It's the night before your press deadline, you're preparing your files for output and
only your laser printer is stirring. You print out the last revisions of your document
from your laser printer and rush to deliver it to your service bureau. Wiping the sweet
from your brow you hand your files to your customer service rep and relax until a few
hours later when you get the dreaded "service bureau problem call".
The muscles in your neck and back tighten as a strangely familiar conversation repeats,
"We are having some problems with your files. We can fix them but it will take some
time and cost you some additional money." Your blood pressure sky rockets, your
stomach aches and you scream, "Why didn't someone tell me how to avoid these
problems, before this happened?" This article is designed to help you avoid the
myriad of pitfalls which can interfere with the smooth output of your files from a service
This will include: identifying important features of hardware and software, instruction
on the proper installation of programs, recommendations for avoiding font id and printer
font name conflicts, a comparison of file formats and transportation options, as well as
hints and tips for composing files.
Buy And Use The Right Stuff
The first things to do to avoid problems is to ensure that your system is set-up
correctly. This means all the components of your system should be PostScript the language
used by the service bureaus high quality output devices (e.g. imagesetters) to print out
pages. This includes printers, fonts and programs.
Using printers or fonts that are not Postscript, such as Hewlett Packard laser printers
that use HPGL or TrueType fonts, greatly increase your chances or receiving the dreaded
Remember that TrueType fonts print out less reliability then PostScript fonts, also
known as Type 1 fonts. A problem of course is that TrueType fonts are automatically
installed when you install your Mac System (7.x) or Windows (3.x). You should ask your
service bureau but most suggest removing your TrueType fonts from your system.
On the Mac using System 7.x True Type fonts are placed in a fonts folder within your
system folder and have three A's on them when viewed by icon. You should remove them and
place them in a separate folder, outside of your system, just in case you ever need them.
In Windows you go into your control panel and delete the TrueType fonts.
After purchasing the PostScript components you need to install them. Depending on the
computer and programs you use you may have to chose which printer drivers to install.
Printer drivers allow you prepare files for specific printers. Before installing the
programs you should call your service bureau of choice and ask them which printers they
use. That way you can install there printer drivers. If they are not available in your
installation software, they can give you there printer drivers. Before you send your files
to them, select there printer driver and then check to see if your line breaks have
Most programs and PostScript printers come with the 35 Laserwriter Plus fonts. These
include the families: Avant Garde, Bookman, Courier, Helvetica, New Century Schoolbook,
Palatino, Symbol, Times, Zapf Dingbats ad Zapf Chancery. The fonts to avoid on the
Macintosh (Mac) are those with names of cities such as Chicago, Geneva, etc. These are not
Besides the 35 faces which typically come with DTP programs, other fonts can be
purchased. One thing to consider before buying fonts is the reputation of the
manufacturer. Often buying 1000 fonts for $29.95 from the "Fonts R Us" ad in the
back of the DTP magazines results in those surprising phone calls.
The are several manufacturers of typefaces, but the mot popular and reliable fonts are
made by Adobe and Bitstream and the imagesetter manufacturers such as Agfa and Linotype.
If you need to purchase other typefaces, you should contact your local service bureau and
ask them whose fonts they support. Remember, the money saved in buying cheap fonts may
more than offset the headaches in getting them to print.
A more common and difficult problem for most service bureaus is overcoming the Mac
screen font identification numbering conflicts (font id conflicts). Before working on your
document you should contact your service bureau and ask what strategies they use to
overcome font id conflicts.
On the Mac if you're are using a font management utility like Suitcase or Juggler, the
service bureau may ask you to send your font suitcase. Many service bureaus ask customers
to send them PostScript files to avoid font problems. This is easy to use simply by
choosing the "print to disk" option in the print dialog box.
Avoid mixing different font vendors for the same family of fonts. For example don't use
Adobe Future regular and LaserMaster Futura light, etc. This will results in great
confusion and unpredictable results.
