Learn How to Design a Clean, Print Ready, Typographical Poster
WHAT WE’RE CREATING:
Hello Design Cutters! Simon here today. This week, for our exploration of the 22 Professional & Artistic Fonts bundle, we are going to create a typographical poster promoting an alas fake chocolate festival. Yes, you have read that correctly: it’s all about chocolate today!
We’ll focus on techniques, tips, and tricks that will help us to design a file that will be ready to screen print. This printing technique has been around for a long time, and involves a manual process.
We’ll cover the limitations of the process, but also its advantages.
A FEW TECHNICAL NOTES
Why we will use Illustrator
Photoshop-only users, I’m afraid to say that this one is made by using Illustrator. The reason for that focus on the vector manipulation software is that it’s better suited to manipulate type elements than Photoshop is.
That being said, you could still recreate the poster’s layout in Photoshop easily. Type sizes, and element placement within a document are the same between the two programs. What will be different will be how easily you can manipulate type, and other elements around.
The screen printing process
The Wikipedia page for screen printing is rich in information, and even animated gifs of the process.
The short version of the article could roughly be as follows:
- The design to reproduce is broken down in order to separate each of its colors
- Each color will result in a separate screen
- Each screen will require a separate pass during the printing
The more colors your design has, the more screen it will require to be reproduced. Each screen will need to be perfectly registered (aligned) with the sheet the design is printed on, as well with the other screens.
More colors equals more screens, equals more printing time. More screens equals more setup time, equals more time spent to get a finished product. This is why screen printing is priced per number of units to produce, but also per number of colors.
Finally, because the process is manual, the outcome is bound to present some imperfections: registrations, ink distribution variations, paper grain variations from sheets to sheets, etc.
These are what gives the process its crafty, hand made vibe. Designers have also been known to voluntarily replicate some of the imperfections of the process for artistic goals, in particular bad registration.
What that means for our design
Because more colors means pricier, we’ll aim to keep our color number to a minimum. Strategies to achieve that include careful selection of paper color when printing (it can “save” us one color), but also designing with simple, bold shapes. We’ll also avoid gradients as these don’t translate well in screen printing.
Another strategy for creating “additional” colors is to use overprint effects. Our buddy Chris Spooner covered that in great details on his blog. A short read, that I’d highly recommend.
Note that we won’t rely on these for our current design, but that we’ll make sure to explore these in the future.
So, in short, we’ll center our poster around:
- A limited color palette
- Big, bold typography and imagery
STEP ZERO: THE CONCEPT
The idea for the poster came from two things. First, Type Type’s Chocolates type family. We were talking about centering our poster around bold type earlier, weren’t we? I think we got that part covered. Additionally, the letter shapes have a delicious vintage flair to them, reminiscent of families like Gotham, Mission Gothic, and Neutraface, themselves based on old type from the golden era of hand painted signs.
The second thing that inspired it is my own gluttony, and constant cravings for chocolate, nutella, and other derived goodness.
Armed with these two things, the idea of a chocolate-related exhibition quickly came to mind. And note that such events are a real thing, where people display amazing levels of craftsmanship. You can find dresses, shoes, and even architectural models.
As a counterpoint to the tasty decadence, Font You’s Gauthier FY will help us to bring some structure, and elegance, to the mix.
Finally, Latinotype’s clean Texta Narrow will help us with the finishing touch.
Additionally, we’ll make use of this public domain cocoa tree branch and fruit drawing to add an illustrative element to our piece.
I created a vector version of it that is slightly cleaner than the original (I removed the letters and additional elements), that you can download by clicking here.
Oh, and about our color palette. We’ll use a set of very “chocolate” colors, ranging from rich, warm, and saturated browns, to subtle, and desaturated tans.
We have our elements at hand. Let’s get started.
STEP ONE: FILE SETUP
As stated earlier, we’ll use Illustrator for our poster this time. We’ll make use of our usual 18″x24″ canvas.
Place some guides marking the center of the canvas, as well as rings of 1″, and 2″ around the piece.
STEP TWO: THE BACKGROUND
The background color
“Wait, we’re putting a background in place? But I thought we’re doing screen printing, and we’ll use the paper color as our background color?”
That is a very valid point! We are also running the risk of using a background color that will be different from the paper color we’ll have to choose in the end – we’ll be limited by what paper manufacturers will provide. With that said, it’s still better to design with a full color palette.
