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Folks, Jasper Johal is an award winning photographer/designer in the LA area and the editor of the Los Angelse Mac Group's newsletter "LAMG Digest". I caught up with him at Macworld and had a brief opportunity to chat and to request permission to reprint his "Graphics Pro" column. He's promised to share some of his photographs in a future issue and I know that will be a treat for us all. Please welcome Jasper to the pages of DT&G...

Pearls of Output-File Wisdom

Jasper Johal

Over the years I have heard quite a few horror stories from printers and film output bureaus about impossible files brought to them by designers. Just because it printed fine on your laser printer, doesn’t mean it will output on the imagesetter. These are two very different beasts. A laser printer is a non-discerning mule that will pull most loads put on its forgiving back. An imagesetter is a high-strung thoroughbred that will balk at any Postscript that offends its finicky nose. If files have problems, deadlines deflate, budgets bloat, and the sleep deprived designer’s tenuous grasp on sanity slips. So here are some pearls of file output wisdom I have collected over the years from my friends that ride imagesetters everyday.
Do not use Truetype fonts. Stick with Postscript Type 1 fonts. If your designs are only going to be printed on the office laser printer or the inkjet printer, then using Truetype fonts is OK. But if you need to make color separations and printing plates, your files need Postscript information that is lacking in Truetype fonts. When printers create impositions (several pages composited together in the right configuration so they can be printed on a big sheet and later cut apart), your individual page layout will be converted into a postscript file before it is placed in position by the imposition software. It is at this stage that your fancy Truetype fonts will Cinderella into plain Courier, turning your fairytale design into a Greek tragedy.
But say, the brooding musician you are designing the CD album for has fallen absolutely in love with this grungy font that only comes in Truetype. In that case, layout the headline or two you need in Illustrator or Freehand, and convert it to outlines. Then save as an EPS file and place it in Quark or Pagemaker (Or InDesign, by the end of summer). By the way, do not turn entire pages of dense text into outlines. Doing that creates too many PostScript paths, that may choke the machine and cause it to not output, or at the very least, take excruciatingly long to output (for which you’ll probably get charged extra).
Before taking your design job to your film output bureau, be sure to collect both the screen and printer fonts used in your design. In Quark use the Font Usage... command in the Utilities menu to see which fonts to collect. Keep in mind that Quark will not show any fonts that are included in a placed EPS graphic. For that reason, if I create any graphics in Illustrator that use type, I always turn all fonts into outlines before saving as an EPS. This is where one of the preflight utilities, such as MarkZWare’s FlightCheck and FlightCheck Collect, or Extensis’ Preflight Pro and Collect Pro come in handy. They will not only flag all fonts present in your file, whether hidden inside a placed graphic or not, but also physically collect them for you.
Make sure you send to the service bureau all the images you have placed in your layout. Use the Collect for Output… command in Quark’s File menu to collect all the images you are using in your design. This may seem like a very obvious thing to list here, but you’d be surprised at how often files are dropped off to service bureaus with one or more images missing. Commonly this happens when a designer re-uses an old file they did for a client four months ago to make changes to create a new one. Invariably the logo, or some other image element that did not change, gets left behind.
We measure the resolution of images in our computers in dpi (dots per inch) or ppi (pixels per inch). In the printing world we measure resolution of printed pages by lpi (lines per inch). Most newspapers are printed on coarse paper and achieve about 85 lpi. Most color magazines are printed on high speed web presses at 133 lpi. Most sheet fed presses can print finer dots and work at 150 or 175 lpi. Very high quality photo books may be printed at 200 lpi. The other day I visited a press that is experimenting with even 400 lpi. (I will report more on this exciting development in a future column.)
__ So how does this relate to dpi you see in Photoshop? The general rule of thumb is to have twice the dpi for the lpi you will be printing at. For newspapers, 160 dpi images are fine. When preparing ads that will run in a trade magazine, use graphics that are at least 266 dpi. For most brochures, CD albums, video boxes, and posters, use images at 300 dpi.
Flatten all files in Photoshop, and save as TIFF or EPS, before importing into a picture box in Quark. TIFF is the most universally used format. TIFFs will also create a more detailed preview in Quark, if you select Display 32 bit in the Application Preferences dialog box. But if you are working with very large photos in Quark, such as for a movie poster, an EPS files will allow you to work faster. A big TIFF will take a lot longer to open, or update, in Quark. Though some imagesetters can use JPEGs, many can’t, so it is best to stick with TIFF or EPS formats.
Here is an odd thing about Quark: the picture box containing a TIFF must have some background color selected, such as white, or else the edges of the TIFF may output all jagged. So pull down the Item menu and select Modify... (command-M). Make sure the background selected is anything but None.
__ Another odd thing to watch for in Quark: If you put a frame around a picture box, then change your mind and remove it, Quark will also remove the background color, setting you up for a nasty surprise later. So one of the last things I always check before sending my file off to the bureau are my picture box backgrounds.
If the image is going to extend to the edges of the page, make sure you make the image at least 1/8th inch larger in every direction so the printer has something to cut into. For example, if you are designing a 5 inch by 7 inch postcard that will have a background image that bleeds off the edges, make sure to use a graphic that is at least 5.25” by 7.25” in size.
Do not do any scaling or rotating in the page layout program. It will greatly increase processing time. If you have six images in your design at various reductions, and two that are rotated forty five degrees, a twenty minute output job just turned into a two hour output job. Go into Photoshop and size and rotate the images. Then place them in Quark at 100% size, with zero degree rotation, and your service bureau will start talking to you again.
I will talk in more detail about color in a future column, but for now here are a few things to keep in mind: Make sure you change all your RGB images to CMYK before importing into Quark. Learn to use ColorSync, and a calibrated monitor, to help get the true colors in the final job. If you bring a duotone into Quark, make sure to set the screen angle for one color at least 30 degrees different than the other. To get the richest blacks in large flat areas, specify 100% black with 25% cyan or 25% magenta ink.
Though the laser printer may be a mule compared to the thoroughbred imagesetter, you should use your laser printer to make a proof before dropping off your file for film output. First, it provides a reference for your service bureau to check against and see if the imagesetter output is what it should be (some designer might be using Courier all over the place to make a statement, you never know!). Second, if the mule can’t print your creation, you know the thoroughbred is going to have a problem with your file.
If you have comments, suggestions or questions, please send a note to


©2000 by ( All Rights Reserved. First published in the Los Angeles Macintosh User Group newsletter.

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