Best Deal of the Year! $40 off Black Friday–Cyber Monday with Code: fri40

How to Prepare a Production-Ready Logo File: A Step-By-Step Guide

Tutorial
September 20, 2018

Your new logo is going to be the poster child for your client’s organization. It needs to be easy, breezy, beautiful.

What can you do to ensure that your logo file is immaculate and immune to an inconsistent appearance across the web and print? Implement a foolproof logo production process that’s what!

Tell me if you’ve experienced one of these production nightmares after you’ve sent your final logo to your client.

  • The printer says they don’t have the fonts
  • Stroke widths vary wildly among logo applications
  • The client modifies the artwork
  • You see your logo printed at large scale and see an odd protrusion or gap

Hopefully, you’ve never experienced any of these horrors and have consistently produced impeccable logos. If however, you’ve made a mistake or two and had to shudder in solitary embarrassment as you discover the logo equivalent of a massive forehead pimple on the artwork your client has been using for months, then you may want to implement a production process.

Here’s a breakdown of the steps I take, the problems these steps help you avoid, and how to execute them.

1 ) Check Document Color Mode

First thing’s first. Is your file even set up for the color space you’re working in? If your logo is using a CMYK mix or Pantone, then the Document Color Mode should be CMYK. If you’re working with RGB colors or Hex values, the Document Color Mode must be RGB.

Problems

Document Color Mode affects blacks.
If your black is meant to be 100%K, but the mode is RGB, black will appear to be a very dark gray instead of a pure black. Inversely RGB black in the CMYK color mode will appear as a pure black, but the color mix will add cyan, yellow, and magenta as well and apply more ink to your black than is necessary.

Incorrect color mixes
Converting between color modes in Illustrator WILL affect the color mixes. Your RGB values will change when opened in CMYK mode and vice versa. If you want color precision, applying the correct Document Color Mode is vital.

How to

Checking the document color mode is simple. Just look at the document tab. It displays the document name and color mode.

Changing the color mode is also easy. Select File > Document Color Mode.

Selecting Document Color Mode

2 ) Check Appearance of Blacks

This step is a followup to step one. Just make sure that your color mixes are appropriate for the color mode you’re in. Unless you are using a specific rich black mix for your logo, blacks should have the following values.

  • CMYK: c=0, m=0, y=0, k=100
  • RGB/Hex: r=0, g=0, b=0 / #000000
  • Never use the Registration swatch, it looks like black but it will not print

Problem

If the correct blacks aren’t applied to a logo, digital logos will appear lighter than they should be and print logos will be using more ink than they need to.

How to

Double click on the black swatch and manually change the values if they are incorrect. If the black swatch needs adjusting, make sure to reapply the adjusted black swatch to all of the black shapes in your logo.

Checking the appearance of a black swatch

3 ) Check for Overprinting

Overprinting becomes an issue when shapes overlap. If overprinting is enabled, underlying shapes may show through instead of being knocked out — this is rarely, if ever, a desirable effect for a logo.

Problem

Overlapping shapes can be affected by underlying shapes causing color distortion.

How to

Select all artwork (Command + A). Go to Window > Attributes. Make sure that both Overprint Fill and Overprint Stroke checkboxes are unchecked or grayed out. If the boxes are checked just click them until they are unchecked. As long as all of your artwork was selected, this will ensure none of the artwork is set to overprint.

Checking Overprinting is turned off

4 ) Convert Swatches to Global colors

Global swatches are regular swatches on steroids. The difference between global swatches and regular swatches is that when global swatches are applied to multiple shapes, the color of all those shapes can be adjusted by changing the global swatch. Regular swatches do not have this functionality.

Problem

If you don’t create global swatches, you’ll be forced to manually update every shape that contains an instance of the color.

How to

Double click on a swatch in the swatch panel and select the checkbox that says Global. After you do this, a white triangle will appear in the lower right corner of the swatch thumbnail.

Converting a regular swatch to a global swatch

5 ) Delete Unused Swatches

Illustrator typically opens with a ton of unnecessary swatches. Your document will be cleaner without them.

Problem

If you ever need to edit your logo file in the future, you could accidentally pick one of the default swatches by accident. At the very least these swatches are annoying clutter.

How to

Click the Swatch panel flyout menu and choose “Select All Unused.” Then click the trash icon in the bottom right of the swatches panel.

Deleting unused swatches

6 ) Create Separate Layers for Logo Components

This step is definitely subjective. It is easier to isolate and work on separate components of your logo if each component has its own layer. Components are things like icons, marks, type, tagline, etc.

Problem

There’s no problem with keeping all your logo components on one layer. It’s just easier to select an entire component if it is on a dedicated layer.

How to

Create a new layer by clicking the layer icon in the bottom right corner of the layers panel. Select the artwork you want to put on the new layer. Cut the artwork (Command or Control + x). Select the layer you want to move the artwork to from the layers panel. Paste the artwork in place (Shift + Command or Control + v).

7 ) Outline All Text

Text layers by default are editable. You can type into them, delete characters, change type size, etc. Text can also be converted to shapes, which is very beneficial for logo production.

Problem

Missing fonts. Not everyone who uses your logo file is guaranteed to have the same font as the one you created the logo with. If someone opens your logo file without having the correct font, a default font will be used to replace the font you agonized over selecting when you designed the logo. Converting the text to outlines makes the fonts into shapes, just like a rectangle or oval, which are not dependent on a font file to be rendered correctly.

