Welcome to The Mad Hand’s Frequently Asked Questions and Answers page. We hope the following paragraphs will answer whatever questions you have about graphics creation and production. If not, please e-mail your question to info@themadhand.com. We will answer you personally and post your Q&A on this page.

 Q   What am I buying when I buy graphic design services?

A: You are buying a file or series of files, in the specified necessary format/s, which constitute ready-to-use artwork.  When you hire The Mad Hand, you are hiring an expert visual artist with years of experience and an almost psychic sense of what is needed, even when clients don't know themselves. If the intended use is for print, the files will be print-ready.  If for the web, the files will be web-ready.  The file or files will contain all the required content, created to the specs you list.  We will make any and all needed changes to make sure the files are ready for the intended use.  Our ultimate aim is to craft an outstanding image for your purpose, not just visually but technically perfect as well.

 Q   I’m not in New York.  Can you work with me?

A: Yes!  Location is immaterial. We can work with anyone anywhere in the world who can view digital files by e-mail or other digital delivery system.

 Q   Who owns the artwork I commission when it is finished?

A: You do. There may be exceptions associated with certain uses, for instance where a pay agreement is commission or royalty based, but in almost all cases, you own the designs you commission free and clear.

 Q   Will you give me files that I can change and manipulate myself?

A: Depending upon the type of file and its intended use, we will supply either layered work files that can be manipulated, or ready to use finals that cannot, or both.  For advertising materials and web page content whose purpose is to be used widely and whose content is intended to constantly update, we will supply editable files if requested. Though often the client needs only the print- or web-ready finals. For logo design, which also is widely applied and which constitutes the very identity of a company, we will supply editable files, but it is advisable not to manipulate the file's elements once the design has been finalized.  For premium items like book and CD covers where credit for the designer will appear, unless negotiated in advance, we usually do not supply layered work files that can be manipulated and changed by other parties. Doing so opens the door to numerous types of complications, including unapproved changes made to files after they leave us for which we can be held responsible, and/or something we did not create nonetheless circulating under the designer's name.

 Q   How will the finals be sent to me?  Can it be e-mailed to me?  Or do you have to mail me a disk?  How much will it cost?

A: Depending on the file sizes and types, finals can be delivered by e-mail, FTP to a server, by DropBox, YouSendIt, other internet file sharing method, or on disk.  

FYI: Digital documents, such as those created in Adobe InDesign, often reference other files via commands within their programming, and should be stored with all the linked files in the same order you receive them.  For this reason, it is advisable to have the finals on a disk.  The files we send you can be burned to a disk, or we can burn a disk for you.  The cost is the cost of the time to burn the disk ($25/hour, 15 minute minimum) plus the cost of the CD plus shipping.  About $12.  Rates for specific delivery services are unique based on the weight and destination.

 Q   What is RESOLUTION and why is it so important?

A: Resolution is the DENSITY of pixels or dots in EACH INCH (or millimeter) of image which creates the clarity of that image or lack thereof.  Resolution is NOT measured in megabytes, megapixels, or dimensions.  It is measured in pixels, a.k.a. dots, PER inch. To understand resolution, imagine a one inch square box, and put one dot in it.  This is equal to one dot (or pixel) per inch, or 1dpi.  Put nine more dots in the box and this is equal to ten dots per inch, or 10dpi.  A faint image may begin to appear.  The more dots you put into the box the more of that picture will come clear.  When you get to 72 dots in the box, you have reached screen resolution, or the maximum resolution your computer monitor can display.  However this is less than half what is needed for a good quality print.  Continue to 300 dots in the box and you will be approaching print quality resolution. 

If you scan or create images at low resolution, or download them from the internet (where everything is saved at screen resolution), they will not print well, and your document quality will be poor.  Print quality will suffer if the resolution PER INCH of dimension is not correct. 

It's also important that the correct resolution be present from the beginning, because resolution cannot be added later.  So when you take a photo, or scan an image, you should scan it at the correct resolution for the use you intend, or higher.

 Q   What resolution is the correct one for my project?

A: In general terms, higher is better, except for the web and e-mail. For print work, 266dpi is about the minimum recognized by the eye as being reasonably high quality. 300dpi or higher is recommended for print work, and upwards of 600dpi is recommended for photographic work. Because computer monitors display only 72 dots per inch, artwork meant to be displayed only on the web, in e-mail, or otherwise on screen does not need a resolution higher than this. For pieces that will be used both in print and on the web, it is best to create a high-resolution file first (300dpi or higher), and make the web copy from that. Logos, which have the highest visibility and variety of uses, should be created in vector format, and high resolution copies made from the source file to whatever sizes, resolutions and formats each new use requires.

You may also like to read the section on vector vs. raster below


 Q   What’s the difference between RGB and CMYK color?

A: RGB color (red, green, blue) is screen color mode. This is the color system that your computer monitor uses to display color on screen.  CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black, or “key”) is the four-color system used in printing with inks.  If the goal of your artwork is print, you should create your images from scratch in CMYK mode, because a mode change from RGB to CMYK after the fact will alter the color values, often from a bright, vibrant hue to a duller (usually undesirable) color.  This is because certain colors you see on screen with back lighting are impossible to reproduce with ink.  So, if the item is for print, starting out in CMYK color mode is important.

On the other hand, a change of mode from CMYK to RGB is possible without losing color vibrancy. So, if you are creating graphics for both print and web, you should make the CMYK print version first, and make copies from this to RGB for the web.

BTW, because all printing is done in CMYK mode, your printer will do an invisible conversion to CMYK of a document that is in RGB color mode. So, it’s best for you and your machine to be "on the same page."

