Lineart vs Greyscale scans for text

When faced with creating artwork a black and white book from a previous print that has no digital artwork available, the fastest and cheapest option is to scan the book. This assumes that there are no changes to the text, that the book is for print only, and that the client has allowed the spine to be cut off of the book so that the pages can scan through a document feeder. If the book is text only with no halftone, I would recommend the scans end up as 1200 dpi linearts. This is fine if the book is text only, but if the text contains images such as photographs, then two scans are required – one for the text (linearts), and one for the images (300dpi greyscales). The two sets of scans then have to be combined by placing the images into InDesign.
One might ask “why not use greyscale scans at 1200dpi”? Apart from the filesize when printing – the text will look terrible. To understand why high resolution doesn’t always equal better quality, the answer lies in one process: Rasterising.
Regardless whether a greyscale scan is 300dpi, 600dpi or 1200dpi, the scan will still have to go through the rasterising stage on the copier where a filter is applied to make the shades of grey that the artwork may contain. This is usually done with a halftone filter in the copier’s RIP software. This is where the images are converted into halftone dots – measured in LPI – Lines (of dots) Per Inch.
nosharper1Using a 150lpi halftone filter, here is what happens when the same images are rasterised (click on the image to see at correct size):
nosharper2The 600dpi and 1200dpi images do look better than the 300dpi, but the type is still not sharp, and looks bumpy. This is because of the halftoning that is occurring in the RIP. Despite the resolution the text was scanned, the bumps on each image are in the same spots in each scan (though the severity of the “bumps” is different with the dpi)
Lineart images are different in that there are no shades of grey, and do not have halftone applied to them. So once passing through a 150lpi halftone filter, here is how the images look after being rasterised (click on the image to see at correct size):
nosharper3Here, the difference in dpi does matter, as the 1200dpi lineart is sharper than the 600dpi lineart, which is definitel­y sharper than the 300dpi lineart
Here is the side-by-side comparison (click on the image to see at correct size):
nosharper4So by creating the book with separate scans for the images and type, the quality will be greatly improved, but will take longer to set up.

See it at the final size – view size and Acrobat: Part 2

A previous Colecandoo article presented a way of being able to control the view size and page presentation of PDFs used as soft-proofs for clients. The solution was to use the Actions tool in Adobe Acrobat to apply an appropriate action that contains the necessary view size/page presentation settings.

This method certainly works, but there is a far more easy method that can be done directly from Adobe InDesign, and that is to export as an interactive PDF.

As a printer that, I had created very little interactive content until recently. I felt that the “Export to Interactive PDF” was only of use for content that contained form fields or other interactive elements, so I had not considered this an option… until now. In fact, this method is much easier than the method described in the previous article. Once again though, this should only be used when a client is checking the content of the PDF only.

To do this, select File/Export (or command + e on a Mac) and from the dialog box, select Adobe PDF (Interactive) from the dropdown list and click Save.

interpic01A new dialog box will appear showing the available options for export, including the view and layout settings.

interpic02If preparing a proof that is to appear as readers spreads, be careful that it is possible to select the same view in two places in this dialog box, with some unwanted consequences.

interpic03To avoid this, use the Two-Up (Cover Page) option available from the Layout dropdown menu, rather than the Spreads option from the Pages/Spreads radio buttons.

The method still needs improvement…

One important note is that unlike the PDF export option for print, there is no way to save export presets for Interactive PDFs. Instead, the options used to last export an interactive PDF are maintained for the next export.

With this in mind, PDFs can also be exported en masse using Peter Kahrel’s batch convert script, but make sure that prior to using the script, one file is correctly exported to interactive PDF before using the script. Peter’s instructions do say this already, but it is worth writing it again.

Why won’t my printer take my Publisher file?

To people outside of the printing trade, Microsoft Publisher appears to be a price-competitive alternative to layout software such as Adobe InDesign or Quark Xpress, without the training required to use that software. However, from a print and design standpoint, Publisher is often seen as a nuisance and source of frustration.

Years ago, as a prepress operator at a service bureau, I would often get requests to prepare Publisher files for film or plates for clients (sent by their printers as soon as they heard the word “Publisher”). My employer was one of a select few that would accept Publisher files, and while we would output the artwork to film or plates, it was done on several conditions – the main condition being a handling fee of 50% of the total.

With the software given nicknames such as “Punisher” or “Rubbisher”, old colleagues who would load a client’s file only to realise it was a Publisher file would groan with frustration, normally followed by the words “I hope they supplied a PDF as well”.

So why does Publisher have this reputation? What has it done to deserve such a bad name among commercial printers? Does it really deserve this infamy or is it all hyperbole?

Reasons that many commercial printers will not accept Publisher files are:

  • Don’t have Publisher or the Windows OS;
  • Their staff are unskilled in Publisher;
  • The difficulties associated with earlier versions of Publisher;
  • Issues within the client’s artwork due to inexperience.

