The mental aspect of your work is just as important as the technical, and being passionate about your platform is a surefire way to get head in the right space. For designer, Radim Malinic, the magic happens when your work is in hand: “I believe seeing your work on-screen is only half the job. I am used to the part of a commission which gives you the perfect example of how well you did the job. This, you can only see in print,” he says.
For him the design process is a three-dimensional one, where even a mundane trip to the paper shop, feeling the finish and selecting the perfect thickness to put your work on, rivals any online output. Plus, he says: “You can take your printed work with you, there’s no need to have a Wi-Fi connection to show your clients what you created for them.”
Personal projects are often the training ground for refining techniques before executing them on a client project. Digital artist, Ben Thomas advises treating each equally. “When it comes to sending jobs off to print, whether they are for personal projects or client projects, I go through everything with a finetooth comb regardless. Everything is tackled meticulously,” he says. Taking it one step further, Thomas has created an extra source of income from letting off his creative stream. By selling his prints online (kneedeepinsleep.com) he has an added incentive to create work and thereby learn new skills and push artistic boundaries.
While having unlimited creative control on a personal project can be a welcome breather to working to an external vision Thomas finds that the greatest criticism comes when approaching his own ideas. “I’m probably a lot harsher on myself with my prints,” he says. “I can be my own worst enemy for personal stuff.”
Whatever the reason for indulging in your own work the resounding rule is to take it seriously and make the time. “In exactly the same way I book in client commissions – I schedule in time to work on ideas I have every month,” he adds. Admitting that this is not always possible in manically busy periods, Thomas still believes that striving to make time for your own work will lead to better results for commissioned projects as you can approach them with a fresh mind. “I think the key to staying on the ball is having a good balance in your projects,” he says.
Size, resolution and image format are concerns that seem to increase in direct proportion to the printed size of the project you’re tackling. While digital has the luxury of passing some of these issues by, in print it’s a big deal. The first step to pegging any dimension niggles is to be clear with your client from the start about what is required, says designer and illustrator Alexander Otto.
With experience working for a variety of clients from Mazda to Diesel Fragrance, Otto believes the second step to success is to make sure that they don’t change their mind halfway through the process. But as any designer with a strong-willed client will know, this is often easier said than done.
There is a safeguard that can be put in place; work big. “If the client doesn’t really know the exact size they will need later, I set up a big size like A2 or A3,” says Otto. Working with smart objects is another thing he recommends. “I always work with tons of Smart Objects in my file, but I think specially if you’re working in an unknown size it’s a clever way to provide quality,” he says.
If your previous focus has mainly been digital chances are that RGB is your home ground. Stepping outside that comfort zone and making the all important colour mode adjustment to CMYK may leave you feeling in a (slightly duller) foreign territory. While old school print designers may advocate using CMYK exclusively, switching is an option if you know how to go about it. Adhemas Batista creates all his images in sRGB colour default: “I am used to seeing brighter colours on the screen and I feel the work gets done faster for me,” he says.
If you’re nodding in agreement to this, here are his tips on converting. “When converting I usually lose some of the strongest tones and I then switch these with colours which work better in CMYK. Since my work is very colourful, it’s tricky. Sometimes it may be necessary to use one or two special colours from pantone to substitute the tones in CMYK that don’t shine as much as they did in RGB.” If you do choose this route keep in mind that it is one more process to add to your workflow and build in time to spend tweaking your colours to get your final print in the exact shades you intended.
Designer Andrew Plant, believes that unusual paper is half the allure when working in print. “It often adds an element of interest or quality to your work,” he says. “Plain paper does no justice. Texture can be represented via digital means but leave a feeling of imitation. Using different mediums may be slightly more time consuming, but is well worth the extra effort, and with some simple planning can be made a lot easier.”
A cross-platform artist, Plant is used to using the same design and representing it across a variety of media. With each medium having different strengths to communicate a message it’s vital to know how to adapt both the concept and technical aspects of a design to get the most out of your chosen output and ensure that each output complements the other. His tip for working with different paper: “It is helpful to take a photograph of the paper you plan to use and set it as a background layer whilst you refine your artwork.”