 Q   What is the difference between raster and vector?

A: A raster image can use extremely subtle gradations of color, and its size and resolution are fixed at the original resolution at which it was created. The more detailed the image, as in photographs or digital paintings, the more variation from pixel to pixel you will see as you enlarge a raster image to its finest zoom. With a photograph, the detail is typically so fine as to render each individual pixel a different color.  (High quality resolution for photographs can be upwards of 600 dots per inch)  This detail, already fixed, cannot be enlarged beyond the number of pixels already contained within the image without losing clarity. If you add resolution or increase the dimensions of a raster image, your computer does this by adding extra pixels. The computer is not an artist, so it cannot add detail.  It can only guess where to put additional pixels and of what color. The result is an image that becomes fuzzy as pixels are added.

The shapes and lines of a vector image, usually fields of solid color, are defined mathematically, and do not involve or affect resolution. Therefore, vector images can be reduced or enlarged to any size without losing clarity.

 Q   What do I need to know about getting my image reproduced?

A:  This is a huge subject and while it always pays to be as well informed as you can, as a client, the professionals you take your image to, for the most part, will know what to do and you won’t have to.

The finals you receive from us will be 1)- an indigenous format document (Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, etc.) which should suit anyone’s purpose to reproduce as is, or to make copies from to the format they need, and/or  2)- some copies of the file in the most commonly needed formats.  Each new thing you use your image for will probably need a different format and/or size.  For instance, for t-shirts, the silk screener will tell you what format of file s/he needs in order to get the image put on a shirt. This will be different from what a web designer needs, which will be different from what a business card printer will need.  And there will always be a need for new things that come up along the way.

The professionals you hire to do the work (a print shop for instance) should be able to use the indigenous file as is, a.k.a. the source file, or convert it correctly for their needs.  If not, we can copy it for you to the needed size and format.

Many times because clients just don’t know the difference and don't want to take a chance, they ask us to copy the file to the needed specs instead of depending on someone with unknown skills to manipulate the file, perhaps incorrectly.  We are happy to do this.  Since every image we create for you represents us too, we'd rather take a moment to make the exact right file for you than let a piece of our work appear in bad form.

If you're copying and re-formatting the files yourself, the most important things to remember are: 1)- For whatever purpose the file is needed, always make a first generation copy from the source file. Never use a copy of a copy, especially of a file that has been compressed, like jpeg or gif.  These images will lose clarity and take on a pixelly or fragmented look.  2)- You can reduce a raster file in size and resolution, but never enlarge.

 Q   I want my logo to be a photographic image.  Why am I being advised against that?  Can I do it anyway?

A:  It's true that photographs (and/or photorealistic images) are punchy, detailed, and convey more information than simple graphic images. However, for all the uses a business will have for a logo, photographs are impractical. 1)- Their color and shade content is too complicated to translate well in certain contexts, 2)- in the digital arena, in which 99.9% of people are working now, a photograph has to be a raster image.  A raster image cannot enlarge to any size and maintain clarity.  To have all possible sizes necessary entails creating an enormous prototype and making copies only from this.  3)- A high quality raster image can be very large in terms of bytes, and for the larger uses you will have for the logo, the file size can become unwieldy.

A good logo should: a)- be able to translate faithfully in any application (i.e. a shirt, a mug, a website, a business card, a mouse pad), b)- be able to scale to any size without losing resolution, and c)- yield faithful color from one application to the next. A digital photograph cannot do any of these things. Also, it is more often the simple, distinct, graphic images that are best retained in memory as a “brand.”  Think of Nike.  Apple.  Facebook.  You know them immediately without having to think what they are.

Where all these needs converge is in a graphic image rendered in Adobe illustrator.  This program creates a vector image which can scale to any size, small or large, and can output any resolution needed. The graphic rendering allows you to choose Pantone colors that yield perfect color matches wherever you go, and also an image that can successfully reproduce on any media.

Most people who want a photographic look with the practicality of a graphic logo find the best solution is a graphic illustration. This is an image created from areas of solid color reduced down from a photograph’s thousands of shades and hues to a handful or less. These are arranged exactly as in a photograph so that the effect on the eye is of realism, but in fact, it is a few fields of solid color that are much more manageable for a variety of purposes.

For examples of graphic illustrations, see the logo page of this website. See especially the tennis shoes in Bohemian New York Walking Tours, and the camel in Oasis Bar & Grill.

There is more about the differences between vector and raster (photographic) images above. See Q: What is the difference between raster and vector?

  Q   Why are certain projects treated and priced differently?

A: Certain types of design work, because of wide circulation, mass production or high visibility, are considered premium work. These are priced differently than other artwork and held to different industry standards. For instance, cover design and merchandise design.

Unless negotiated differently, book covers and some CD package designs warrant a design fee plus a sales royalty, and a credit appears for the designer.

For merchandise design, typically no credit appears for the designer, but because of the mass production/mass sales factor, a design fee plus a percentage of sales is assumed. Here even more than with a book or CD (which contains a product other than the design) the design not only helps sell the product but IS the product. 

Each project is different and while we strive for the industry standards which provide a level playing field and a standard of fairness in pricing, we are always negotiable and open to working within a fair and reasonable budget. We encourage clients to send their project specs and their budget details and we will work with you to find a way to make your vision a reality.

We hope this page has answered your question. We get new questions all the time, and are constantly updating this page. Any questions that are not answered here, feel free to write to us at info@themadhand.com. We will answer you personally, and add your Q&A to the page. Thanks for visiting!