So you’ve got an epic new merchandise design, and you’re ready to send it off to the printer.

But when you get the proof back, it doesn’t look as good as you had hoped.

This can happen for a number of reasons. Today, I want to share with you a few tech-y graphic design tidbits that you’ll need to know if you want to avoid this scenario.

When implemented in advance, these tips can save you a lot of headache with your printer.

1. Vector art is best for merch design.

Let me first explain the difference between raster art and vector art.

Raster art is artwork that is created by pixels, which are tiny squares that make up a grid.

Vector art is art that is created by mathematical formula, instead of pixels.

Because of this, vector art can be scaled flawlessly, no matter what the size. The artwork will look just as amazing on a coffee cup or a billboard.

Rasterized art (or art made of pixels) will not size flawlessly. If you upsize raster art, it will appear blurry. This is because it will essentially be an enlarged version of the pixel grid.

When you’re submitting artwork for print, it’s especially important that you send vector art, so that the printer can scale or shrink the artwork as needed.

2. Create outlines for fonts within your design file.

“Creating outlines” basically means that, instead of submitting a file that has font layers in it, you want to create outlines of those layers.

Creating outlines of your fonts will make vector objects of whatever you have typed. See how this is all coming together?

Why does this matter?

Not all computers have the same fonts installed on them.

When you open the file on your computer, it may look just fine. But – if the printer does not have one of the font files that you used to create your masterpiece, it may give them an error. Worse yet, the font layers may default to a simpler font.

If this happens, and the design goes to print, you’re going to wind up with a product that looks different than what you had originally designed.

Your safest bet is to finalize your design, and then create outlines on the font layers to avoid this from happening.

3. Include a bleed and printer’s marks (when appropriate).

“Bleed” in design is an area that you allow for when you want a color or shape in your design to go all the way to the edge of the product.

When you design with a bleed, you actually create the document to be larger than the final size, so that your content “bleeds” over the edges. Once it’s printed with the bleed, the printer will then cut it down to actual size.

If you’re printing posters for your shows, the printer will usually ask that you add a bleed.

The same goes for various other merchandise products.

Hopefully this helps you to debunk a few of the design terms that can be intimidating during the merchandise purchasing process.

Need help getting your next merch design created or prepped for print? I can help with that. Book a call via the button below, and I’d love to chat with you about getting your design pixel-perfect.