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Part 1: Important Folder Tips

Download-Folder-Design-Cheat-Sheet Go to Part 2: Print Ready Checklist

Whether you’ve purchased custom printed folders before or you’re a total rookie, a little advice always helps the process go smoother. Our print and design experts have compiled their best tips for creating great-looking, effective products.

Every Folder Should:

  • Define who you are. >>>
  • Entice the audience to look inside. >>>
  • Direct the audience to contact information. >>>

Selecting a Product

  • Review stock, coating, and imprint method samples before you order. >>>
  • Choose a heavier stock (at least 100lb or 14pt) for durability. >>>
  • Achieve colorful backgrounds by printing ink on white stock or by allowing your stock color to act as your background. >>>
  • Imprint dark stocks with foil stamping, embossing, debossing, or metallic ink; printing other inks on dark stock can affect color reproduction. >>>
  • Note that die-cut edges will be the stock color, not the ink color. >>>
  • Apply a coating to protect your product and give it a one-of-a-kind feel.>>>
  • Prevent wear and tear with rounded corners, reinforced edges, or lamination. >>>
  • Select expandable or box pockets for carrying more than 25-35 sheets of copy paper; for up to 25-35 sheets, choose standard pockets. >>>

Imprint Methods

  • Use PMS (spot) colors to produce solid colors and their gradients, exact color matches, or designs containing 3 or fewer colors. >>>
  • Print four color process (CMYK) for designs containing 4 or more colors. >>>
  • Set black CMYK areas to 60% Cyan, 40% Magenta, 40% Yellow, and 100% Black in your design software for a richer black color. >>>
  • Use 30% more Cyan than Magenta for truest color in blue CMYK areas. >>>
  • Note that metallic or fluorescent colors are not available in CMYK. >>>
  • Emboss or deboss long-fibered, textured stocks for a more pronounced effect; heavy or laminated stocks will have less depth. >>>
  • Select fonts more than 1pt thick for foil stamped text or more than 1.5pt thick for embossed or debossed text; avoid serif fonts or font sizes smaller than 12pt. >>>

Layout

  • Position pockets and slits so they do not obscure important information.>>>
  • Place important logos, text, or other elements on the right 2/3 of your design to increase their visibility. >>>
  • Leave at least 1/4” space around your logo. >>>

Branding and Legal

  • Match folder colors, design, and messaging to the company’s identity. >>>
  • Comply with font and image copyright policies. >>>
  • Include contact information. >>>

Testing and Proofing

  • Print a reduced size copy of your design, cut it out, and fold it to check placement of elements. >>>
  • Review your complimentary .PDF proof for any inaccuracies. >>>
  • Request a color digital proof for additional assurance. >>>



