The Importance of Good Design

Here at Printworks Online, we offer a full design service across all of our products. It may be a little extra cash, but it will work wonders to ensure that what we print for you looks its best. The best design is always about putting communication first and we are always mindful of what a design should achieve when we start creating.

There is more to our design service…

Aside from choosing to have artwork created when you purchase one of our products, we can also offer you a broader range of design services. Our team of designers are on hand to offer you services such as logo design, full rebranding, and even large format work such as banners.

Let us help you develop your idea into reality…

If you’re not sure exactly what product to go for or what the design should be that’s no problem. We’re more than happy to discuss the options that are best for you and come up with design ideas based on what you are looking for.

Looking for that little bit extra…

We regularly go above and beyond with our customers to offer something a little different, from die-cut business cards to luxury foil finishes. Just give us a ring on 0843 538 5025 to see what we can offer.

And if you’re still not sure what our design service can offer you, here are just a couple of examples of what we have done in the past:

Panda Print
Wallpaper leaflet
Printworks PosterGo-Racing-Flyer-Web

A History of Printing

Early forms of printing can be traced back to Ancient China. During the Han Dynasty designs were printed onto silk using carved wooden blocks. Ink was applied directly onto the wooden blocks before they were transferred onto the material.

Recorded use of block printing also occurred during the T’ang Dynasty between 618 and 906. The Egyptians printed onto papyrus paper even earlier!

Next, came the first flat-bed printing press in Germany. Used by goldsmith Johann Gutenberg in the mid-15th century. The mechanical, movable device applied pressed plates onto an inked surface, resting on the paper or cloth material and transferring the image. Gutenberg’s printing press is credited as the first mass-production printing press. The design soon spread through Europe and the rest of the world, eventually replacing block printing.

printing 1

In 1473, William Caxton printed the first book to be published in English.

By the 1600s, most European cities had printing houses. Early printing houses were run by ‘master printers’ who not only owned the shops, but selected and edited manuscripts, determined the size of a print run and sold the products.

In 1814, German inventor Friedrich Koenig, together with Andreas Bauer, built and patented a high-speed, steam powered printing press. The first issue of ‘The Times’ newspaper printed with the press was published on the 29th November 1814. They later sold their printing press to that very newspaper.

printing 2

Letterpress printing continued into the second half of the 20th century and was widely used to print books and other written materials. It remained one of the most common forms of printing until offset or litho printing technology was developed.

Modern litho printing technology uses a chemical process. The section you do not wish to print on is treated with a water-repelling substance meaning the ink only transfers onto the part of the image which you wish to print on. The litho printing method allows for extremely detailed printing and high volume print runs.

printing 3

The late 20th century saw the arrival of digital printing. Here at Printworks Online we use both litho printing technology and digital printing techniques.

With 3D printers now available to buy on the high-street, the history of printing is certainly far from written!

printing 4

Why Print is Here to Stay

There has been a lot of talk in recent times about how the printed world as we know it is going to become extinct. Printed pages are being replaced by websites and mobile devices. The lure is clear: interactive content. Sound, motion and networking can draw people away from printed formats, but there is life in paper yet.


Not all Printed Formats are Doomed

It is true that previously established print media such as newspapers and magazines are in decline, but the purpose of those formats is that they are the most concise and attainable way of accessing news and current affairs. As technology makes news and information more accessible via the Internet, it is only natural for the world to move in that direction.

Media attention has largely focused on magazines, newspapers and books when it comes to the decline of print, and although these formats are fading in popularity, it is important not to forget the versatility of the print world. Areas such as business stationery, packaging and advertising materials are still popular and you cannot underestimate the brand presence of physical printed material.

Appealing to Your Senses

It is clear that sound and motion are a big attraction of digital formats, but the fact still remains that print can offer you a diverse sensory experience. It is more visually diverse than screen, offering not only flat colours but special finishes such as fluorescents, luminescent, metallic, holographic foils as well as the simple contrast between matt and gloss.


This luxury business card appears like a simple de-bossing in the light, but glows when viewed in the dark.


The iridescent holographic foil gives this business card a sense of motion.


Simple effects like a foil finish can give a luxury look and feel, and metallic cannot be replicated on screen.

