Every week, we print samples and calculate estimated ink costs on label artwork from our new prospects and customers. After printing all these samples, what is interesting is the print quality difference we see in the various artwork we received; especially with fonts.
|PDF Poor Print Quality|
Recently, we received a PDF that printed terribly (see above). While working with this document, we learned this artwork was created in Adobe InDesign. You could not read the text at all. After seeing the horrible results, we attempted to decide what caused this poor print quality on this sample; and make recommendations to others based on our results.
Looking at the file, the first aspect we noticed was the file size; it was 70 KB. Here is a brief summary of the different aspects of file sizes:
To store one letter in a file, it takes 8 bytes. One kilobyte holds 1,204 bytes or 128 letters. 70 KB should store only 8,960 letters. Therefore, this file was compressed dramatically when saved as a PDF. Compressed files and/or files with limited data just don’t print well. The expression “GIGO: garbage in, garbage out” describes what happens when attempting to print a file with limited data.
But file size doesn’t describe what happens with every piece of artwork that doesn’t print well. According to Tony Molina, Graphic Artist and Digital Marketing Manager for Color Label Solutions, “text files don’t require a large file size to print well. I’ve printed label samples with only a few hundred KB’s, and they print great.”
The second aspect of this file was font size. To determine the font size, I copied the print output from the PDF into BarTender; and found the font size as 3.5 and 4 pt.
|4 PT Font Using BarTender|
To help you understand the size of these fonts, I used the Font Converter website: https://www.thecalculatorsite.com/conversions/length/points-to-inches.php
To convert “pts” to inches. A 4 pt font is 0.055”; 55/1000th of an inch. A 3.5 pt font is 0.048”; or 48/1000th of an inch. That’s small. In this article, the author recommends no smaller than 5 pt font for a viewing distance of 2 feet: http://resources.printhandbook.com/pages/viewing-distance-font-size.php
In this article, the author recommends no smaller than 7 pt fonts for hazardous labels: https://app.croneri.co.uk/feature-articles/minimum-font-sizes-labels. Therefore, 3 and 4 pt fonts make labels difficult to read.
Given the result, Tony copied the text and reproduced the same label in QuarkXpress. Using the same font used in Adobe InDesign, he got the same results from the pdf produced in QuarkXpress. The pdf file from Quark still printed terribly. By changing fonts, Tony saw much better print quality.
According to Tony, “Font types make a big difference in terms of print quality. Some fonts are thinner, so they don’t print as well especially when small. Choosing a font with balanced kerning and tracking (letter-spacing) is also important. When the distance between two letters are set too closely together, words can become indecipherable; set too far apart, and they’re awkward to read. I suggest choosing a clean, solid, dark-colored, sans serif font when using small text in a design. The smaller the text, the darker the color should be.”
Continuing, Tony says, “Most fonts are designed to produce good quality, but some may not. In this case, I used a Helvetica font and it printed great.”
From this exercise, we relearned 3 key aspects for text print quality:
- Select fonts carefully to insure good print quality. Just because the font looks good on screen, doesn’t mean the fonts will print well.
- Use fonts of sufficient size so they can be read easily.
- Save files with as many bytes as possible; the more the better when it comes to good print quality. Do not use compressed file types for printing.
For a more complete recap for designing labels that are easy to read, review this post with 17 tips on printing fonts: https://www.companyfolders.com/blog/17-essential-tips-printing-fonts
Some of these tips don’t apply to print on-demand color; rather for professional printers. But several of the tips work completely when designing label artwork to print on-demand and in color.
If you need assistance in designing artwork for your labels, contact us. We’ll insure your labels print GREAT!