Graphic Design Newsletter
April 12 , 2005

N E W S L E T T E R . M E N U








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Article One

by Erin Ferree

Color is one of the most difficult parts of a design to show accurately to a client. Color perception can be affected by many factors, including:

Human perception:

The way each person sees color can vary, depending on the structure of the individual’s eye. This is particularly true in the range of the color blue. Colorblindness is another factor in an individual’s perception of color, which can be either very slight (and almost unnoticeable to an individual) or quite severe.

Colors can also impact each other when placed side by side – either through reflection or as a visual illusion. To demonstrate this, hold a piece of bright-colored paper or object next to a white piece of paper near a sunny window. The white paper will take on some of the color, to become a pastel shade of the bright color.

Home computer and printing technology:

The average computer monitor will show slightly differing colors depending on how the computer is set up, the type of monitor (for example, flat-panel LCD monitors tend to show colors as more blue), how the brightness/contrast is adjusted, and many other factors.

Inkjet and home laser printers, while great for convenience, often do not have the color range that professional printing machines do. This is most obvious in the case of bright colors, especially dark or complex colors (colors made up of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) all mixed together), and in the tones of blue, aqua, and purple.

Web color vs. printed color:

The color of your logo and/or any other graphic elements on your website may be different than the colors on your printed materials – this has to do with the color palette that websites use in their graphics (see the article RGB vs. CMYK color), with the color palettes that the web browsers use (see web-safe color, below), and with your and your clients’ monitor calibration.

Web-safe colors are available, meaning that the colors will look the same regardless of a viewers’ monitor type – provided that their brightness and contrast settings are set to the same levels. There are millions if printable colors and only 216 web-safe colors, thus we advise treating website colors differently than printed colors, and we suggest that you choose both a web-color palette as well as a printing- color palette for your business identity.

Professional printing technology:

Colors can vary between printing processes. If some of your materials are printed with a four-color digital or traditional printing process and others are printed using the Pantone color system, some of the colors may not match owing to the differences in the processes (see our article on CMYK printing vs. Pantone color printing).

Colors can also vary between presses or digital printers, depending on their setup or calibration, so if you print materials at different times or on different machines, they could appear different.

In many aspects of your graphic design, such as your company logo, you want to ensure that your colors are as accurate and consistent as possible across different media, printing processes, and monitor displays. You also want to strive for as much color control as possible among the different elements of your brand that you have printed when using different printing processes. This is done by comparing your Pantone color choices to their four-color equivalents, for example, to ensure that the two are as close to matching as possible.

There are also a few ways that we can minimize or overcome these inaccuracies and misrepresentations:

Using colors available through the Pantone Matching System (PMS colors). Printers mix these colors to the exact specifications shown in the Pantone books, so you know exactly what the colors will look like on the finished product. However, this printing method only allows for printing in one, two, or three colors and can be more expensive than some of the four-color, digital printing methods available today. However, many digital press shops offer only onw or a few types of smooth, white paper. Press printing with Pantone colors allows you to choose from a wider range of textures and colors of paper, which then adds a new color element to your materials that includes the color of the paper itself.

Knowing how your corporate colors will translate. The Pantone system also offers a set of books that show how the Pantone colors will translate to CMYK – an important factor to consider if you will be printing some of your materials in two or three colors and other materials in four-color (full color). With these books, you can easily see how your chosen Pantone color will translate to CMYK, so that you can print your materials in the most economical way.

Home or commercial laser printers will often show an approximation of the final color. When color matching is somewhat important, but not essential to the success of the project, we suggest proofing your colors on a good-quality color laser printer. The printouts from these printers will simulate four-color (CMYK) press results, though they won’t match exactly, due to the differences in their calibration versus that of professional printers.

For four-color (CMYK) printing where the accuracy of color is essential, many printers can produce “match proofs” – proofs that show very accurate color. These proofs will cost about $100 for a letter-sized page. This process will also will extend the production timeline of your printing job by several days for production and approval, but the proofs will give you an accurate representation of the color of your final job.

To learn more about the various color systems, please continue to read the other articles in this series.

