Let's assume you are working in Illustrator. Here's my advice:
I am putting together a single page flyer which will have light gradients and shadows on the objects.
Think Apple-ish light grays and shadows...
"I would like to get an opinion here from someone in the know as I am much more of digital guy than print.
1) What is the lightest gray I can work with that would print well?
When setting up the CMYK color should I simply set it at say 10% 10% 10% 10% or is there some better mixture for light gray gradients. i.e. slightly blue for example, or rich black mixture.
- It should not be necessary to use 10% across the board. It comes down to how you want the shadows and gradients to appear. You ask what is the "lightest" Gray. That depends on the press and paper. Let's also assume you are planning for high end offset on a high end glossy "White" stock ( paper ). A 10% Black is fairly reasonable, but you could plan for 5%K ( again, depends on press and paper ). A nice warm Gray could be achieved with 7.5%C, 7.5%M, 7.5%Y, 0%K; a nice cool Gray could be achieved via 2.5%C, 0%M, 0%Y, 7.5%K. I would cross check a Pantone Process Color Guide for a reasonable choice. Do not rely on the monitor.
2) When creating the gradients in illustrator, should I go from the gray to transparent or is it better to set up a gray to white gradient?
- It should not be necessary to set your gradient to transparent. A typical scenario would be K > 0W; only specific requirements demand transparency.
When creating my supporting images with the shadows and gradients, would it be best just to create them in Photoshop and place them in my illustrator document and leave Illustrator for the text alone?
- That depends on the file, the background, and a few other considerations. The key to shadows and gradients in Illustrator is they be applied as part of the final step in the file prep process. If you create the shadows, for instance, in Photoshop, the end file size may end up larger than you anticipated. And, the shadow would be resolution dependent ( less flexibility ).
Thanks in advance, I really appreciate your help"
Before you get started with your file, contact the print vendor to find out what type of press and what type of paper they plan to use on your job ( of you haven't already ). Don't forget to set your document resolution in Illustrator ( assumed ) and the Raster Effects resolution. Another important thing to remember is nail down the actual Gray ( i.e., lookup in Pantone Process Color Guide printed on the paper type you plan to use on press ).
Greys can be a subjective thing, especially when it comes to "what is too light?". Personally I try to not take any grey below 10%. To answer your direct questions:
1) I would avoid doing a mix grey, the lighter all of your mix colors go, the more they will tint and muddy. If you are going for an intentionally cool grey I'd use something like 3/0/0/10. If you want something more pure, just use tints of black.
2) Illustrator currently doesn't have the best transparency support. If using the grey-white gradient won't interfere with anything elese on your background, I'd stick with that.
3) You can go either way (Photoshop or Illustrator) for creating your gradients. When it comes to most output devices, Photoshop gradients tend to handle a bit better (being static information instead of dynamic vectors), however they limit you during design (since in Illustrator you can keep changing on a whim). Being a single-page flyer, I'd stick with Illustrator.
Wow really great answer Ryan thank you for the time and help.
I agree that Photoshop handles the gradients much better but I was worried that maybe it would be a "screen only" thing, meaning that yeah it looks great on screen but once it goes to print you get something entirely different.
I think then that my best option here is to do the layout in Illustrator with rough gradient and shadow effects in order to place the copy and images where I would like them to be, and on the final pass, wrap up the supporting images in Photoshop and place them in my document in place of the rough drafter elements.