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Get the best from your certificate printing.

Here are a series of articles to help you maximise the quality of your certificate printing whether you are printing from home on a desktop printer or have gone to a trade shop for higher volume prints.

By the way, all the advice here applies to printing in general so we hope it helps you for whatever your printing needs are.

Disclaimer: Use of this non-exhaustive guide information is completely at your own risk and awardbox and its associates accept no liability for it.

Home printing

Choosing paper & setting print quality

Very important. Choose your paper (also called stock) carefully. You may have to buy a few different glossy or matt coated papers to get the best results.

During testing we found that a small difference in thickness made a major difference when printing. For example; 220gsm slipped in our printer and made the image fall off the edge of the paper but 190gsm (which did feel not as nice and thick) came out perfectly.

Tip: You MUST set your printer settings to the paper type you are using and not just rely on the default settings. Look at your printer handbook or internet search the make of your printer for instructions on how to change the ink and paper settings for a print. They will show you options for photo printing and draft. If you are printing your document onto photo paper then experiment with those options given to you.

For example; if you are using a glossy photo paper then you find the setting for that in your printer dialog software or a matt coated paper then for that. BUT equally you need to change the print quality. However we found little difference between 'better' and 'best' quality but assume that 'best' setting uses more ink.

Another tip: Tip: If you are using photo paper which can be expensive and uses a lot of ink then run a small test first on plain paper to check which side your printer is printing on. Often, some photo papers have a right and wrong side and you don't want to find out you have it upside down when you are using an edge to edge color design!

Commercial printing.

Using a Print Shop

If you have never used a commercial print shop it can be a bit daunting but read through this and it should help you approach them with the right knowledge.

First, not all print companies are made the same. You are looking for a 'digital' print company or 'digital' print shop. It would be difficult for an 'offset litho' print company to be price competitive if you are having just a few prints.

Digital print companies are set up to print from 1 to low hundreds of copies whereas offset litho companies are better for 1000s of copies.

What is artwork?

The printer will ask you if you are providing the “artwork”.

Yes you are, this is the completed PDF file you have downloaded.

What is 'bleed'?

Your print shop may ask if your artwork “bleeds”. This is not something from a horror film but their professional language for “does the image run off the edge of the paper”. If the design you have chosen has white edge all around it then 'no' it does not bleed however if even one edge does go off the edge then 'yes' it bleeds.

Deciding on what to print the template on.

Not as silly as it sounds. Yes paper but it depends on your final use.

If you intend to have printed a lot of copies as blanks or without names to be handwritten later you won't want any paper (called 'stock' by the trade) to be too shiny. The name for shiny stock can be 'Coated, Art or Gloss Art'. This is a coating on the paper which can make handwriting difficult. You can also get Matt coated which again can have issues with handwriting. If you are not handwriting the finished document then the gloss option can look lovely and also will show the document background more sharply than non-coated.

The non-coated paper is likely to accept a pen better but may soften the sharpness of the template design.

Tip: Use your print shop's experience and tell them how you're planning to use the finished print to guide your choice.

Tip: Ask for a small paper sample and test it with the pen you plan to write onto the print.

A word on print cost.

If you have never bought commercial print services before there is a surprising economy of scale. To have 1 to 10 prints can appear expensive per unit compared to having a couple of 1000 so just prepare your expectation.

The danger zone

Things get expensive if something goes wrong 'after' the printing process is commenced if a quantity of prints are required.

These can be:

The colors are not what you expected.

You may have printed a copy at home but then your 500 copies at the print shop look different.

The trimming is not what you expected.

There are large margins of white paper or the image looks small in the middle of the paper.

Your prints are trimmed very close to the edge of your image.

You spot a spelling mistake 'after' the documents have been printed, or worse, someone else spots it.

We recommend that you request and or pay for something a print shop will call a 'proof' before going ahead with the print run.

The proof will show you the actual colors your final documents will be. The print shop may have the facility to tweak the colors to your satisfaction at this stage.

Likewise, with a proof it is worth asking them to 'trim it out' for you again just to make sure there are no surprises once you have multiple copies printed and trimmed.

Commercial printing is an unforgiving medium and once you have your hundreds of printed copies there is no going back. It is always worth a sanity check to have a fresh pair of eyes check over your PDF artwork 'before' going to the print shop. The print shop is not responsible for any issues if you are providing the artwork.