Vectors, Pixels and Page Layout Applications (In their native forms)
There are basically three types of programs used in the printing industry. They each have a unique strength and can be used together to maximize your graphic prowess. There are some applications that blend the power of all three (Denaba Canvas), but for our purpose here we will focus on the ones that are the industry standards and the ones we see here at Marcus Printing Co. All of these vector and pixel programs can export the graphics into a page layout program.
These drawing programs are sometimes referred to as “line and fill” or postscript programs. The kings here are Adobe Illustrator (.ai), and Corel Draw (.cdr). These programs are based on mathematical formulas that describe an object with a “simple” line and fill concept. Any typeface is a vector image and can be seen in it’s natural form by converting it to paths or outlines in one of these programs. Here is a picture sample:
Notice the handles on each of the nodes. This allows you to change the curve. The power here is that each vector graphic has no “resolution” or dependent quality. You could take any of these graphics and blow them up the size of a house and the smoothness of the lines and the fills will be intact and suffer no quality loss. That is one reason why most professional companies have their logos in this format.
Adobe Photoshop (.psd) is the master here, sometimes referred to as a painting program. It creates images that are “resolution dependent”. This means that the quality of your image is determined at the time it is created. That is to say that if you are using a digital camera or scanning in photos, you will determine the quality at that time and unfortunately we may not be able to help you after that. For examples if you should want to blow up your photo beyond its resolution capacity you will start to see these pixels.
Our rule of thumb here for the printing industry is that Grayscale and Color images should be 300 dpi at the physical size you are going to print it at. For line art (bitmap, black and white only) 600 dpi also at the size you want to print it out to. This is the dialog box in Photoshop that shows you the quality of the image by the numbers:
QuarkXpress (.qxd) and InDesign (.indd) are the top dogs here. CorelDRAW (.cdr) files are also welcome. MS Publisher (.pub) now has some support for working with color. All of these page layout applications are for the final assembly of all of your images and for book building. Ideally we would like to get all of our final jobs in QuarkXpress or InDesign. From here we will export the pages into a page imposition software and prepare the printing plates for press.
Word Processing programs such as Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect or Apple Pages also seem to have some capability to do page layout, however they do not support color spaces such as CMYK or spot colors needed for the printing industry. Also the formatting of the type may not be reliable from one computer to the other and typefaces may automatically substitute out without warning. We can take three different approaches to working with your word processing files. One, scan in your copy as if it was “camera ready”, this raises the question whether your copy is good enough and leaves no room for editing the copy. Two, we can scan in your copy as OCR. This will cause reflow and we will substitute our typefaces. OCR allows for copy changes, reformatting and refitting to the page. Three, send us the native word processing file and we will reflow it into a page layout program. This give us the greatest ability to format and fit your artwork to your pages.
Spreadsheet programs such as Excel can sometimes be exported as postscript graphic files, however they are clumsy for us to work on. They have no support for color spaces such as CMYK or spot color so the color images they produce are always a hit or miss RGB.
Note: For us, it is not just a simple matter of printing out your files, we must be able to imposition your files on a printing plate and make sure that it meets certain printing parameters. This adds a layer of complexity to how we handle your files.