The physical nature of print also gives it texture, weight, scent and heat, all of which cannot be created on screen. There is an endless selection of textures in print, from smooth gloss to woven papers all the way to special finishes such as velvet-textured laminates. There is a certain amount of pleasure taken in being able to hold a 3D object that cannot be replicated in the virtual world. Scent in print is usually subtle, such as scented paper but can be used to great effect. Scent is something taken for granted but it is highly associated with atmosphere and emotional reactions and yet again cannot be produced on-screen. Print also has a certain weight, and even heat can be taken into account when you think of special effects such as heat reactive finishes.


This ingenious stationery uses a black thermo-sensitive ink that loses its colour when exposed to heat such as human body heat.


Die cut pages add some interest to a brochure.


Gold or coloured edging, again adds luxury.


Die cutting can let you experiment away from the rectangular.

In short, we will always need print. As we will always need tactile, physical objects for advertising, stationery and packaging amongst other uses. In the end you cannot live solely in a virtual world, and with the vast array of things you can do with print why would you want to?

Mon 22nd April



Like On Facebook  Follow On Twitter  Connect With Us

QR Codes in Print 


Definition of QR Code

QR codes (Or Quick Response codes) are in essence a form of barcode. Although they’ve been around for years, the rise of smartphones has given them a new lease of life, allowing you to use your phone to access a wealth of information by scanning a QR code.

QR codes are great for printed material such as business cards as they act like a link would on a website, making print interactive.

QR codes can link to a variety of file types:

  • HTML Code
  • PNG File
  • Tiff File
  • SVG
  • EPS

How to Create a QR Code

QR codes can be created simply online. There are many free QR code generators available, allowing you to upload or link your content to create you code. Sites I would recommend include:

To create simpler codes less information is a must, so consider using a URL shortener for web addresses (included on

Make sure when adding QR codes to your printed work, not to distort the code in terms of pixelation or ratio. You can also add colour to your QR code, just make sure that the contrast is still high and the colour is solid. You can also add a small amount of embellishment to your code, up to 30% of a code can be obscured and it will still scan.

The most important thing to remember is to test your codes on a quality proof before they go to print. Online printers such as us will provide you with a proof (usually on screen) at your request.

Don’t be afraid to use your QR creatively and if you’re stuck for ideas here are some great examples of creative QR codes:


A clever use of the code, hailed by Guinness as the first “product activated” QR code.


A garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, the QR code garden merged horticulture with the digital age.


A more playful approach to constructing the code can be to make it out of existing materials.


Business cards, with their limited space, are perfect for QR codes to boost the amount of information they can carry.

Tue 16th April


Like On Facebook  Follow On Twitter  Connect With Us

From Proof to Print: How your job is produced

Have you ever wondered what happens to your order?  Your work goes through a number of processes here at Printworks before you receive the finished article. There are different stages depending on whether your work is large format or not, so here is a guide to the journey of an online business card.

Stage One – Checking the Artwork

With all of our artwork, we take great care in checking its specification so that it’s ready to print. We will check:

  • The resolution is 300dpi
  • All elements of the design are set up in the correct colour, either CMYK or spot (Pantone)
  • Any special finishes are included as part of the artwork
  • The document is the correct size and number of pages as specified
  • The document has bleed
  • The correct overprint settings are used if required
  • All black text is set to 100% black (i.e one solid black and not a mix of all four CMYK colours)

If any of these checks bring up a problem we will either ask you to edit the artwork accordingly, or we will correct the artwork in the studio.

Stage Two – Setting up the Artwork for Print

Now that the artwork is ready for printing we create an imposition. An imposition is where we position the artwork on a sheet that can then be made into plates for the printing press. Online business cards, for example, would be laid out and tessellated to fit a sheet, using specific rules for positioning depending on whether the documents have more then one side as well as number of pages. This sheet will include all cutting marks and a colour bar to allow accurate colour matching at the press.

Stage Three – Creating a Colour Proof

When the artwork is set up for print we produce a colour proof on our high quality Epson digital printer. This printer is colour calibrated to our press so that what is printed will colour match the finished work to within a high degree of colour accuracy. This way we can check the colour of your finished print before it even reaches the printing press.

It is important to note that for spot colour work, i.e.  Pantone, we do not need this stage as Pantone inks are already guaranteed for colour consistency.

