some 5x7 inch postcards. We need (5x300) x (7x300) pixels: 1500 x 2100 pixels, something that most digital cameras can achieve. But if we crop our photo heavily, we can easily end up with a lot less pixels than we need, and as we can't invent detail that was never there, we'll end up with a fuzzy, blurry print.

Q: What is bleed and why do I need it?

A: The term was coined because it deals with page content that flows, or bleeds, off the page area.

If you want to end up with, for example, an A5 postcard, the image will either go right to the edge, or there'll be a white border.

In an ideal world, we'd be able to print exactly to the edge of the paper, and our trimming equipment would cut exactly to the edge of the image. In reality, there's 'play' on the press, and trimmers aren't that accurate. So a little jiggle room is required - 3mm all round is generally sufficient.

Q: Can I use Digital Prints instead of Giclees?

A: Apart from being methods to get dyes onto paper, the Digital Press and Giclee system have little in common.

Digital Prints can't compete with Giclee for tonal subtlety, colour range or longevity.

Giclee can't compete with Digital Prints for low cost and speed.

It really is a matter of 'horses for courses'.

(click arrow to see the answer)


Move your mouse over the image to compare unsharpened & "unsharp masked" images

Left side: traditional unsharp masking

Right side: advanced sharpening technique