Don't Make This Rookie Mistake When Printing Your Logo on Promotional Items

Starbucks - Positive - Negative Logo ArtYou know that feeling you get when you realize your drive-thru order is wrong and you have already driven miles away from the restaurant? How about that first sip of coffee that was supposed to have no sugar and now you feel like you just got an instant cavity from the sugar overload. That feeling is a bit of anger mixed with disappointment. This is how I feel when I see promotional items printed incorrectly. Specifically, when a positive print is used for a product that should have been printed with a negative (reverse) imprint.

This may sound confusing so let me break it down. Certain logos and graphics can be printed the same no matter what color item they are printing on. For example, the Dunkin' Donuts® logo can be printed on any colored item as is. The Starbucks® logo cannot. You would have to create a negative (reverse) version to print on a dark item if you are printing a light-colored ink. When making a negative (reverse) version of a logo you reverse the logo. What would normally print as white will print in Black and vice versa. For us old folks it’s just like a negative film in a camera when they used film. When the printer creates the screen or plate for print production only the black will print. In most occasions the Dunkin Donuts - Positive & Negative Logoreverse uses less ink which is always a good thing. Using less ink can prevent ink-fill in the small details of a logo since ink spread is less likely.

It shouldn't bother me this much, but as a professional graphic designer and an individual who takes pride in his work it does. To me this is a basic technique for graphic designers so I don’t understand how this mistake is so prevalent in the industry. I do, however, understand this industry is made up of a variety of businesses from Mom & Pop shops to huge corporations who employ hundreds. Some have in-house art departments and others rely on part-timers or sub-contractors. Either way, I have seen both types of businesses make this print error. When printed incorrectly it does not have the same visual effect and does not properly represent the brand or logo the way it was intended to. This Starbucks Logois a visual business and at the end of the day, the print should be as perfect as possible.

Presentation is key in our business, and it should be more than just pushing out products. You can give two chefs the same ingredients but it's how they use the ingredients and present the final dish that makes all the difference.

thanks to the internet, our clientele is more educated than they were a few years ago. The only ad exposure they had was billboards, printed publications and TV. Now they have constant exposure with internet ads that show up on their computers and phones daily. It's more important than ever to make sure the finished product has maximum impact. Our industry is changing, or should I say evolving, to meet our clients’ needs and expectations. The days of printing "stuff" is over. Historically, promotional products were seen as cheap giveaways and ended up in landfills or some old lady's yard sale. Over the past decade, we have seen a lot of the smaller promotional advertising businesses shut down or bought out by larger companies.

The industry is consolidating and the cream is rising to the top. The products themselves are dramatically improving. The designs are being updated to match products in the retail market, and the colors and pattern options are improving as well. This makes the amateur mistake of printing a positive logo when it should be a reverse print that much more unacceptable.

I hope my little rant will help you become more aware of the proper way to print on a dark item when using a light-colored ink. I promise you it will make for a much better presentation of the finished product and will insure the client they are working with a professional. Below I provided step by step instructions on how to create a reverse print in both Adobe® Photoshop & Adobe®Illustrator. For this lesson, I will use the Starbucks® logo. I am basically creating a "punch out" of the logo. I'm starting with the Adobe® Photoshop lesson since this is the commonly used program for graphics but you can create this in Adobe®Illustrator. Adobe®Illustrator will create a vector format which is the preferred file for print production.

Creating a reverse logo in Adobe® Photoshop on a PC: (8 Steps)

STEP 1: Since the Logo is open on each side (due to the stripes in the arm) you must create a circle around the logo which covers it completely. To create the circle, go to the toolbar most likely on your left and select the "RECTANGULAR MARQUEE " now select "ELLIPTICAL MARQUEE" from the drop down menu. Make sure to hold down the (CTRL) button and drag your mouse from left to right until you have a perfect circle. You should now have the "dancing ants" or blinking dashes showing your current selection.

STEP 2: Now go to the top of the menu and select the "LAYER" tab. On the drop down the first selection will be "NEW" then select "LAYER" (for new layer). You can also use your keyboard to get the same result by punching the following keys at the same time "SHIFT+CTRL+N". Your new layer will show up on your floating layer tab most likely on the right of your screen. A much easier way to see it is using the quick key "F7". If the floating layer tab was already present hitting "F7" will make it disappear so hit it again to make it reappear.

STEP 3: Now with the "dancing ants" or blinking dashes still present go to the top of the screen and hit the "EDIT" tab and in the drop, down hit "FILL" or use the quick key on your keyboard which is "SHIFT + F5". Make sure to use any color except white to fill the circle since you will not see the result if you are working on a white workspace.

STEP 4: Your circle is now filled with color. If the circle is not directly over the Starbucks® logo, please use you "MOVE" tool which is located on the tool bar and is represented by an arrow next to a cross. The quick key for this tool is (V). Using the arrows on your keyboard move the circle directly over the Starbucks® logo. If pieces of the logo are hanging out of your circle go to the top of the menu and select the "EDIT" tab. Now select "FREE TRANSFORM" from the drop down menu. The quick key for this is "CTRL+T".  7 boxes will appear around your circle. Pull the boxes on the sides until you cover the Starbucks® logo completely. Do Not cover the registered trademark ®.

STEP 5: Once the logo is completely covered hit the "ENTER" button on your keyboard to activate the changes. The “dancing ants" or blinking dashes should still be present. Now go to the top of the menu and select the "SELECT TAB" tab. Now select “MODIFY" than "EXPAND". The software will ask you how many pixels to expand by. There is no specific answer for this since it all depends on the resolution and size you are working at. Just use your best judgement but don't add too much as it will make your imprint size smaller by adding to many pixels and taking up important real estate. You don’t want it too thin as the line weight will disappear on the printed item.