How to

Select any and all type in your design and then select Type > Create Outlines (Shift + Command or Control + o).

Converting text to outlines

8 ) Expand Appearance and/or Expand

“Expand Appearance” and “Expand” are ostensibly the same thing, but there are subtle differences. Expand appearance separates multiple strokes, fills, or effects that have been applied to an object or group via the Appearance panel. When you use Expand Appearance, strokes will remain strokes. Expand takes an object’s appearance and converts it into a shape. Effects such as warping that may have been applied to the shape before expansion will retain their appearance but will no longer be edited nondestructively.

Problem

The problems with logos that contain objects which are not expanded relate primarily to strokes. If someone tries to scale your logo that uses strokes, the strokes will often maintain their set thickness (1pt for example) instead of scaling proportionately. This is a big problem for logo consistency, and may also cause problems when placing the logo file into other design applications.

How to

Select any shapes with strokes, then select Object > Expand. Make sure stroke is checked. If the Expand option is grayed out, you will need to use Expand Appearance first, then Expand.

Expanding strokes

9 ) Merge Shapes

Logos are frequently made by combining multiple shapes. The results of expanding will also leave you with a plethora of shape objects. You can consolidate these objects by merging them into one unified shape instead of several grouped or overlapping shapes.

Problems

Editing difficulties
Trying to recolor or update your logo can be a major hassle if the logo components are comprised of dozens of little shapes. Unifying them means you’ll only have to select one object in the event you need to modify your logo’s color.

Large SVG files.
The fewer anchor points, the better when it comes to exporting SVGs. Combing shapes will drastically lessen the complexity of your logo file.

How to

Select all of the shapes related to a specific component of the logo. Make sure our Pathfinder panel is open. Choose the “Unite” option under shape modes.

It’s important to note that if two shapes with different colors are merged, the resulting shape will be converted to only one of the two colors. Only merge shapes if they are the same color.

Merging shapes using pathfinder

10 ) Clean Up

There is a nifty little command that will clean up stray points, unpainted objects, and empty text paths. These things can be extremely annoying and cause lots of frustrations. Get rid of ‘em!

Problems

Stray points and miscellaneous clutter are annoying at best and at their worst can cause production problems such as missing fonts or affect file dimensions.

How to

Select all of your artwork by using Select All (Command or Control + a). Choose Object > Path > Clean Up. Make sure all checkboxes are checked. If there is nothing to clean up in your file, Illustrator will display a prompt telling you there was nothing to clean up.

Using Cleanup on paths

11 ) Inspect Your Artwork at 2400% Zoom

The exact zoom percentage doesn’t really matter all that much, the point is to zoom in extremely close to your artwork to check for odd protrusions or janky path joins.

Problems

Small imperfections become glaring eyesores at large sizes. You don’t want to be the person being roasted on the internet for the deformed logo you designed.

How to

I know you know how to zoom, but one lesser-known trick is that you can enter a custom zoom level in the field at the bottom left of your window.

Zooming in to 2400 percent

12 ) Fit Artboards to Artwork

You’re almost there. This is the last step. Artboards can be automatically resized to fit the dimensions of the artwork they contain using “Fit to Artwork Bounds.”

Problems

Any designer who needs to place your logo into InDesign or other design software is going to hate you if they have to crop in on your logo once it’s placed. Fitting the Artboard to your logo ensures that it will always be the correct crop wherever it is used.

How to

If you only have one artboard and one logo in your file then you can merely select Object > Artboards > Fit to Artwork Bounds. If you have multiple logos on different artboards, you’ll need to select one logo first and then choose Object > Artboards > Fit to Selected Art.

Fitting artboards to artwork

Pro Tip

While in artboard editing mode, you can select an artboard and then double click on any individual shape or group of shapes to fit the artboard to that object.

13 ) Lock Layers

It’s always a good idea to lock your layers before sending your logo files to a client.

Problem

Clients or other designers can and will mess with your artwork. Locking the artwork makes it just a little bit more difficult for them to do so.

How to

Click the empty square to the right of the visibility icon (eyeball) on the layer in the Layers panel.

Locking artwork layers

There you have it, my friends. Follow these steps, and your logo file is guaranteed to be the bell of the ball.


Make Super Clean Logo Files

Download the Logo Package Production Checklist and use it to ensure pristine logo files every time you finalize a design.

Your final logo file is super clean, and now you’re ready to send it to your client…

…but exporting the zillions of color schemes and file formats your client needs is super boring and a general pain in the ass. That’s why The Logo Package has created Logo Package Express. It’s an extension for Adobe Illustrator that can create, export, and sort hundreds of logo files in minutes. Learn more about it.

Logo Package Express 2.0 box.

Up Next

Article thumbnail
Preparation
January 24, 2021

Start Your Logo Designs in CMYK

Choosing the colors for your logo is one of the most consequential choices you will make. Start on the right foot.
Continue Reading
Article thumbnail
Resource
January 15, 2021

My Top 5 Logo Design Blog Recommendations

I'm sharing my absolute favorite blogs for logo designers.
Continue Reading
Article thumbnail
Tutorial
January 9, 2021

How to Batch Rename Files on a Mac

Changing the names of dozens of logo files is an incredibly wasteful use of your time. Use this trick for Mac.
Continue Reading

Join Us

Join our mailing list to receive updates, discounts, and free stuff!