Tips & Tricks for your Graphic Design Portfolio | InDesign Columns

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, Jul 08, 2011 @ 04:37 PM

Adobe InDesign continues to refine and improve it's tools. The video below is a review of the Column Splitting and Spanning feature, which helps eliminate the need for multiple text boxes.  This is ESPECIALLY handy for magazine and newsletter layout, where you might have multiple headers and the potential for far too many text boxes.  If you've been doing Graphic Design and Page Layout for very long, you've no doubt already dealt with clients or editors who've made very substantial changes, maybe even massive re-writes, which requires a major amount of reflowing and rearranging of your layouts.   Life will be so much easier if you use this simple and handy technique to eliminate unnecessary text boxes and keep things neat, tidy, and easy to rework if needed.

Another important point to make is this: The faster and more efficient you can work and rework your projects, the more time you'll have to take on more.  Your clients will be happy with how quickly you can turn out their projects, and you'll be happy with the time you'll save.  Just remember, when everyone is so happy, that Universal Printing was here for you the whole time, sharing our tips, tricks, and experience, to help you become a better designer and have better files for printing.

And as always, many more tutorial videos like the one above can be found on our YouTube channel.  Let us know which tips and tricks you'd like to see!  Leave your suggestions in the comments field below, or leave a comment or video response on any of our YouTube tutorial videos.



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Universal Printing
Offering quality printing and communications solutions to
Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the Triangle since 1979.


Tags: graphic design, Adobe InDesign tips, tips and tricks, setting up your files, commercial printing, CS5 tutorials, product reviews

Tips & Tricks for your Graphic Design Portfolio | Coils and Spirals

Posted by Universal Printing on Thu, Jun 09, 2011 @ 03:36 PM

Adobe Illustrator has also been the Graphic Designer's "go-to" program for creating and manipulating vector based artwork. It's withstood the test of time, and each release keeps getting better and better.  Granted, some people will always defend their personal preference (Like those die-hard, loyal CorelDRAW fanatics, who are convinced their program is the best.)  Personally, I actually enjoy illustrating with Flash because I think Bézier curves are a bit archaic and Flash handles line art in a more fluid and hand drawn manner.... but that just MY opinion.

The point is: regardless of personal preferences, Adobe Illustrator is top of the pack and rightfully so.  Also, no matter how long you've been using Adobe Illustrator, there's a good chance that you've barely scratched the surface when it comes to all the neat effects and features they've packed into it.

This week our Art Director, John Francis, shares a couple of very cool features: 3D revolving and surface mapping.  Check it out and have fun playing with these effects. In our example, we're making coils and spirals, but you can use the same process to make all kinds very cool 3D patterns and objects.

More tutorial videos like the one shown above, can be found on our YouTube channel.  Let us know which tips and tricks you'd like to see!  Leave your suggestions in the comments field below, or leave a comment or video response on any of our YouTube tutorial videos.



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Universal Printing
Offering quality printing and communications solutions to
Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the Triangle since 1979.


Tags: graphic design, tips and tricks, commercial printing, digital printing, CS5 tutorials, product reviews, Illustrator Training video, training video

5 MORE sites every Graphic Design & Printing Professional should know

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, May 20, 2011 @ 03:24 PM

Our previous blog (6 sites EVERY Graphic Designer or Printing Professional should know) was so well received, that we decided to share five MORE. Check out these sites for even MORE tools and information!

If you're looking for JUST the right font for your next printing or graphic design project, your first stop should be  They are like the Facebook of Fonts, with a cool community atmosphere where typographers can share their latest creations and talk about type.  The Forums section allows you to interact with peers and professionals for help recognizing a font, or getting feedback on new fonts and logotypes. Plus, their grouping and categorizing of all those fonts makes it SO easy to find what you need.

Maybe we're a little biased... but these guys have been linking to our templates and resources for years. It's an online community of talented designers and prepress professionals that share a wealth of knowledge. You can also get critiques on your current or past design projects. But it's not for the faint of heart; These guys are tough, fair, sometimes harsh, and the occasional newb will get pwned! But still, it's a great resource for finding answers to just about any question.

If there's ONE thing better than an irreverent Aussie, it's MANY irreverent Aussies that knows a helluva lot about ART! These guys have daily updates about anything and everything going on in art, print, web, and design. Just this past week they covered events in their native Australia, over in Morocco, an all the way up to Portland, Maine! They don't miss a beat, and neither should you!

Most every design professional either currently HAS, or HAD a subscription to HOW Magazine. All of us at Universal Printing are proud supporters of paper; so while there's no substitution for the printed magazine in your hands, we can't deny the shear awesomeness of HOW's online presence. They have forums, blogs, tools, lessons, lists of events, and so much more.