STEP 6: Now that you have the desired expansion go to the top of the screen and hit the "EDIT" tab and in the drop, down hit "FILL" or use the quick key on your keyboard which is "SHIFT + F5". Now go to the top of the menu and select the "SELECT" tab. On the drop down select "DESELECT" or use the quick key on your keyboard which is "CTRL + D".

STEP 7: Go to your layer tab (described in STEP 2) and select the layer that has the Starbucks® logo. Hold down your "CTRL" button and hit the visual graphic of the logo which is in the middle between the eye and Layer name. The "dancing ants" or blinking dashes should be around the Starbucks® logo. On the layer tab hit the layer that contains the circle you just created. Hit "DELETE" on your keyboard. Now we just need to get the registered trademark ® colored in.

STEP 8: Go to the layer that contains the Starbucks® logo and delete everything but the registered trademark ®. This is achieved by selecting the "LASSO" on your tool bar. The quick key for this tool is L). Select the area around the graphic except for the registered trademark ® and hit delete. Hold down your "CTRL" button and hit the layer that contains the registered trademark ®. Now with it selected click on the layer which contains the reverse Starbucks® logo you just created. Fill the registered trademark ® just like you did in step 6. You can go ahead and delete every layer except the layer which has your finished reversed logo. CONGRATULATIONS, you just created the reverse print for this logo.

Creating a reverse logo in Adobe® Illustrator on a PC: (8 Steps)

*This lesson will only work if you have a vector version of the Starbucks® logo. If you do not, this lesson will not pertain to you.

STEP 1: Since the Logo is open on each side (due to the stripes in the arm) you must create a circle around the logo which covers it completely. First, we must create a new layer to work on which is separate from the layer that contains the Starbucks® logo. To create a new layer hit "F7" on your keyboard and a floating layer tab will appear on the screen. Most likely it will appear on the right side of your screen. If the floating layer tab was already present hitting "F7" will make it disappear so hit it again to make it reappear. Click on the icon located on the left side of the trash can icon which is located on the bottom right of your floating layer tab. Once you create the new layer you will automatically be on that layer

STEP 2:  Lets create the circle which will cover the Starbucks® logo. Do not cover the registered trademark ®.  To create the circle, go to the toolbar most likely on your left and select the "ELLIPISE TOOL". You can also select this tool by using your keyboard. The quick key for this tool is "L". Make sure to hold down the (CTRL) button and drag your mouse from left to right until you have a perfect circle. You should now have a circle with 4 "nods" or small boxes on the top, bottom and sides.

STEP 3:   If the circle is not directly over the Starbucks® logo use you arrows on your keyboard to position it correctly.  If pieces of the logo are hanging out of your circle go to the tool bar and select the "SELECTION TOOL" this is represented by the solid black arrow. The quick key for this tool is "V".  Pull the "nods" or boxes on each side until the logo is completely covered.

STEP 4:  The circle should still be selected if not use the "SELECTION TOOL" to do so. Go to the bottom of the tool bar and select the "STROKE" tool which is the outlined box located next to the graphic of a filled box. Once you click on the "STROKE" tool the program will ask you what color you would like to use. It may be best to use a different color for the circle so you can distinguish the difference between the two. Now, go to the top of the screen and hit the "WINDOW" tab than “STROKE". The floating "STROKE" tab will appear on your screen. Most likely it will appear on the right side of your screen. The quick key for this tab is "CTRL+F10". If the floating layer tab was already present hitting "CTRL+F10" will make it disappear so hit it again to make it reappear. Go to the "WEIGHT" and increase the stroke size using your best judgment. Do not get carried away since the stroke will increase the size of the circle and take up valuable real estate on your printed item.

STEP 5: Select the circle with the selection tool (just like STEP 3). Once the circle is selected go to "OBJECT" > "PATH" > "OUTLINE STROKE". Now go to "WINDOW" > "PATHFINDER". The quick key for this "SHIFT+CTRL+F9". If the floating pathfinder tab was already present hitting "SHIFT+CTRL+F9" will make it disappear so hit it again to make it reappear. Now that the "PATHIFINDER" floating tab is present hit the first option under "SHAPE MODES" which is the "UNITE" icon (the two boxes overlapping each other). Once you hit the "UNITE" icon your circle will turn into whatever color you chose for the stroke. This is how you know if it was done correctly.

STEP 6: Select the circle with the selection tool (just like STEP 3). Go to "EDIT">"CUT" the quick key for this is "CTRL+X". Now go to the layer that contains the Starbucks® logo. Go to "EDIT">"PASTE IN BACK" the quick key for this is "CRTL+B". Before you click off the circle make sure the circle you just pasted in front is a different color than the Starbucks® logo.

STEP 7: Select both the circle and the Starbucks® logo by holding down your left mouse button and dragging the box over the entire image. Go back to your "PATHFINDER" tab (just like STEP 5) and hit the first icon under "PATHFINDERS" which is "DIVIDE" the icon looks like a broken egg.

STEP 8: Go to the toolbar and select the "DIRECT SELECTION TOOL" which is the white arrow head located directly under the black arrow head. The quick key for this is "A".  Select any part of the Starbucks® logo located inside the circle. Now go to the top of the screen and hit "SELECT">"SAME">"FILL & STROKE". Hit the delete button on your keyboard and you now have your finished reversed logo. CONGRATULATIONS, you just created the reverse print for this logo.

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