So, we are going to create a rectangle that will completely cover the background of the piece. We’ll fill it with our rich, dark brown (#3d2918).
Make sure to give it a dedicated layer, so it will keep our file organized.
In order to make the background visually more diverse, we’ll use some of the vector textures hidden in the bundle.
The first one is from the bonuses that come with Lisa Glanz’s Pillowbook (lisa-glanzPillowbook Font + BonusesTexturesAI_FILES). The one we’ll use is grunge_texture_5.ai.
Paste in the document, and size it so it’s 18.125″ wide. It’s slightly off-centered vertically, to allow the artifacts at the top of the texture to show within our canvas (X: 9″, and Y: 12.75″).
After putting the texture in place, we simply have to change its color to the light warm brown from our palette (#735747).
The next texture comes from Doublez Studio’s Greatesque Brush Script bonuses (doublez-studioGreatesque Brush ScriptBonus VectorsBonus Greatesque.ai).
We’ll place this one rather big in the frame, and using the bottom left corner of the poster as the reference point for the coordinates. This will allow us to get the biggest splatters off frame, and to keep the more subtle artifacts of the textures in the piece.
The texture is 25″ wide, colored in the light warm brown (#735747), and its bottom left corner has X: 0″, and Y: 24″ for coordinates.
Don’t forget to organize things properly.
STEP THREE: ILLUSTRATIVE ELEMENT
The next step is to bring our cocoa tree illustration in place. You can make you own version by vectorizing the original file available through the Internet Archive Book Images’ Flickr stream, or you can use the freebie we put together for you.
Paste it centered in the canvas, 28″ tall. It will also be in the same warm light brown (#735747). The size taller than the canvas bounds allows us to hide the ends of the branch.
And remember to give it a dedicated layer.
STEP FOUR: CHOCOLATE
Now is the time for us to tackle the main type element, “CHOCOLATE.” This would be a good time for a quick “Nutella-by-the-spoon-full” break before pursuing.
We will use Chocolates Black, sized pretty big for our purposes (504 points tall, optical kerning). The text will be centered, and colored in the lightest of our tan colors (#dcd1b9).
The text element will be broken in three sub-elements, which will give us more flexibility for horizontal spacing adjustments.
Let’s start by the first three letters, “CHO.”
Its final position is X: 9″, and Y: 3.75″.
The next block of three letters is “COL.”
Final position: X: 9″, and Y: 9.3″.
Last block of letters: “ATE.”
Final position: X: 9″, and Y: 15″.
To keep things organized, and neat, time to create layers and sub-layers.
Our poster is taking shape nicely, although there is still a lot of missing information. Centering each line of text gives the block a visually pleasing inverted tower effect, acting like an arrow of sorts to point the viewers’ eyes to the future content in the lower third of the poster.
STEP FIVE: LOCATION, DATE, AND TIME
It’s time to introduce more typefaces in the mix.
Setting the elements in place
As announced in the beginning, the serif Gauthier FY will be a proper visual counterpoint to Chocolates.
The text we have to yet add on the poster will be “THE LONDON FESTIVAL” on one line (general event location), and “MAY 4TH TO MAY 9TH 2015” (date).
Let’s write both lines of text in Gauthier FY Medium Italic, sized at 90 points tall, and colored in our bright tan color (#dcd1b9).
Note the customization on the date markers (“th”), using the Superscript functionality of the Character panel.
From there, it’s time to horizontally center the lines. Their center should be on the 9″ mark.
The next and last line of text reads “AT OLYMPIA LONDON • KENSINGTON (OLYMPIA).” Olympia London is one of the great event halls of the London area, especially since Earls Court is being demolished. Kensington (Olympia) is there to indicate the London Overground/Underground
This last line will be set in Latinotype’s Texta Narrow Heavy, that is 48 points tall. The text is still centered.
The copy on the poster is all there, but something is still missing.
In order to structure the main sub-text (The London Festival / May 4th to May 9th 2015), we are going to add some dividers, and slightly alter the spacing of elements.
First, let’s make sure that the spacing between the bottom of the “AT OLYMPIA LONDON • KENSINGTON (OLYMPIA)” is at the same distance than the top of the “CHO” piece is (roughly 1″). The final coordinates of the center point are X: 9″, and Y: 23.125″.
Once the placement for that line has been set, we can visually adjust the spacing of the main sub-header blocks between that, and the bottom of the “ATE” line.