Software and Hardware

In a country where English is the first language spoken, it is most likely that commercial printers will use the Adobe Creative Suite on an Apple Macintosh for the production of their artwork. This means that Publisher files cannot be accepted as the software is not made for the Apple Macintosh. This is where many commercial printers will stop and say that they require press-ready PDF artwork instead.

For the remaining printers that do have Windows OS machines, these machines are not necessarily in the artroom and used for other purposes (e.g. tied into the platesetter software, for their colour laser copier, or elsewhere in the building such as estimating, sales… somewhere outside of the art department).

In my experience, I’ve found that it isn’t the Art department that claims to be able to accept Publisher files, but a Salesperson who does not want to disappoint clients by turning away artwork created using Publisher. In this situation, the salesperson loads a copy of Publisher onto a sales computer that uses a Windows OS, and then declares that the company can accept Publisher files. This does not necessarily mean that the art department can accept Publisher files, nor are they trained to use Publisher.

If a printer does have a dedicated Windows OS machine for client supplied artwork from Windows OS devices, it is also likely that the art department staff won’t be as proficient in Publisher as they would their regular design software such as InDesign. So while they may be able to open a Publisher file, if there are issues (e.g. missing fonts, reflow) or changes required, prepress operators may struggle.

It is worth noting that this issue is not limited to Publisher, but other software typically seen on the Windows OS such as Microsoft Word, Corel Draw, Autodesk AutoCAD, etc. In these instances, the supply of PDF artwork created by the client is an acceptable solution.

Print-skills of Publisher users vs commercial printers

Choosing my words very carefully, Publisher is a general consumer product aimed at making designs that would be difficult to do using Microsoft Word or Excel. Examples would be business cards, invites, DL flyers. But, just as a screwdriver can hammer in a nail, so too can Publisher create artwork for larger projects such as books, magazines, etc.

This is where problems normally arise, because while users may be able to create more complicated artwork, they may not be aware of the nuances of printing such as bleeds, crossovers, or binding considerations. There are typically hand-over issues as well, such as missing fonts and links.

Put simply, Publisher is not used by print professionals with industry experience that typically supply press-ready files. Instead, Publisher is largely used by the general public – people who would be unfamiliar with print procedures. The likelihood of either time-consuming or cost-creating complications arising from handling Publisher files is greater than accepting press-ready files from experienced designers.

Finished artwork vs Layout artwork

Prepress departments of commercial printers usually expect two kinds of files to process for print – Finished artwork or Layout artwork.

Finished artwork is artwork that the client has created and it expects the artwork to print exactly as it was submitted, whereas Layout artwork is artwork that the client has created but expects the printer to manipulate the artwork to varying degrees… anywhere from reformatting completely to adjusting artwork to fulfil specific criteria (e.g. fit a formeshape).

Files supplied in publisher would tend to fit into the Finished artwork category, whereas files supplied in word would be more likely to be Layout artwork.

Legacy of difficulty

Until the release of Microsoft Publisher 2010, the software had various issues when attempting to make the artwork useable for print production, such as colour-space issues, bleed issues, reflow when making PDFs. Like any other software, Publisher has evolved and the PDF creating functions for commercial printers have definitely improved. Nevertheless, bad previous experiences with the software are enough reason for printers to avoid the risks associated with handling Publisher files.

Technical Reasons

Printing to a home desktop printer is normally an easy process of pressing the print button and making sure the printer settings are correct. In a commercial printing business, it is a little more complicated. Whether printed offset or digital, artwork is usually converted into PDFs and then transferred to RIP (Raster Image Processor) software, where artwork undergoes procedures not seen on a home printer, such as:

  • Page imposition
  • Colour trapping
  • Colour management
  • Output settings (e.g. colour separation, line screen ruling, etc)

So what do I do?

No printer wants to turn away work, but when faced with artwork submitted as a publisher file, that is what many of them do. However, I feel the artwork can be handled so long as good communication exists between the client and the art department.

  • If a printer insists on supplying PDFs, supply some test PDFs first to make sure that the files are appropriate for the printer’s purposes, and if not, ask the questions as to what is going wrong and what can be done.
  • If you find a printer that does accept publisher files, make sure to use the “pack and go” wizard:  rather than providing the printer with the publisher file alone.
  • Patience and Perseverance is required from both the client and the printer.
  • If a printer suggests using InDesign instead of Publisher, be aware that for people working outside of the printing industry, InDesign has a steep learning curve. If the software is going to be used once a year to publish a newsletter or yearbook, perhaps keep using Publisher, but make sure you maintain good communication with the art department of the Printer so that any issues that arise are dealt with early on.
  • Markzware does make software for converting Publisher files to InDesign, but do not expect a flawless conversion.

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