Who doesn't love Photoshop?!  EVERYONE knows how cool it is, but let's face it... unless you're a graphic designer or prepress professional with at least 5 years of solid experience, then you haven't even STARTED to scratch the surface. (And sorry, you Photoshop SE and Photoshop Elements users, but you're even FURTHER behind!) Fortunately, the folks at Psdtuts+ have a TON of easy-to-follow tutorials on every possible effect and technique. Definitely a "Must-Bookmark" for your browser.




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Universal Printing
Offering quality printing and communications solutions to
Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the Triangle since 1979.


Tags: graphic design, tips and tricks, setting up your files, commercial printing, printing services, business solutions, product reviews

6 sites EVERY Graphic Designer or Printing Professional should know

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, Mar 04, 2011 @ 02:50 PM

These six websites are LOADED with great tools and information.  If they aren't bookmarked in your browser yet, they SHOULD be!

Trish Witkowski (self-described “Folding Fanatic”) is the driving force behind this creative informational site. If their handy InDesign plug-ins don’t interest you, maybe their YouTube Channel will.  It's full of creative ideas for custom folds that can make any of your design pieces standout from the pack.  They even have additional Fun Fold Facts available to impress and inspire you.

Trying to figure out what font was used for that logo or headline?  Simply upload an image file of the type in question, and they will search their extensive library of fonts to find the closest matches along with links of where to the purchase them, if needed.  They also feature Hot New Fonts and a vast array of additional typography tools and resources.

Of COURSE we are going to toot our own horn a bit, but it’s our blog and we make the rules!  In all seriousness though… our traffic doesn’t lie, and the numbers of links and referrals we get only help support our belief that we have one of the most informative websites of any printing company out there today.  We have assembled a bunch of handy tools (like our Proportion Calculator, Folding Guides, and Envelope Diagrams) and our Blog continues to have more and more helpful hints and information.  In fact, feel free to fill out the Subscribe by Email form at the upper right of this page to have our blog posts delivered right to your inbox.

These folks proudly claim “the world's largest library of brand logos in vector format available to download for free.” It doesn’t get any clearer than that!  It doesn’t matter whether you need the logo for AAA or ZhuZhu Pets or anything in between, these guys probably have it available as a vector file.

As host to several utilities, downloadable resources, and user forums, this website is a place where any graphic designer or graphic communications professional can submerge themselves in for hours.  Their forums are a great resource for sharing information, tips, and critiques (whether solicited or not!)  Their ever-changing gallery of images helps to get your creative juices flowing. They even have current job listings for Full-Time or Freelance Graphic Design positions available all across the country.

Petr Staníček describes himself as a “professional designer and developer, amateur musician and bardling, dropout typographer, happy father of two beautiful daughters, mathemagician, lazy linguistician, and almost professional cook.”  To us, he’s the cool creator of this handy web app that does EXACTLY what it says: Helps you design color schemes.  Every graphic artist and web designer runs into a mental block at some point, trying to figure out new ways to make your pages stand out. This tools is very easy to use and when your satisfied with the results, you can export the palette as HTML or XML, or as an ACO to import right into Photoshop.



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Universal Printing
Offering quality printing and communications solutions to
Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the Triangle since 1979.


Tags: graphic design, tips and tricks, setting up your files, commercial printing, printing services, business solutions, product reviews

Office 2010: Good, But Still Not Graphic Design Software

Posted by Universal Printing on Wed, Dec 08, 2010 @ 11:30 AM

Earlier this year Microsoft released their newest Office bundle, Office 2010.  For many people who upgrade to Office 2007 a few years ago, their Ribbon Interface was a huge and often unhappy surprise.  They changed their entire navigation layout, making it very difficult for even the most knowledgeable Word, Excel, and PowerPoint users to find what they were looking for. Most annoying was the lack of a File menu, which had been replaced with a strange little “Office Pearl.”  In Office 2010, they have brought back the File menu, and even enhanced it to become a very complete File Panel complete with file properties, permissions options, and other features making for easier document sharing and collaboration.

One of my favorite new features is in Word, the Paste Preview. It automatically shows you how your pasted information will appear depending on which Paste Format you chose. It’s a relatively minor thing, sure. But it’s still very helpful especially when Cutting and Pasting from webpages, which are often unpredictable.

Universal Printing reviews Office 2010

As with any release, there are a few bugs.  For some unknown reason, the 64-bit version doesn’t offer all of the features as the 32-bit install, but for most users the speed and file save advantage might make it worthwhile.

Also, the way Office 2010 is set-up after installation, it makes setting new file associations difficult.  In the case of Excel, for example, only half of the file formats offered in Office 2007 will automatically open in Office 2010. You can still manually open them through the File menu, but this becomes a little annoying. Microsoft is aware of this known bug also, and is allegedly working on a fix.

