In Web Design

How Designing for Print is Different from Designing for Web

Posted by Steve Arun

In the beginning, the Internet was seen just as a digital version of print media, but sooner it turned out to be much more capable than any print publication can ever imagine being. And after some time, we realized that it is not only more capable than the print media, but it requires different treatment in terms of writing, in terms of designing, in terms of thinking, in terms of executing, etc. In short, in terms of everything.

Color Mode

The first major difference in designing for print and web lies in the color modes used in both the media. Typically, RGB (Red, Green, Blue) color mode is used for web, and CMYK [Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black] is used for print. Although there are quite a few RGB printers around, but to be on the safer side we use CMYK color mode when designing for print.

While designing for web, a designer is mainly concerned about the color reproduction on different monitors, as some people have CRTs, while others use LCD screen.


Difference in resolution is another thing that needs attention when designing for different media. For print, one need to have at least 150dpi resolution, 300dpi being the ideal, whereas, when something is designed to go on web a maximum resolution of 72dpi is used. In some cases, 92dpi is also used. Print reproduction of a picture or a design made on 72dpi will be blur or pixilated. I recommend using at least 300dpi as a resolution while designing anything for print.

Measurement unit used

The unit of size for a design that will go on web is also different from the unit used to measure a design that will go in print. We use pixel size when designing anything for web, and inches, centimeters, or millimeters as unit for any design that will go in print. This is done to avoid any size error in the final output.


File-size is something on which none of the designers designing for print will lose sleep over, but a designer designing for web will be restless until and unless the design is stripped off all its excess fat without compromising on its looks to fit in the targeted file-size. A 3MB, 30MB, or even 300MB file-size is nothing for a stuff designed for print, but for web, it is as heavy as an elephant. No client or designer can even dream to upload that heavy image on the server.

What will be the size of the file being uploaded on the web server will depend upon the speed of the Internet on the users’ computers.

Media adaptability

Adaptability of a designed item on different media is a big worry for a designer who designs for print. It is not at all a valid concern for a designer who designs stuffs for web. Media adaptability is the biggest concern for a client who wants stuffs to be produced on different materials like plastic, paper, cloths, pen, business cards and other stationary, etc. Because of this there are lots of limitations with designs made for print like the design cannot be too complex, and it should not have many layers, as it will jumble up when reduced in size.

A designer producing stuffs for web is also concerned about adaptability, but it is related to screen resolution and monitor types. As not everyone is using the same type of monitor, and even the screen resolution of one monitor is different from other monitors. Hence, the screen resolution used by the majority of the target audience is used as a model resolution by a designer designing for web.

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