Stage Four – A Second Round of Checks

The imposition is ready to go and we have an Epson colour proof, the next stage is for all the printouts to go to our proof-reader for thorough checking. They check the printing sheet against the approved artwork to check that all the details and design match, ensuring that nothing has corrupted or changed during setting up for print.

Stage Five – Printing

Now the artwork is ready to be put on the printing press. One of our experienced press technicians will take the sheet artwork and create plates that can be used on the press. For CMYK work the artwork will be split into its four constituent parts (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Keyline black) and a plate will be created for each. (For Pantone work, the job is split into the specified colours)

These plates are then loaded into our press. Our print technician will use the Epson colour proof as a colour accuracy reference during printing. In the simplest terms the press works by inking up each plate in its corresponding ink and as the paper is fed through the machine it is pressed against each plate in turn to build up the full design, leaving the press as the complete printed sheet. In most cases there is also fifth plate which puts a thin laminate layer over the entire printed sheet, you will see this as the protective matt finish on a matt laminated business card for example.

Stage Six – Finishing and Packing

The printed sheets are now ready to be made into the finished article. In the case of an online business card this would simply be cutting down and packing securely for shipping. However for some products this could also include folding, drilling, numbering, die-cutting or attaching multiple sheets together either by glue binding or stitching.

In the case of the card below, the card is die-cut to shape for its rounded corners.

And that’s it, a printer’s six degrees of separation from screen to finished product.

Mon 8th April


Like On Facebook  Follow On Twitter  Connect With Us

Sophisticated and Stylish Spot UV Business Cards


Your business cards are your first impression to your customers, so making sure it’s memorable is important. Adding a spot varnish to your card is a great way to grab attention, as the varnish catching the light helps give the card some movement and depth.

The following ten examples are of business cards that utilise spot varnishes in a variety of different ways, from simply varnishing the logo, to creating pattern and texture as well as adding a varnished design over blank card to create a more subtle look.×386.jpg


If you feel that a spot varnish is something you want to incorporate into your business cards, contact us and we would be happy to discuss your ideas further.

Fri 15th March


Like On Facebook  Follow On Twitter  Connect With Us

Make the best use of your business stationery

When you think of branding your business, do you think about your stationery? If not it might be worth considering, as although the internet and email has taken over most business communication, there is still the need to send printed documents. For an encompassing brand think about custom letterheads, compliment slips, business cards and envelopes to give your printed materials the personal touch.

Here are some examples of beautifully branded stationery for your inspiration:

Wed 6th March


Like On Facebook  Follow On Twitter  Connect With Us

What Makes a Killer Business Card

A business card is a powerful tool for such a small item. Its purpose it to both promote your business and provide key contact details and as such should be treated with a considered design. There are so many ways that you can make your business card stand out from the crowd, but here are a few of the design rules that I find never fail to make an impact.


There are a few reasons why simpler is always better for a business card. Firstly they’re small, so space is limited. Keep text to the minimum essentials to keep it large enough to be readable and also keep enough breathing space around the text to stop the design looking cluttered. Secondly, your business card is in essence a small advert so keeping it clean and simple will make sure that your message will stand out. Remember simple does not have to mean boring: paired down but bold use of colour for example can be used to create impact.

Think about both sides

Double-sided business cards are a great way of both giving yourself more space to work with but also creating a stronger impression by making it an object that is viewed from all angles. How the sides interact is a more important feature than many realise with simple interactions like moving from a text based side to a pictorial reverse, or colourful to plain helping to establish a sense of brand atmosphere. One of my favourite uses of double-sided cards is to keep all text-based information on one side and make use of a picture of pattern on the other side for contrast. Pattern in particular is very effective as it naturally draws your eyes’ curiosity.


Keep to a standard size

The standard size for a UK business card is 85mm x 55mm. Some would argue that breaking free of these boundaries with something different will make your card stand out from the crowd and for some brands this has worked brilliantly, however it does have its limitations. The standard business card size is designed so that it fits easily into a wallet or credit card sized slot, and as its purpose is to be passed to your business contacts for safe-keeping I believe the size standard should be respected.

But don’t let that hold you back. A few ways I’ve found to challenge this size format include using them as portrait as opposed to the more traditional landscape and even using square designs of 55mm x 55mm, so that they will still fit in the same places as a standard card.