The biggest issue that Microsoft Office users seem to be complaining about is the lack of Upgrade pricing.  While some people will opt to purchase the much more economical “Home and Student” Version, those wanting everything included in the Professional Version will to pay full price.

It should also be mentioned, that while Office 2010 is a very comprehensive Business Software package, it still lacks a lot of the features necessary to make files that work well for commercial print. Most people will continue to set up their files in Word or PowerPoint, and pay to have us fix their bleeds or color separations. Microsoft's "desktop publishing" solution, Publisher, still has a clunky interface, and it isn't intuitive in setting up files for commercial printing.  In those cases it is best to produce the highest resolution PDF you can create, and cross your fingers.  Please visit our Software Requirements page for a full list of file formats we accept.

Also, if you aren't sure of the best way to set up your files, you should explore our Graphic Design services. We can either offer expert consultation or simply your project for you.

Tags: graphic design, setting up your files, commercial printing, Universal Printing, business solutions, product reviews

Staying Ahead of the Graphic Design Software Game!

Posted by John Francis on Tue, Nov 09, 2010 @ 11:00 AM

Universal Printing installed our copies of Adobe Creative Suite 5 three days after the major upgrade release in April 2010. We’ve had a few patches and a few minor program updates to address crashing, some PDF creation issues and general compatability, but all-in-all, it’s a worthwhile, stable upgrade with some nice new features.

Universal Printing reviews Adobe CS5


I always like new goodies. I’m a six year-old at holiday time when new graphic design software arrives on my desk. "Let’s install it and see what it does!"  Inevitably it crashes, as many new initial releases do, but we plug along to learn why it crashed. Can we find a work-around? What happens when a client adopts early too… can we get their job to rip?

At Universal, we know that there are always early adopters of new software. We strive to adopt software upgrades on or near release dates so that we may discover the problems and find solutions. We understand that many of our customers are like us: anxiously awaiting new software and we want the bragging rights of, “We’re using it first!” Let’s get it, install it and be ready when the jobs come in.

Now that six months have passed since it’s release, I can say that CS5 is working smoothly in our design and prepress workflows.  Some of the great new features of just InDesign have made the upgrade worth adopting early in my opinion.

I like to consider myself a production-oriented designer: work efficiently and churn out jobs. I don’t care for large learning curves and programs without option improvements slowdowning my pace. I’m still not a fan of multiple mouse movements and I use keyboard shortcuts whenever possible.

For years I have wanted multiple page sizes built into InDesign and not as an additional plug-in. It’s here. For hyper-organized designers like me, it’s nice to keep a business card, a letterhead and an envelope for a client in one file. You can manage just one color palette and one list of style sheets. Additionally with multiple page sizes, you can create fold-outs and set-up tri-fold brochures with folds that allow for folding and trim off of the ‘short’ panel. Trifold brochures are never 11 divded by three. You need to accommodate for folding. (See our folding guide for help with this.)

Another great new feature of InDesign CS5 is Column Spanning. Say you have a three column text box and you want your heading to span all three columns. Previously you had to create two separate text boxes – one for the heading and one for the copy. Now you keep your heading in the copy box and tell it how many columns you’d like it to span and as you adjust the copy box size, the header adjusts with it – it’s great for callouts too. You can span text across column boxes anywhere in the copy flow.

Step and Repeat has had a revamp as well. Instead of just being able to step horizontally or vertically, you can now step both X and Y and create grids.

I have mentioned to other colleagues before that I don’t like to run Adobe Bridge. It’s a ‘portfolio’ style browser that ties together the CS5 suite to browse photos, snippets, clippings, etc. My feelings are that Bridge is a memory hog and slows down the system; just one more thing running in the background. CS5 debuted the ‘Mini-Bridge’ in InDesign which makes placing folders of photos and items easy by displaying just their previews in a simple palette within InDesign which releases the system from the entire Bridge file management system; it’s like a handy library of your images and stuff in one palette – very handy if your working on image intensive workflows like catalogs.

Lastly, the Layers Palette in InDesign has been improved. It’s more like Illustrator with sublayers and the ability to select everything on a layer at once. For a long time, one of my beefs with the Creative Suite has been that, yes, they look similar, but things are not in the same place or have different icons, or functionally not compatible across the suite programs. CS5 is finally starting to close that gap and programs are starting feel similar and functionality is starting to carry over from program to program with in the Suite.

Overall, I have been pleased with CS5 since day one, but I’m a techno-geek who would have installed it even if I knew it would crash right after install. It works well in our automated workflows and direct to plate systems with just a few minor quirks remaining to be fixed. I would recommend upgrading if you’ve been dragging your feet.

Tags: Adobe InDesign tips, tips and tricks, commercial printing, Universal Printing, printing services, CS5 tutorials, product reviews