Perfect Color: Designing Documents for Print

Color is everywhere in printed media. It gets your attention, sets the tone, and shares information. Printing in color can help your business project a polished and professional image, but it’s critical to balance the value of color printing with the cost of color toner.

To make the most of color, consider the following few tips for how to use color in your print documents and publications.

Draw attention. The primary reason we use color is for its impact, and choosing a few select applications of color will make your message pop and give you the biggest bang for your buck. Consider the type of publication and what element you want to draw attention to, and focus your color there. You may highlight a deadline or expiration date, bring some life to your headings, or even use compelling images. Think about where you want to draw your reader’s eye and use color to guide them there.

Convey emotion. The human mind is wired in such a way that we draw inherent meaning from color. Choosing your colors with an understanding of their psychological impact will help you get the most out of each use. Orange is an action color, while purple invokes imagination. Red is the color of passion and anger; blue brings a sense of calm, trust, and dependability; and green is a color of peace, nature, and health. Choosing the right color will help boost your message by playing on the mind’s built-in shortcuts.

Stick to your resolutions. When it comes to color images and art, print resolution can make or break your publication. Use images with a resolution of 300 dpi (dots per inch) or better for the size you want to print. This quality of image will provide your printer the information it needs to create documents that show all the details. A lower dpi can result in blurry or pixelated images, so skimping on image quality is just a waste of toner.

Figure out fonts. Combining selective use of color with different font types will up the impact of your outputs. Avoid messiness and confusion for your readers by sticking to two or three fonts: one for the body of your text, one for headings, and maybe one for call-outs or quotes. Body (or paragraph) text, works best in black, but headings and call-outs thrive in color. A trick for making your text easy on the eye is to use a serif font, like Times New Roman or Garamond. The additional visual detail in these fonts makes text easier to interpret. Headings work well in sans serif fonts like Helvetica.

Proof it. Printing a proof, or test version, is a best practice for any publication, and it’s especially vital when printing in color. Print one copy and review it closely for readability, detail, and color accuracy. This is the “measure twice, cut once” of the printing world: take the time to be sure your publication will print as you expect and you’ll save yourself the headache (and toner!) down the line.

Color printing can be a powerful tool for catching the eye and directing your audience’s attention. From conveying emotion to showing detail, use color wisely for the perfect printed publication.