But here's the rub. Some designers know digital deeply and intimately, but have very little knowledge of the ins and outs of print production. And print is a very different animal. What you see on screen is not necessarily what you get in final output when a press (even a digital press) is generating the product.
The one thing you must know and discuss with a designer is this: digital colors and print colors are created completely differently, so how do I get a consistently good product for both e-books and paperbacks?
Digital colors are built from lights in red, green and blue (designers call it RGB). The maximum amount of all three combined creates...WHITE! Weird, right? This is how computers create color. If you only do e-books, you're golden. What you see on screen is an excellent representation of the final product.
|RGB or digital color. Image source: wikipedia|
Print colors, on the other hand, are build from inks in cyan (a medium turquoise), magenta, yellow and black (designers call it CMYK). The maximum amount of all four combined colors is...BLACK, like the bottom of the Mariana trench in density of darkness. Because the RGB system of a computer monitor makes color differently than a printing device, what you see on screen is not exactly what you get when output onto paper. There's translation involved. And if you want your paperback cover to look as attractive as you e-book, you need to be careful about color choice.
|CMYK or "process" color used in printing|
Is you mind blown?
Can you see why you might want to discuss color with your designer? Or, if you're a do-it-yourself-er, why you need to educate yourself a bit?
When choosing solid colors for a design, you need to see swatches from a "process color" swatch book to really know what your output will look like. A nice onscreen color might become a muddy or hazy color when translated to CMYK. This is especially true for darker shades of blue from royal to navy.
Another tip--especially for colored text--you want those colors to be composed of the fewest number of inks. Remember that the print process involves laying down tiny dots of ink next to each other. Newer digital presses are pretty good at staying aligned, but there's always a chance that off-register problems can arise. Here's an illustration that shows the ugly result of misalignment in registration.
|cyan and magenta are misaligned; image from Wikipedia|
For example, when selecting between two emerald greens, such as these two:
|PMS 348: C=97, Y=95, M=17|
|PMS 355: C=93, Y=96|
If you're planning to only create e-books, someone with expertise in Web design might be perfectly capable of creating a great cover design. If you plan to do both e-book and a paperback, however, it's a good idea to work with a designer with some print experience. And the more you know, the better you'll be able to communicate and make wise decisions.
And do-it-yourself-ers, take the time to learn about the print process. A few resources I recommend are:
Printing and Prepress Basics
Claudia McCue's book Real World Print Production with Adobe Creative Suite Applications
From Design Into Print: Preparing Graphics and Text for Professional Printing by Sandee Cohen
The Non-Designers Design Book by Robin Williams
Do you feel more empowered as a consumer of design services? What other questions or concerns do you have about producing print books?