Print Ready Checklist

Every Folder Should:
  1. Define who you are
    Whether through a recognizable logo, name, or title, recipients should immediately recognize the folder’s point of origin. Place this information somewhere the audience will notice it (typically front-and-center on your folder’s cover).
  2. Entice the audience to look inside
    A folder’s not much use if audiences don’t feel the need to explore its contents. You can use a range of techniques to compel recipients to open your folder, such as a written teaser on the cover, a graphic that suggests an opening motion, or an unusual die-cut closure to encourage interaction.
  3. Direct the audience to contact information
    Provide your reader with a way to seek you out for business or further discussion. Phone numbers, web URLs, or other means of contact should be placed where the recipient is most likely to find them.
Selecting a Product
  • Review stock, coating, and imprint method samples before you order.
    Requesting a sample is the best way to make sure you select the right product. Samples let you interact with stocks, coatings, and imprint methods in person, so you’ll experience a product the same way your customers would. This will help you make the most informed buying decision.
  • Choose a heavier stock (at least 100lb or 14pt) for durability.
    Lightweight stocks may tear or crease under pressure; heavy stocks are sturdy and can increase a folder’s lifespan by resisting wear.
  • Achieve colorful backgrounds by printing ink on white stock or by allowing your stock color to act as your background.
    Four-color process and PMS ink colors are truest on white stock because printing on colorful stock can alter the appearance of the ink color. When printing on a colorful stock, it’s best to simply use the stock’s natural color as your design background.
  • Imprint dark stocks with foil stamping, embossing, debossing, or metallic ink; printing other inks on dark stock can affect color reproduction.
    Since dark stocks can interfere with four-color process (CMYK) and PMS inks, textured or metallic imprint methods work best with dark stocks because they don’t use any ink that can be altered by the paper color.
  • Note that die-cut edges will be the stock color, not the ink color.
    When you print a colorful background on white stock, the edges of the panels will remain white, even with two-sided printing. Likewise, a colorful stock will show the stock’s color along the die-cut edge.
  • Apply a coating to protect your product and give it a one-of-a-kind feel.
    Coatings help protect your product and can be applied to Side One or Side Two. They can also prevent smudged ink on four color process or PMS colors printed on coated stock.
  • Prevent wear and tear with round corners, reinforced edges, or lamination.
    These options help make your folder more durable. Round corners and reinforced edges can help prevent dog-earing, tearing, and other damage. Lamination provides similar protection in addition to preventing stains and water damage.
  • Select expandable or box pockets for carrying more than 25-35 sheets of copy paper; for up to 25-35 sheets, choose standard pockets.
    Most folder pockets can carry 25-35 sheets of standard copy paper, like you use in a home printer. Expandable or box pockets have more room to carry larger amounts of paper or thicker print materials, like pamphlets and catalogues.
Imprint Methods
  • Use PMS (spot) colors to produce solid colors and their gradients, exact color matches, or designs containing 3 or fewer colors.
    PMS (spot color) printing uses pre-mixed inks to create solid colors and their gradients to achieve exact color matches. PMS is best for non-photographic designs or those that use three colors or less.
  • Print four color process (CMYK) for designs containing 4 or more colors.
    Four color printing combines four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) to create a spectrum of colors. It works best for photos or designs with four or more colors. Because CMYK inks are mixed at the time of printing, these colors can vary, especially when reproducing navy blue or orange hues.
  • Set black CMYK areas to 60% Cyan, 40% Magenta, 40% Yellow, and 100% Black in your design software for a richer black color.
    You’d think 100% black would be pure black, but the color actually looks richer and deeper when you combine all four colors at these percentages. You can set these colors in Photoshop and Illustrator by clicking “Window,” then “Color.”
  • Use 30% more Cyan than Magenta for truest color in blue CMYK areas.
    Sometimes, blue areas in clients’ designs looking a little purple. When selecting colors, you can achieve a truer blue by clicking “Window,” then “Color” in Photoshop or Illustrator. Set the Cyan 30% higher than the Magenta. (Example: 40% Magenta, 70% Cyan)
  • Note that metallic or fluorescent colors are not available in CMYK.
    Metallic and fluorescent colors cannot be reproduced with CMYK inks. Consider spot printing these colors into your design with PMS inks.
  • Emboss or deboss long-fibered, textured stocks for a more pronounced effect; heavy or laminated stocks will have less depth.
    Long-fibered stocks help embossing or debossing stand out on the stock for the most dramatic effect, while shorter fibers may be more fragile and less able to provide depth. Laminate coatings can also restrict the depth of the emboss or deboss, lessening its visual impact.
  • Select fonts more than 1pt thick for foil stamped text or more than 1.5pt thick for embossed or debossed text; avoid serif fonts or font sizes smaller than 12pt.
    These imprint methods use pressure and engraved stamps to apply foil or create indentations. Tiny, detailed areas—such as small fonts or the “feet” on serif letters—often won’t make a strong enough impression to show up correctly on the finished product. Embossed or debossed elements should be at least 1.5 pt thick and spaced at least 1.5pt apart. Foil stamped elements should be at least 1 pt thick and spaced at least that distance apart.
Layout
  • Position pockets and slits so they do not obscure important information.
    Visibility is key to good design. If a pocket obscures your logo or your contact information is cut in half by a slit, your audience may have trouble understanding your message, which can damage brand recognition. Placing valuable information in open areas—away from possible obstructions—makes your design flow more easily from one point to another.
  • Place important logos, text, or other elements on the right 2/3 of your design to increase their visibility.
    When recipients hold a folder, their hands conceal part of the left side. Placing important elements here could reduce their visibility resulting in important elements going unnoticed.
  • Leave at least 1/4” space around your logo.
    Cramped, claustrophobic designs make it difficult to distinguish a logo. Placing white space around your logo to makes it stand out for greater brand recognition.
Branding and Legal
  • Match folder colors, design, and messaging to the company’s identity.
    Consistency breeds brand recognition and trust. If a folder’s style or message is noticeably different from your other branding, it may confuse your audience.
  • Comply with font and image copyright policies.
    It may not seem like a big deal, but misusing a font or image can lead to a lawsuit if you’re not careful. Research copyright policies for your fonts and images. Some may require you to credit the original artist, while others may be “All Rights Reserved” and not usable under any circumstances.
  • Include contact information.
    Great marketing is useless if there’s no way for the customer to follow up with you. Include contact information—such as a phone number, URL, address, or other method—somewhere on your design. Pockets or back covers are popular choices, because they make contact info accessible yet not distracting.
Testing and Proofing
  • Print a reduced size copy of your design, cut it out, and fold it to check placement of elements.
    Print your design on a home printer, and cut it into the shape of the product. Then fold it to look like a finished folder. This simulates what your product will look like when it’s fully constructed, so you can check that design elements are positioned on properly on the panels.
  • Review your complimentary .PDF proof for any inaccuracies.
    We include a free .PDF proof with every order. It’s important to check this digital document for errors before authorizing the print job. Fixing a mistake on a .PDF file is much easier than making corrections after your design goes to print.
  • Request a color digital proof for additional assurance.
    A color digital proof (also known as a laser proof) is a hard copy of your design that’s digitally printed, so you can get an extremely accurate idea of what your product will look like. Laser proofs work best for four-color process, as they don’t recreate PMS colors well. Costs for these proofs may vary depending on your product or the number of proofs you request. Contact us to learn more about proofing.