Print Guidelines

Print Guidelines

In order to maintain integrity in the DSA brand, designs for print should be created using CMYK colors.

The design of your print materials will be determined in part by the scale and budget of your campaign.

If you have a smaller budget and/or frequent last-minute materials needs, you will probably print a lot of materials using a home printer or photocopier. In this case, you will need to design for standard paper sizes like letter (8.5″x11″) and tabloid (11″x17″), you may be limited to black and white printing, and your designs will need to incorporate a print margin around the edge of about 1/8″.

If you have a higher budget and need a higher volume, you should use a union print shop. In this case, your designs can take advantage of full color, full bleed, non-standard sizes and other options including folding and die-cut.

If you are ordering professionally printed materials, always use a union print shop.


Whenever you are creating physical media, it is important to consider the full life-cycle of that item. 

  • Avoid plastics, especially expanded foam products (ex. styrofoam, foam core board)
  • Use naturally-occurring, recyclable/reusable materials (cotton, wood, metal)
  • Minimize shipping by seeking out local suppliers and artists

Working with a Professional Print Shop

When printing professionally, you should always use a union printer. When you submit your files to the printer, make sure to ask them to add the union bug (typically an oval design bearing the union’s name to demonstrate that it was made using union labor). This is an important way to visually show solidarity with organized workers. The print shop can help you determine the place to add this to the design themselves before printing.

Typical trim marks, bleed line and safety line for full-bleed printing

The Bleed Line

When a document is printed all the way to the edge of the page, this is achieved by printing to a larger size and cutting off the excess. To allow this, your design’s art should overflow the intended finished size by about 1/8″. This excess is called the “bleed”. 

For best results, you should generally design full-bleed materials for standard page sizes and create home-printable versions for emergencies.

A half-sheet flyer (standard half-letter size) in a full-bleed version (left) and home-printable version (right)

The Safety Line

In high-volume printing there is always a slight variation in the finished product. To ensure that your content is not cut off, you should place all important content within a safety margin of at least 1/8″ from the cut line. (For aesthetics you should generally include a margin of at least 1/4″ and probably more like 1/2″. Don’t be afraid of white space, it gives the reader’s eye space to breathe and will make your design look more professional.)

Digital and Offset Printing

Professional print shops will always offer volume discounts and often offer multiple print methods. Digital printing prints directly from a digital file using a laser or inkjet printer. Offset printing is a technique that uses a metal plate to transfer ink to the surface. It has a higher upfront cost but generally higher volume discounts as well. For most materials you will use digital printing, but for very high-volume jobs ask your union printer if they offer offset printing.

Event Media

Reusable banners, flags, and posters are more environmentally friendly and will save your chapter money in the long term. These items can be ordered through local sewing and print shops.

Your chapter may also have the ability to create reusable event media. There are many talented DSA members. Thinking outside the box will create opportunities for members to leverage their unique skills.

  • Does someone own a projector? Digital artwork can easily be traced onto canvas when projected on a wall or table.
  • Express yourself through art! Buy some plywood and paint to create reusable signs.
  • Is there a quilter in your chapter? Ask if they could create a quilted banner for your chapter to march with. 

Avoid using plastic or other non-compostable materials.

Printing on Fabric

Screen Printing

When a shirt or tote bag is screen printed, each color must be processed individually. For that reason, each color makes the job more expensive. As a general rule, you should try to use one color in your designs, but almost certainly not more than three. 

Make sure that the color of ink you choose creates a strong contrast with the color of the T-shirt fabric. If you are printing on red shirts (as is likely), you will normally want to print your design in white.

Digital Printing

Digital printing is an excellent alternative when screen printing is not available or cost-prohibitive. When designing for digital printing, you can use more colors without incurring additional costs. Simple, high-contrast designs are still ideal, as complex colors and gradients can turn out poorly.

Sourcing Shirts

Another consideration for apparel printing is that the items themselves should also be union-made. Royal Apparel and Bayside are two good sources for union-made apparel, but there are others.

Choose garments made out of natural fibers (ex. cotton, wool, silk, linen). Avoid synthetic fibers (viscose, rayon, polyester, nylon).


When designing materials to be sent directly by USPS, it’s important to follow USPS design guidelines to ensure that your materials reach their destination and your campaign benefits from the lowest postage rates.

USPS political mail guidelines