Unusual Finishes

If you want a more tactile side to your business cards, then think about making use of a more unusual finish. These finishes are usually subtle but can really up the wow factor of your cards. Common enhancements include:
- spot varnishing
- foil blocking
- die cutting (such as rounded corners and cut-outs)
- edge colouring or foiling

Choosing an unusual paper can also make your card hold attention such as using a much heavier stock or one with a texture, depending on what would fit your brand.

Making use of any one of these design tricks will help your business card make an impact, contact us today to discuss your ideas.

Mon 28th January


Like On Facebook  Follow On Twitter  Connect With Us

Our Favourite Folded Leaflets

As pieces of design, leaflets are some of the most interesting (sometimes the folds are as eye-catching as the print). Here’s a run-down of ten great folded leaflets for your inspiration:











Mon 21st January


Like On Facebook  Follow On Twitter  Connect With Us

ITV Rebrand – The Friendly Identity

On Monday 14th January 2013 ITV went live with its most extensive rebrand since 2006 and arguably the biggest branding overhaul since the channels conception. At the crux of the new identity is the re-envisaged ITV logo, making use of a rounded, heavy font with a hand written feel and a mix of colours that change to fit the setting. This is extending through the whole of the network with changes to all five channel logos, notably ITV1 changed to just ITV. The same can be seen through various departments such as news and sport as well as the redesigned website and a range of idents. The brands web presence has also been revitalised, with a new clean website designed with mobiles and tablets in mind.

The thinking behind the new identity lies in their refreshed ethos, summarised as “a media brand that is at the heart of popular culture”(Rufus Radcliffe, ITV group director of marketing and research). The idents in particular seem to reflect this for me, making use of images to reflect the programming as well as people’s everyday lives, reinforcing the idea that they are a channel for all.


The new typeface: ‘It’s so Reem’

And in fact, it is. Designed by Fontsmith, ITV Reem takes in 8 varieties and aims to fit with the inviting popular culture ethos. As a font it’s clean and modern but has a sense of playfulness in its rounded edges. It was designed to be akin to the rounded ends of handwriting and is named as a cheeky salute to ITV’s popular show TOWIE (The only way is Essex). In the context of its use throughout ITV, for body text it is easy to read and quite personable. However this fun and friendly look does not quite suit the more serious applications in terms of atmosphere and as for ITV2, 3 and 4, these new logos looks far too curvatious and lack individuality.



New channel logos across the range

With the new logo rolled out across the brand, all individual channels have been given the same treatment. However I feel that these four sub-channels lack their own identities as the ITV’s new font Reem has its own bubbly character and this does not best reflect ITV4’s sport programming for example. The definition between the channels is done with use of simple colour. ITV2 is red to reflect its entertainment schedule, ITV3 uses a deep blue for its focus on drama and ITV4 has a cool grey to represent its sports and cult programming. If they then went on to have different approaches to their idents, then maybe their simplified identities would work, as individuals however the idents work in much the same way as the main ITV ident concept. ITV have missed a trick here to create strong individual brands within their new framework with CITV being the only channel where I feel it has a stronger sense of identity. The typeface really suits its atmosphere and the idents utilising children’s illustrations bring the logo to life much like storytelling comes alive in its programming.


Colour chameleon

The colour scheme for the new ITV identity is both its greatest triumph and hindrance. The bug bear I have is with the colours for the standard ITV logo. Where I am in favour of the multiple colours to reflect the company’s many facets, that exact combination does not work for me. Perhaps it is trying to be future proof, but the green in particular is quite sludgy and unappealing and the orangey hues of the yellow clash with the freshness of the blue. They’re not far off, perhaps using those key colours, just not those exact hues. Aside from this, the chameleon-like quality of the logo is something ITV’s creative team should be very proud of. I love how the logo changes colours to suit the background, subtly fluctuating in the idents, to create a logo that sits cleanly and subtly over the footage, allowing the imagery and programming to become the focus. Couple this with the fact that the cinematography in the idents I have seen is particularly colour-considered, it makes for a great visual experience.


An overall success?

I believe so, but I also believe that the dramatic change will take some getting use to for more dedicated viewers, as is to be expected with anything that is so different. I still believe the identity is too fun and friendly for more serious applications such as news, but in fairness this does set it apart from Channel 4 and the BBC, to firmly establish ITV as the destination for the lighter side of television. Let’s just keep those idents coming.


Watch ITV’s introduction to its new look:






Creative Review



Design Week