How Print Design is Different from Digital Design

How is Print Design Different from Digital Design

When it comes to graphic design, many of us look at graphics produced by companies and admire how it looks and how it portrays a message – even if no words are included. Many of us look at both printed designs and digital designs without noticing a difference between them yet have experienced a difference in quality when printing pictures off at home or work.

So why is that?

If you’ve ever printed a document or a picture and found it doesn’t quite have the same shading or colours, you’ll have experienced the reason why print design differs from digital design. Print design and digital design use different techniques to achieve the same colours.

Before we compare the differences between the two, and why you should consider them for your business, let’s first look at what graphic design is.

What is graphic design?

Graphic design is incredibly popular for businesses. It helps to engage and grab the attention of the audience, enticing them to learn more and progress towards becoming a paying customer. Graphic design is mostly used in the following places:

  • Adverts
  • Social media posts
  • Brochures
  • Leaflets
  • Websites
  • And more.

Graphics can be found everywhere, but there is a key difference between digital graphics and printed graphics, and this is because our screens show a different range of colours to what printers can print. That’s where print design and digital design come in.

What’s the difference?

Print design and digital design both focus on the same thing – graphic design. However, the two use different techniques to generate the colours so that print design looks the same as digital design.  

Print design is all about creating media that is to be printed. This can be for a range of materials, including small, printed material such as brochures, leaflets, and business cards, ranging to larger materials, such as posters, banners, and signs.  

Digital design works in a similar way to print design, however, it’s for media that will stay digital. This can be for digital adverts, social media posts, profile banners, and plenty more.  

At face value – that’s it! The difference lies in the details of how the two designs are created. From a user perspective, there are no visual differences. It’s about the configuration and the file format that differentiates them to make sure the result looks the same, keeping to branding guidelines and properly representing the business.  

To learn more about branding, why not read our Essential Branding Trends to Grow Your Business in 2021 article?  

Do I need both print design and digital design?

In short, yes! Here’s why: 

All businesses have a form of digital presence. It’s important to be consistent with your branding across all your digital channels to build a good reputation with your audience, which is why digital design is important. You’ll need to make sure your digital media is optimised for whichever platform it sits on, whether it’s your website, social media channels, or somewhere else.  

Here’s an article of ours all about digital presence: Why a Digital Presence is Crucial for Businesses in 2021.  

If you are looking to have any printed media, such as leaflets or business cards, having the right format for your media is crucial so that it stays consistent with your digital branding. Without this, you could find your printed media in a different shade of colour, or worse, being poor quality.  

How the two differ in colour

If you’re working with print design and digital design, it’s important to know what sets them apart in detail so that you can take the necessary action needed. To help you, we’ve included some key information for you to be aware of.  


When it comes to colour, most of us should be familiar with RGB (Red, Green, Blue). These colours can combine to make any other colour, making a wide range of vibrant colours. However, if you have a printer at home, you may have noticed that the cartridges are a different range of colours. Printers use CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) as opposed to RGB. 

But why does that make two of the same colour, so different? 

That’s because RGB focuses on adding light, whereas CMYK focuses on subtracting light.  

Here’s an example: 

If you start with nothing and add red light to it, you’ll get the colour red. This is great for digital media as they are dark when turned off, and pixels light up to display the chosen colour.  

However, when printing, you’re on a white background. By subtracting the colours you don’t want, this will leave you with the colour that you’re after.  

RGB uses values of 0-255, meaning each colour can range from 0 (fully off) – 255 (fully on), creating a wide spectrum of colours that it needs to. CMYK works differently, using a range of 0% – 100% for each colour. Both give a very wide spectrum of colour but work in their separate ways to achieve the same colours. 

Some top tips!

Getting it wrong can be a costly mistake, so we’ve included some top tips to prevent having to deal with a headache down the line.  

Always use CMYK before printing – By making sure you change the file type and preview it in the right format, you can make sure the colour is correct. If not, it could be expensive having to re-print all of your merchandise! 

Use trusted software – There are lots of trusted pieces of software out there for your media designs. Make sure to choose one with trusted reviews.  

Ask for help – If you’re unsure, ask for some help from professionals to make sure you get things right. It’s better to be safe than sorry!  

Here’s how Weave Studios can help your business 

If you’re looking for help in preparing your media for printing, or perhaps need some media printing, we’re here to help. Here at Weave Studios, we can support your print and digital designs in several different ways. We can help you create the graphics to be printed with our Graphic Design Services, or we offer Print Services if you have your graphics ready to be printed. 

Our services allow your business to look its best in any form of media – print or digital. For more information, contact our team today!