Erin Ferree may be contacted at
Erin Ferree is a logo, print and web designer who has been making it easy for small businesses to stand out and to be visible, credible and memorable for the past nine years.

Article Two

Read Last Week's Newsletter for Part 1

Read Part 1
Read Part 2

Now it is time to put it all together. So how are you going to choose which samples to place in your portfolio? Hopefully you will have a large number of samples to choose from, but don't worry about it if you don't. Your goal is to choose 10 - 20 of your best samples. Think quality, not quantity. Lay out all of your work and decide which samples are the best.

You should try to focus your portfolio for a niche market. Are you interested in working for an advertising agency, book publisher, newspaper, etc.? Different markets will expect different things from you. You might not be ready to choose a niche market yet, if this is the case you will need to rearrange your portfolio each time you interview for a job.

Once you have chosen which samples to include in your portfolio, you should look them over with great care. Make sure that there aren't any errors or typos within your sample work. If there is even one little error, leave that sample out. You are trying to position yourself as a competent, skilled, detail-oriented professional.

Each time that you apply for a position and you are called in for a portfolio review or drop-off, you should research the hiring company for more information. Normally a job ad isn't enough information to find out what the employer is really looking for in a good portfolio. At the minimum, you will need to get the phone number, company's name, and address. From this information, you can hopefully gain access to verifiable details about this business. From this information, you should do research on the Internet. If you are a web designer, You will need to find out if the business in question has a web site. What colors and style form do they use? If you are a graphic designer, does this business have sample brochures online to download or have mailed to you? Does this company have any other job listings online? Take a look at all of their job ads, you might be able to see more of what this company is about.

Once you are more aware of what the hiring company wants from you, you will be able to put together samples that you can be confident displaying to the interviewer. Remember to only choose 10 - 15 samples. You don't want to overwhelm the interviewer with too many samples.

What quality should you include in your portfolio?

** Originals - Whenever possible, you should include originals. When I say 'original pieces', I mean an actual finished product, like a brochure, catalog, self-mailer, etc.

** Tearsheets - Tearsheets are pages torn from a magazine, newspaper, or other published material. If something of yours is published in a publication, purchase many of them so you can keep them for your portfolio.

** C-Prints - Color Prints (also called c-prints) need to be produced professionally by a custom lab. Take a color negative or interneg to a custom lab and tell the rep that you want a full page C-Print. The quality of the C-print will not be so great because you are enlarging from slide size to full page size. I don't recommend using this method, but if it is your last resort, go for it.

** Printouts - Go to your local service bureau and bring your digital files there to have printed out. Printouts from a quality service bureau are very similar to printouts from a quality printing press.

** Photographs - If your original design is unable to go into your portfolio than you can take a quality photograph and place it in your portfolio. However, there is nothing more unprofessional than a shoddy photography, so you will want to do it right. We will cover photographing your work later in this series.

**Slide transparencies in plastic sheets (20 per sheet, or loaded tray ready for showing) - This is a good way to display your portfolio if you are a photographer. Otherwise, unless the interviewer says it is okay beforehand, don't assume that you can display your portfolio with slides.

**Chrome transparencies - Chrome transparencies are very expensive and probably not worth the extra expense since you don't need them. They come in sizes 4 x 5, or 8 x 10 and the clarity is amazing. Art directors seem to like Chrome Transparencies better than slides because they are easier to use.

**Laser Photocopies - Laser color photocopies have come a long way in the last few years or so. I have actually seen laser photocopies that look better than printouts from service bureaus. Check out the color quality on local laser photocopiers. I know that you can find them at Kinkos, Staples, and Officemax, amongst other similar places.

** Screenshots - It is difficult to place your website in a portfolio, but with the use of screen shots it is possible. Take a screen shot and then crop it in Photoshop. Take your files to your local service bureau to have your images printed out.

Now that you have a better idea of what quality samples you should place in your book, take time examining what pieces most define what you are capable of at your 'best'. Next week we will go over "Shopping for the Portfolio Case that is Right for You". See you then.


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