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Five steps to printing better documents

Marco Tabini, | April 12, 2011
Designing and printing documents can be complex, but there are plenty of resources that can help you achieve better results even if you're not a designer. Here are five ideas to get you started.

Speaking of the Web, Macworld has published a number of articles that both describe new fonts and provide guidance on how to use them. There are also several sites where you can find free fonts—my favourites, for example, are Da Font and The League of Moveable Type.


3. Finding images

Adding a picture or two is a great way to spruce up your documents. Unfortunately, creating graphics and shooting photos takes time and is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Luckily, there are plenty of resources available on the Web. Microsoft, for example, makes a great collection of clipart available to Office users.

If you prefer real photographs, you can check out one of many stock image Websites. Some offer free images, while others charge varying amounts of money for the use of their illustrations and photos, generally based on their quality and resolution. Naturally, you can always scour Flickr for the thousands of images that are free for use under a Creative Commons license.

Regardless of which route you choose, it’s essential that you understand the terms under which an image is licensed before using it. The penalties for illegal use—whether intentional or not—can be very stiff, and many stock licensing companies are aggressively pursuing those who run afoul of copyright rules. If in doubt, just email the photographer to make sure.


4. Using the right printer

Each type of printer is better suited to a particular kind of content. For example, inkjets are typically better at rendering images than color lasers, while lasers ten to perform better on text and black-and-white documents. Again, this is a generalization, as many inkjets render text nicely and certain color lasers do well with printing photos.

If you are unsure of which way to go and your budget allows for it, it’s a great idea to simply walk over to your nearest print shop and ask them for advice (and, possibly, for some samples). Stores like Best Buy, Office Max, and Staples often have printers on display as well as live print samples to look at.

Naturally, it helps to be prepared, especially if you're having your document printed professionally. Make sure you’re familiar with the appropriate printer jargon, and that you save your document in a format that the print shop will be able to read without requiring special fonts or software, like PDF-X.


5. Choosing the best paper

The final step in the printing process is picking the right paper. If all you have ever used is the cheap copy paper that most offices buy for their everyday print operations, you will be amazed at the difference that the right stock can make.


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