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Nice Photo, But It Will Print Like Junk!!

June 1st, 2012

Let’s spend some time talking about the images required for the commercial printing of magazines, catalogs, posters, books and other items produced by commercial printing magazine printingcompanies. More to the point let’s discuss what is required vs. some of the horrific images that are supplied to a printing company as part of a commercial printing project. In the course of which I shall offer a trick or two on how to verify the validity or appropriateness of your image and how they should be created and/or supplied to the printing company.

With all of the files we get at our printing company for magazine printing, catalogs, folders and all types of assorted printing projects, you would be surprised about how many arrive with images that look as if they were meant to be displayed for Mr. Magoo, the near blind cartoon character. In other words not fit to print.

Let me start off with this tip so you can tell right away if your image is fit for a commercial printing company’s printing press. Just because you look at the image on your screen and it looks fine, does not make it so. The biggest problem people face with images is resolution. Screen resolution on newer monitors may be 90 dpi. But let’s assume yours is 72 dpi, which translates as 72 x 72, as it is measured in two dimensions. 72 x 72=5184. Commercial color printing requires 300 dpi, which would be 300 x 300=90,000. Therefore 72 dpi contains five percent of the pixels or information required for a quality commercial printing job. HELLOOO, MAGOOOO?  If you want to know what your image will look like on press, blow up your image on screen to 400 percent and this will give you an “approximate”, repeat approximate idea of how it will look once printed. If you are seeing pixels, soft image or general mud, that is how it will print.

 

My Monitor shows the following:

In the best scenarios there is no such thing as a perfect screen and images vary from screen to screen and only the best of designers, with a highly calibrated and expensive monitor, can then make the leap as to how what they see on screen will look on press. The experienced and professional graphic designer will know that if his reds look like XYZ on screen, they will show up with a variance on press, but experience has taught the designer what to expect. Should that not describe your own acumen, the best thing to do is print it out. Always create with your desk to printer “in full effect”, as the slang term goes. When you are nearing the end of your project, go to a local copy shop or printer with iGen or Canon equivalent and print it out as that will be the most representative as to what you will end up with. Ink jet, which is newer and superior to offset printing, will not.

Are JPG’s OK

Yes and no. They are not the preferred format for images to print with. Many people manipulate their images in Photoshop or other programs. Each time you save the image after some manipulation you are degrading that image further. Photoshop, when you manipulate the image as a Photoshop PSD file, rather than a JPG, will not degrade the image each time you save it. I think the same would hold true for a Camera Raw file which Photoshop uses. At the very tail end of your project, after all manipulation of the image is complete, then save your image as a Tiff file with compression turned off. SAVE YOUR PSD FILE and hold onto it, so that if you must make changes you do so with that and not the TIFF.

But I Increased the DPI?

How nice, but you wasted your time. Taking a low resolution image and simply increasing the DPI in Photoshop does absolutely nothing for your image and does everything to waste your time. Until such time as Adobe can enhance Photoshop so that it fills in the needed pixels to perfectly mach those missing from your image you are spinning your wheels. The only thing you can do to make a crappy image better is to reduce it in size. However, you must first uncheck the box in Photoshop that enables the image to be “re-sampled”. By doing this, what you are doing while making a smaller image, is “compressing” the given amount of dots into a smaller area. Once done if you check your DPI, you should have a higher one that the one you started with. Add a frame around the picture or use your creativity to make the smaller image work for you. Or, simply get a better image.

Image Reduction by Jamming

You wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes that were a size 6 and try and jam your size 12 “feets” into them or would you? Sorry, I forgot who I was talking too. Just kidding! No you would not. So why do you take a 12 x 12” image and place, place it in InDesign, Quark, or another document program and reduce the size of the image once there? Bad boy! What you have just done, times as many instances as you have done this silly thing is to overweigh your file and bloat it. It may even crash the rip and default all to 72 DPI depending on the equipment and size of the final “masterpiece”. Never size your images in a document program. Size them in Photoshop before importing them into your document. Then adjust the fit either to the image or image box.

Willy-Nilly Image Naming

If you have ever named your image along the lines of “image 12B3”, or “john’s cat” please don’t. Think of what you are creating as not only building something that is logical, but that also will need to be understood by others once you present it to them. Name your images after it’s usage in the document. Example: if you have three images on page 13, name them as “catp13, dogp13, momp13” and not some nonsensical and useless file name. This way, once you are done you can also create what is called a “style sheet”, which is a road map to your files for the ones who must work with it after you and output it in order to print your magazine or catalog. This way they know which page all the images marked as “…p13” go to. If you have copy beneath an image, it makes it a cinch, should anyone else need to work on your files. If you have a problem at press and need pre press to fix something you will be glad of this advice.

Cropping and Bleeds

Needless to say, crop your images so that what you are left with clearly shows what is important and deletes any extraneous information or image area that is not. If you want your image to bleed to the edge of the magazine page, then you must extend that image and all else 1/8” for sheet fed printing and ¼” for web printing. Otherwise, you will either see a white line or the trim as you intended it to be will be up to the jiggle of the press and the keen or not so keen eye of the person doing the final trimming.

It is important if you want to check these things above in advance to use software than can provide you with the answers. Adobe Acrobat offers in their tools under Printing Press, the ability to do a flight check or you can use FlightCheck by Markzware which can do similar.

I hope you have found this information helpful as that was my intention and you can find similar help from us should we have the pleasure of printing your books, magazines, catalog printing or other commercial printing project. Contact Us Now by visiting us at Printing By Design, and request a quote to find out how you can benefit from web printing your magazine, book or catalog with PBD!

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