InDesign vs. Print

So this past term I took Book Design & Production with Abbey, the head of Ooligan Press. It was a great class, I feel like I learned quite a bit and I was happy to stretch my design muscles a little bit. I liked it so much that next year I plan on taking another design class (if they offer it, of course).

For the final project we had to pick a public domain book and design the whole thing from cover to cover. It was quite the project, but we worked on it in bits and pieces during the entire term so it wasn’t as overwhelming as I thought it would be. We did the whole shebang, cover designs, interior designs, chose the typeface, leading, point size, designed the front matter, the folios, the margins. (All of this in InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop, by the way.)

We made ALL THE DECISIONS… and it was awesome.

For the final, we had to print out our book. For reasons out of our control, it took much longer than we had originally expected and I waited over a week and a half to get my book printed. Honestly, I didn’t really mind too much, since the project was already complete, you know? It wasn’t like I had to worry about it any longer.

But I did have to wait to actually hold the book.

And, let me tell you, the waiting was horrible!

Why was it horrible?

Well, during class, my professor had specifically mentioned that the way we see our design in InDesign screen would not necessarily reflect exactly on how we would see our design in print. Some things wouldn’t transfer over the way we, as designers, might imagine.

Which let me to think… what if my design looks horrible in print?

Well, after a week and a half of agonizing how it would look, I finally got to hold the book! My professor was right! (Which isn’t terribly shocking if you knew her, she’s right about a lot of things.) Some things really didn’t transfer the way I expected them to. And perhaps I shouldn’t be showing this to the world… perhaps it should be kept hidden in a secret folder on my desktop labeled “Never Open” and I should just forget what I had on screen and just be happy with the print version. But then I would not get the chance to look critically at things one more time. And you would never get to see this behind-the-stage look of what designers need to deal with on a daily basis. So, to that end, I decided to let everyone in on this secret and showcase what was on my InDesign screen and what it looked like in print form.

Here’s the cover on InDesign:


Here’s the cover in print:


Here’s the title page on InDesign:

title page

Here’s the title page in print:


Here’s the chapter heading on InDesign:


Here’s the chapter heading in print:


See the differences? I do. The middle leaf on the cover of the InDesign file is way lighter than actually in print. I would want to fiddle around with the InDesign file so the printed version of the leaf is lighter. The same goes for the hook and sword on the title and chapter headings. Now, while I think the darker hook and sword works fine on the title page in print, the chapter headings are a bit too dark. Because the sword and hook are much darker in print, it overshadows the chapter heading, title, and drop cap a little more than I would’ve liked.

So what did I learn from actually printing the book? Always Print Proofs.

Before you actually print in bulk, print a proof copy that get signed off by everyone. Proofs allow you to see how the book will turn out before you commit everything. They are a valuable tool. (We treated these copies like proofs, simply one more step in that direction.) So I learned that things do indeed look different in print than on screen and there are things I would tweak to make the printed version reflect the InDesign version better.

I still really like how this version turned out and am quite proud of the work I did over the term to make it happen. For being the first book I’ve ever designed cover-to-cover, I think it turned out quite well indeed.

Warm regards,

P.s. – I also redesigned my Edit. Revise. Perfect. logo. Go check it out!