25 Jul, 2017

How to make your wedding album design ready for printing

Thanks to the increasingly widespread DIY culture of the Internet age, plenty of couples feel confident to create their own wedding album design. This trend has enabled the 21st century bride and groom to create their perfect unique wedding album completely by themselves. Sweet Memory Albums - as a maker of high-quality flush-mount wedding albums as well as a software company that has developed a fully featured web-based online editor - has frequently been positively surprised by the artistic creativity and technical skill demonstrated by our customers. However, we often discover small yet crucial mistakes when making our customers designs ready for printing.

This article highlights the most common mistakes and pitfalls when it comes to making your wedding album design ready for printing.

Problem 1 - Too small outer margins result in cut-off pictures and asymmetry.

During the flush-mount album making process the bleed around the photos is cut off after printing to create pages with clean edges. The cut-off bleed commonly measures around 1/5" and is typically indicated by the design software. However, the designer needs to keep in mind that the exact amount that is cut off can vary by around 1/20". Usually, such a small difference does not create any problems, but it can have a negative impact on the end result in two cases:

making wedding album design ready The designer has placed pictures adjacent to the outer margin without any space between margin and picture. As a result, part of the picture gets cut off together with the bleed.
making wedding album design ready The designer has left tiny or no spaces between the pictures and the outer margins throughout the whole spread design and expects a symmetrical output once printed. Unfortunately, if unlucky the top bleed will by 1/6" and the bottom bleed only 1/4" in which case the end result will look asymmetrical and possibly odd.

The solution: leave generous outer margins OR make your photos reach into the bleed.

Make sure to leave an extra 1/5" margin between the outer margin and your pictures additionally to the bleed. That way, there is no risk that any of your pictures will get cut off accidentally. Also, even if top and bottom bleed vary in size, the resulting asymmetry won't be noticeable to the human eye and the end result will still look perfectly well aligned.

making wedding album design ready

Alternatively and particularly to fix the asymmetry problem, you can ensure that all your photos reach well into the bleed. That way, a small part of the photos will get cut off when creating the album (the part that reaches into the bleed), but your pages will come out very symmetrical.

making wedding album design ready

Problem 2: Small alignment mistakes are overlooked.

Since the average album design can easily include over a hundred individual pictures, it is easy to make alignment mistakes - e.g. three pictures placed in a row, one of which stands out by 1-2 pixels. Those mistakes will hardly ruin your wedding album design completely, but can be a nuisance and should be avoided. Common alignment mistakes are:

making wedding album design ready Pixel alignment mistakes in uniform rows or columns of pictures, e.g. on picture standing out by a pixel or two.
making wedding album design ready Clipping mistakes, e.g. asymmetrical zooming and panning that results in a "chopped-off" head or missing feet.
making wedding album design ready Irregular picture borders, e.g. all pictures have a uniform border of 4 pixels, one picture stands out with a border of only 3 pixels.
making wedding album design ready Tiny gaps between pictures, e.g. on a spread that is designed consistently with adjacent pictures without gaps between each other - however a 1 pixel vertical gap shows on one of the pictures

The solution: double-check each picture - manually or automatically

Advanced design software will include functionality that warns you in the case of alignment errors such as alignment validation or a grid functionality. If your editor is not that sophisticated, you must give each of your pictures a close final check-up or even better - ask somebody else to do it for you. Often it helps to revisit your album a short while after you finished it - let's say after a 24 hours break - for the final check-up.

Problem 3: Insufficient picture resolution for eventual printing size.

When working on your design, it is easy to lose sight of the eventual printing resolution of each picture. Considering that the spread of a 12"x12" album requires a size of at least 6000 pixels in width for a perfect printing result, it is easy to understand that those mistakes happen frequently. What's more, often the wedding pictures stem from different cameras and have different resolutions. Since even small photos look good on an average computer monitor, the following mistakes are hard to avoid:

  • Low resolution photos are scaled to sizes above their limits - therefore they come out blurred once printed.
  • Photos are zoomed into too much - during the design process it comes in handy to zoom into a photo to highlight certain details, e.g. a close-up on the kissing couple that crops out the priest. Unfortunately, excessive zooming makes a small area of a picture very large and can even on a high-resolution photo result in a blurred printing result.
  • Photos are placed in the background and come out blurred once printed. Even high-resolution photos typically lack the enormous dimensions required for a perfect printing result if used as whole-spread backgrounds. This must not be a problem, since backgrounds are usually mostly covered by smaller pictures on top of them. Still, if your background shows important details, it can look bad, if it does not come out sharp once printed.

The solution: use automatic resolution checking functionality, use only high resolution photos and be extra careful.

Most non-professionals will find themselves overwhelmed by this resolution problem. Therefore, quality design software provides DPI validation functionality that shows a warning whenever a photo is made too large, zoomed in too much or used as background even though it is not suitable. If your design software does not provide such a functionality, you are well advised to use high-resolution photos only, get professional assistance or change to another software.

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