Using the right design program for the job!

Design Blog, Graphic Design

Illustration of graphic design programs

In my last post, we talked about how your print shop should be your first call. In this post, we’re gonna dive a little deeper into one of the reasons why that should be. It’s all about Design Programs

Have you ever made a postcard, flyer, or business card to be printed, only to have your local print shop come back and say they need it in a different format or made with a different program?

I can promise you, they are not being lazy. 90% of the time they simply want to ensure that what you see on your screen is what get’s printed on their printers.

Why does that matter? Don’t they see the same thing I do?

Well, no, not usually, and I’ll explain why.

I’ll try not to get too technical, but there are many factors at play that can alter, yes I said alter, what you see and what the print shop sees. I won’t go into great detail (that may be a post for another day), but these are the issues that could happen when they open your file:

  • Missing fonts. With so many fonts out there, they may not have the font you have. Programs like Word are notorious for just substituting a font and not even telling you. So they may not know that you picked a nice script font, and all they see is Times New Roman.
  • Margin Shift. Some program preferences could be different between machines and your margin could adjust slightly and throw off all your line endings in a paragraph. Again, Microsoft Word is notorious for this, because it looks at the printer driver, and determines if it can print within the printers limits. This may not sound like a huge deal, but if you need certain words to stay together (like a company name) that could be an issue.
  • Leading, Kerning, Type size, hyphenation, and more. Again, program preferences could be different. Especially in corporate settings where your IT dept. has more control over user settings and could just set preferences for hyphenation according to the brand standards. Some of those preferences don’t always carry with the document.


So what can you do to ensure that your file is print-ready before sending it to the printer? Well, by using the correct program for the job.

Here are the most common design programs, and what they are best used for:

  • Microsoft Word: Document, whether short or long documents, letters, labels. Can use graphics, but use sparingly.
  • Microsoft Excel: Spreadsheets, tabular data. Not recommended for designing documents.
  • Microsoft Powerpoint: Presentations. Not recommended for document creation.
  • Microsoft Publisher: Layout Program. Slightly better than Microsoft Word.
  • Adobe InDesign: Layout program. Can create documents, cards, flyers, banners, posters, just about anything that needs to have text and graphics combined. Much more control than Microsoft Word or PowerPoint.
  • Adobe Photoshop: Raster-based image-editing program. Think photos. Use for editing photos, compositing photos, or web graphics.
  • Adobe Illustrator: Vector-based graphics program. Think logos. Best for logos, line-based illustrations.
  • Adobe Acrobat: PDF program. Convert your Microsoft or Adobe files to a PDF format that can be opened by anyone using Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Reader. This is the best format to send files to printers. But, typically cannot be edited, unless you have the full Adobe Acrobat. Editing capability is limited. The best setting to use is “Press Ready” with Crops and Bleeds turned on.


There are many more design programs out there, so make sure to double-check with your printer which files they can open or prefer to be sent.

Using the correct program for the job can save you a headache later down the road.

Or, you can hire me to do the work for you!