The final positions for “THE LONDON FESTIVAL” are X: 9″, and Y: 20″ (center point). The definitive coordinates for the date line are X: 9″, and Y: 21.35″ (center point)
Next, we’ll add some horizontal lines as typographical dividers. We’ll use two 10 points thick lines from the top and bottom, and a 5 points line to split the sub-header. In order to not make the lines visually overwhelming, we’ll use the more muted tan color for them (#BCB39B). Let’s just get the lines drawn first.
Let’s start by optically placing the central divider. The process is mostly trial-and-error based. The final positions for the central are X: 9″, and Y: 19.9125″ (center point).
Next, using the optical space between the divider and each line of the sub-header as the reference, we’ll place the top and bottom dividers properly. The final positions for the top one are X: 9″, Y: 18.4″, and for the bottom one X: 9″, Y: 21.65″ (center point).
A bit of layer organization.
The finishing touches
The layout is nearly finished.
A visual “icing on the cake” is hiding within the freebie archive that contains the cocoa tree illustration. One of the ways we could add a little extra touch to the poster would be to emphasize the London Underground station name with an actual London Underground roundel (the name for the logo).
I prepared a file that contains the logo in its regular colors, and also in the palette needed to fit the poster.
Simply copy and paste the logo in the file.
Change the alignment of the location line from centered to left aligned. This will help us to use spaces to leave room for the logo later.
Then, scale the roundel down to a height of 0.75″, and align it so it’s vertically centered with the copy.
From there, simply add spaces between the “•” and “KENSINGTON” to create room for the underground logo.
The goal is to place the logo in the middle of the space we just created for it.
Finally, once the placement of the logo within the text element is satisfactory, we just have to horizontally center the ensemble within the canvas again.
And this wraps up our layout work.
The layer stack should resemble the following.
STEP SIX: PREPARING THE FILE FOR PRINT
We’re done, but now we are going to do two things to make this file as print ready as possible, before passing it on to a pre-press person.
Before we dive into that, please save an alternate copy of your file, so you’ll always have access to your original work file, just in case. For example, my working file is the-shop-design-cuts-22-professional-and-artistic-fonts-tutorial-clean-build-rev-01.ai, and I’ll call my new copy the-shop-design-cuts-22-professional-and-artistic-fonts-tutorial-clean-build-rev-01-print.ai
Outlines, outlines everywhere
The first step to take is to outline all typefaces. This avoids running into issues if your favorite print shop doesn’t own a copy of that obscure typeface that your design rests upon.
You can either select the type object to expand, and use the right click menu option Create outlines, or the Object > Expand (or Expand appearance) menu.
All in all, the result will be the same: type elements will be converted to vector path, with points and handles.
Repeat the process for all of your text elements, without exception. Using the Object > Expand appearance menu, you should be able to do multiple elements at once.
Another set of elements to outline after the type would be stroke-based elements. These can somewhat get corrupted when reading files in different version of softwares (Illustrator CS3 file read in Illustrator CC 2014 for instance).
In our case, this means the dividers. Select them all, and use the Object > Expand menu to expand them to proper rectangles.
Grouping by colors
Our design doesn’t have overlays, and is mostly organized in a light to dark to light fashion. This makes this part easier. One of the next step would be to modify the layer organization so elements are grouped by colors.
If the design was more complex, or had overlays we wanted to avoid, we would have to “knock out” the parts in questions, using the pathfinder.
Last but not least, clearly labeling the layers, sub-layers, and individual elements will help better than anything else people to make sense of your file.
You can then save your file, and send it to your printer. Most of them will accept an Illustrator or PDF file prepared according to the process we just went through. Some might have specific requirements, and it’s always good to follow them to ensure the best possible result. Shops will also offer, usually for a small fee, a file setup service should you feel overwhelmed by that step.
WRAPPING THINGS UP
Well, we’re done! I hope you had as much fun following along as I had to put the piece, and the tutorial, together.
Have I left technical questions unanswered? Do you have ideas to make the poster better? Tips and tricks to make it easier to build? Please do use the comment form below, and the Design Cuts team and myself will be sure to keep the conversation going.
If you have completed the tutorial, you ought to share your outcome with us via the Design Cuts Facebook page.
If you’ve already purchased the collection of 22 Professional & Artistic Fonts, I hope that you have gained a deeper sense of what you can accomplish with them. If you haven’t yet, there are only a few days left to purchase the bundle for 99% off!
On that note, that’s all for me today. Have a fantastic weekend ahead!
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