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7 Tips for Graphic Design

Designing your own signs and printed marketing collateral can be a challenge for many people with no prior design experience.

However, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. There are a few basic rules that anyone can quickly learn about graphic design and apply to their designs. Keep in mind that if you have never designed anything, you’re not going to become an expert overnight. This means that if you’re looking for expert design and have no experience to speak of, it’s probably best to hire a professional designer to get the job done right the first time around. If you’re the DIY type and would like to try your hand at designing your next sign or printed marketing collateral, here are seven tips to help you get a good understanding of the basic principles of design:

Use a Good Color Palette

[caption id="attachment_567" align="alignleft" width="240"]Color Palatte Photo by Balázs Kétyi on Unsplash[/caption] Before you begin your design, you’ll need to choose an appropriate color palette. Some colors work well together, and others don’t work at all from a design perspective. Sites like Adobe Color offer a free tool where you can browse through millions of colors to find the perfect one. Simply drag your mouse across the color wheel, find the color that you like, and then copy the hex number down and use it in Photoshop or InDesign.

Choose the Right Fonts

The font that you choose can either make—or break—the design. It’s essential to pick one that is clear and easily readable. Stay away from fancy fonts for signage and printed materials alike.  It’s often hard for older people and people with disadvantages (such as dyslexia) to read fonts that have a lot of curls and letters that look very similar. Try to use one to two fonts only—one for the header and the other for the text. It will help break things up a bit and make everything easier to read.

White Space

Look at any given Apple printed advertisement. Notice how there is a picture of the product, surrounded by a few words, surrounded by a bunch of white space. These types of ads force the reader to focus on the product, not an overly elaborate design. By adding ample whitespace to a design, you can prevent clutter and confusion from setting in. Don’t be afraid to leave well enough alone and focus solely on your message and/or products that you’re trying to sell.

Text over Images

If your design involves placing text over an image, either add a color overlay or adjust the brightness level of the image in the background. It will help offset the text color and cause it to be highly readable while allowing the design to look crisp and clear. White text tends to look best and “pop” the most with dark backgrounds. 

Use High-Quality Images

Try not to use .jpeg or .gif images as they are low resolution and won’t show up well on a sign or printed material. You should set each picture to a bare minimum of 300DPI—600DPI or higher is even better. Just because an image looks good on your computer screen doesn’t mean it will look good on a sign. If you’re in doubt, you can always send in your file to your local print shop and get a second opinion. 


Boundaries play an essential role when it comes to graphic design for printed materials. If you don’t leave enough space, the design or text could get cut off when it goes to print. The general rule of thumb for boundaries is that you should extend image bleeds to 1/8” past the crop marks and allow ¼” between images that will be bled. If you’re still unsure as to whether your design will look the same in print, give your printer a call to confirm.

What Finishes Will You Use?

If your printed project requires a finish such as scoring, folding, binding, or die-cutting, have a chat with your printer before giving them the go-ahead. They’ll be able to tell you exactly what will and won’t get cut off when they run the print job. This will help ensure that everything comes out as intended and allow you to plan for the finishing requirements in your final design.

Design and Print Help in New Bern

Creating the perfect sign or printed marketing collateral takes time, patience, and a little understanding of the basic principles of design. If you’re struggling or are having a serious case of “designer’s block,” give us a call to learn more about how we can help with your design. At AlphaGraphics of New Bern, we’re much more than a print shop. We’re also marketing experts who you can count on to help you when it comes time to market your business. To learn more about how AlphaGraphics of New Bern can produce and design your next direct mail campaign, you may email usrequest a quote or call us at (252) 633-3199.

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