Best of PI - Electronic Prepress

Winter 1994 Here Are Some Thoughts on Creating Covers, Jackets, Strip-Ins and Halftones Electronically

There is nothing going on in book printing today that deserves any more comment than the growing use of electronic pre-press techniques for covers, jackets and text. Printers and service bureaus, as well as publishers, are learning new things and making new discoveries in this area almost on a daily basis. I am not an expert here but I do have access to people who are. Because of this, I believe I can help shed some light in this area and, hopefully, do more good than harm. Here are some things I've learned since the last issue of Printer's Ink . . . specifically about creating covers, jackets, line strip-ins and halftones from disks.

Covers & Jackets: Because cover and jacket artists and designers began using desktop publishing in their work early on, this area is a little farther along than the text area. I think it is generally agreed that art work can be created faster, more accurately and with better registration using desktop technology than by creating it by hand.

Most people who create cover art electronically still produce their own camera-ready-copy rather than sending a disk to the printer. However, we are now receiving some covers and jackets on disks.

While we can make cover and jacket negatives from disks in house, for the most part we send these to a service bureau where they have the proper hardware (scanners with a resolution capability in excess of 3000 are needed here), the software (trapping software is in its infancy and creating traps without the software is very time consuming) and very experienced staff. Because of this, instead of being able to give a firm quote on the cover or jacket created from art work you furnish, we have to qualify our quote if you provide us with nothing but a disk. The service bureau charges us according to the complexity of your copy and if you need traps, chokes, spreads, etc., the cost can go up. We have always qualified our 4-color cover and jacket quotes when we do the separating by saying they are subject to review and confirmation after we see the art. Now for two and three color covers and jackets from disks, we will also have to review our price after we have your disk.

I hope that is clear, and now on to electronically created strip-ins and halftones for text pages.

Halftones & Strip-ins: This is really two different stories. A line strip-in can be easily done electronically by the publisher using the popular Aldus Freehand or Adobe Illustrator software and copying the art into your disk. Or, you could use software other than Illustrator or Freehand, if you prefer, and we could still create your art work. Pricewise, there is no additional charge by us if your disk contains line art done in this manner.

Halftones are not as simple. You could do your own scanning and with software like Adobe Photoshop, and ink the photos with your page layout software, avoiding the $ 1 0.00 we charge for shooting and stripping the halftone from an actual photo.

However, when you do this you, and we, are at the mercy of the quality of your scan as far as the quality of the actual printing is concerned. Operating a halftone scanner requires a significant amount of skill and the operator should take into account the various possible combinations of highlight and shadow dots in the halftone and how those will reproduce on the plates and paper that the printer will be using. We do not believe a blueline proof will give you a very good idea as to just how the halftone is going to look when it is printed so unless you see a press proof (at a cost of about $100.00 to $200.00) you and your printer aren't going to know what the printed picture is going to look like.

If top quality is not critical, you could do your own scanning, avoid the press proof, see a blueline only and, hopefully, go with the result. If you do this, there is still some additional cost because we have to output the film containing halftones at 2540 DPI instead of 1693 which we would use for text output without halftones. This may take about two times as long to output and we have an additional charge per scan for the higher resolution. This applies just to those signatures that contain halftones as well as the signatures that are straight text.

If you want, you could send us a trial disk with a few scanned photos on it in advance of the rest of the job. We could make a press proof of those and, if you provide the original photo, we would scan it ourselves and show you our own reproduction on the same proof. This would let you make a direct comparison of the quality between your scanning and ours.

Within a year, we will have an additional, and hopefully better, way to handle halftones from your disk and that is by OPI (open prepress interface) "swapping." In this scenario, you will be able to send us your photos, we scan them and provide you with a low resolution file while archiving a high resolution file. This would enable you to place the halftone, size it and crop it. When we get the disk in our plant, we would swap the low resolution scan for our high resolution scan and that should provide good quality without all the cost of shooting and stripping the halftone. We could make the high resolution scan and send it back to you now but if you had many halftones, it would require an awful lot of disk capacity for you to put them in your files.

This, hopefully, will help you get up to date in this fast moving area. If you feel you lack confidence about proceeding with desktop publishing, give us a call. Your customer service representative or an estimator may be able to help you but if you want really detailed help, ask for Larry Meilleur, he's very knowledgeable and very willing to help. He's my source for these stories in PI.

As a matter of fact, Larry gave me a few additional guidelines to keep in mind if you want to supply text copy on a disk. Here are some of them:

  1. Provide the printer all screen and printer fonts used in the text and in the graphic files if there are any.
  2. To avoid our having to use low resolution imaging, include all graphic files. Pagemaker users can embed graphics but should send the original graphic files in case we have to troubleshoot. However, if your graphic files are large it is not a good idea to embed them in your Pagemaker file. It's also a good idea to send the native application files in case changes are needed.
  3. When creating text pages in a page layout program, use a Master Page template to ensure consistency. On Master Pages, set your margins and place any elements that repeat throughout the book (i.e., running heads and folios). Also, check to see that they align across from left- to right-hand pages.

He has more guidelines but I suspect I'm running out of room. I'll save those for the next issue.

If all of this leaves you feeling inadequate and frustrated, you are not alone. Take heart! As I'm writing this, over 90% of our incoming jobs are coming to us in the form of camera ready-copy . . . not on disks.

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