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Designing for Upscale Print


Print is magnificent. 

It lifts campaigns, educates, introduces, identifies, and drives traffic to storefronts and websites. The basic elements of print involve the material to print on and the content to print, but the magic is in the combination of the message and the design. Even business cards have a message! Working with a designer can help elevate the impression every printed and promotional product brings to your customer’s story. 

Designing for print that brings the cache of a luxury brand requires everyone in the chain to understand what is possible with the print technologies available. There are practical issues concerning the substrate or promotional item, and there are conversations about print budgets, but they are worth having because adding embellishments like spot varnishes and foil, leveraging interesting substrates, and using typography creatively can take print from ordinary to extraordinary.

Choosing the Right Print Materials

Most print products have options for papers and items that span cost ranges. One way to take a product to the next level is to select a more interesting paper, cup shape or base color, banner size, or sign format. Design business cards for curved edges on a thicker stock and consider spot varnishes and foiling to highlight key design areas. The 4over team can help you select from their vast library of options, and they might surprise you with their range of high-quality material options to support upscale designs.  

Designing for different materials does take planning and skill, so consider building some guidelines to help them. Materials that are porous, like textured papers or fabric banners, absorb more ink unless there is an undercoating to keep the ink at the surface. Work printed on these materials might miss the impact of saturated colors unless the designer sets appropriate ink limits. Work printed on metallic substrates, vinyl signs, or harder surfaces like cups and keychains will benefit from the careful control of ink limits and great color management that is aware of the substrate used. 

Great Graphics Tell a Story

Look at luxury brands in any industry, and you will see great graphic content with color use tuned to the brand and market they serve. Are you aiming for the GenZ market? Look for bold colors and innovative use of graphic elements and typefaces. For the Millennials, go for bright colors used in unexpected ways, like teal grass or textured cars. Change the color palette to metallics and deep, rich colors. 

Consider how logo designs and other graphic elements will look on the substrate and the final piece after finishing. More is not always better when it’s time to design the upscale look for business cards and other printed products. Look at where graphics are placed so they don’t span a fold, crease, or glue line. Think about how graphics will wrap around a cup or mug. Remember that signs and banners are mounted, so keep the logo and other elements safe from grommet holes and frame boundaries. A design layer containing the die line template for complex folded work or anything with physical elements that could interfere with graphic elements is the best recommendation.

If the design includes embellishment layers like spot or flood varnishes, matte coatings, foil, and overprinted spot colors, the design file should manage those in dedicated layers since they often involve multiple processes during print production. Label the layers so that the production team will recognize them easily.

Choosing the Font for Your Print

People form instant impressions of printed work. They absorb the color, material, shape, and type to decide how to feel about what they are viewing. Print brings emotion to the business equation. Designers have control over the impression they make when they select colors, materials, and typefaces. 

Consider these examples:

Observe how the same number of characters in the same type size can occupy more or less room depending on the typeface. Readability is another consideration since you want your message to be understood. Select typefaces that give the impression you want and test the design. Small text may become unreadable on some substrates or products. If you plan to use light-colored text on a dark background, consider larger type sizes. 

An upscale look is enhanced with type selection that lifts the message, but it can be hurt by typefaces mismatched to the intent. Avoid scripts and flourishes for long runs of text, but don’t fear condensed, semi-bold, and all-caps variations to add distinction.

Focus on the Details

Finally, pay attention to the details. When designing upscale print products, pay attention to the details. This includes text alignment, character and line spacing, space between your elements, and the overall composition. The fastest way to lose the value of an upscale design is to miss the simple things.


Your 4over team can help you identify excellent substrates, innovative finishes, and luxurious embellishments for every upscale project your clients have.

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As one of North America’s largest trade-only printers and a trusted source for print fulfillment since 2001, 4over helps print, design, and other creative services resellers grow profitable businesses. We do this by offering a vast selection of quality print products at guaranteed trade-only prices. Our expansive e-commerce catalog includes everything from standard marketing collateral like business cards and brochures, to harder-to-find specialty, large format, and promotional products.

Our capabilities span gang run offset, digital, grand format, and promotional printing across six production facilities, staffed by experienced, committed operations teams. With locations across North America, state-of-the-art equipment such as powerful Incas and Scodix UV machines, and fast turnarounds, 4over offers our customers savings, selection, and scale. We serve large franchise printers, single print shops, print brokers, graphic designers, photographers, and every type of print reseller in between. Learn more at Trade.4over.com

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