Many service bureaus today use the new font numbering technique (NFNT) in which the
font numbers have been reassigned to unique non-conflicting numbers. Fonts that have been
renumbered with the NFNT strategy are easy to access.
For example, the 5.5 version of Illustrator from Adobe has their screen font library
available in NFNT formats. Or you can download fonts from the Adobe Library on CompuServe
or buy a CD-ROM filled with "Fonts-on-Call" from Adobe, Agfa, Linotype and
others. The screen fonts are generally free and you can purchase or "unlock" the
printer fonts with a credit card and a phone call.
One common mistake is to forget to tell your service bureau the fonts embedded in eps
files. On solution is to convert typefaces to outlines or paths within the drawing program
before converting it to a eps file. Before exporting the file into a eps format use the
"convert to paths" command. Illustrator, Freehand and Corel all have this
Not everyone agrees with this philosophy. Some people complain that "convert to
paths" type which is 10 points or smaller distorts the type. Others say that it
increases print time when there is a page filled with text this is "converted".
If you have concerns about this procedure run a test file.
If you create your own special fonts using programs like Fontographer, be sure you
create unique names for both screen and printer versions to avoid conflicts with industry
standard names. If you do this don't forget to send the screen and printer fonts and don't
Understand and Use File Formats Wisely
In addition to using PostScript fonts you will need to assign other specifications to
the file to avoid problems. The first involves file formats. Of all the different file
formats TIFF and EPS are the most reliable.
There is an importance differences in these two file types. Scanning results in a TIFF
(Tagged Image File Format) which is a "bit-mapped" file. Drawing in an
illustration program results in a eps or "vector based" file format. Scans are
bit mapped while EPS files are vector based.
Bit mapped files, such as scans (TIFF) or “paint” files are resolution dependent. The
resolution is dependent of the scaling in the page layout program. If you make it bigger
it loses resolution if you make it smaller it gains resolution. Think of bit mapped files
as a picture filed with bunch of dots.
Resolution is measured in the number of dots per square inch. If you scale the picture
beyond 100% you pull the dots apart resulting in less resolution. If you scale the picture
to less then 100% you push the dots closer and increase the resolution.
The 2:1 Ratio
The "rule of thumb" ratio for how much scanning resolution you need for
outputting to an imagesetter using conventional screening is 2 to 1. So you need 300 dpi
scans in its final size to output pictures for 150 lpi. To end up with 300 dpi you could
scan a 4x5" original and 600 dpi and make it 8x10" (twice as large) in your page
layout program. The converse is true if you scan at 150 dpi at 8x10" and scale it to
4x5" (half its size) you will have 300 dpi.
The rule of thumb says that scans should be created at 100% size with a dpi of 2:1 the
line screen for which it is to be printed. (Example: 150 line screen = 300 dpi).If scaling
up or down takes place, the effective resolution of the file is changed, and the output
However 2:1 ratio results in fairly large files and some people argue that the 2:1
ratio is overkill. Brain Lawler a frequent seminar leader and consultant has been
advocating that the 2:1 ratio is too much. Lawler says that the 2:1 ratio is overkill and
most times you could get away with lower ratios which are not noticeably different.
The 2:1 ratio results in larger files which are more time consuming to manipulate
requires greater storage, will take longer for you service bureau to transfer across their
network and longer to output from their service bureau. If your service bureau charges
based on time to output, larger files will cost more to output.
If you are considering using lower resolution files perform some tests. Divide a letter
sized page into 4 quadrants. Take one picture place the 2:1 ration in one corner, and a
1.5:1, 1.3:1 and 1.25:1 ratio in the other corners. Then see for yourself.
When working in a photomanipulation program such as Photoshop remember to assign the
line screen. Forgetting to assign a line screen value may result in the default line
screen being printed even after the scan is placed and output from the page layout
The other type of file format is the vector based or object-oriented files such as the
EPS file format. An easy way to think about vector based graphics is that they describe
the picture using mathematical formula. The formula says put a dot here and put a dot
there and draw a line between them. Drawing programs such as Adobe Illustrator, Aldus
FreeHand and Coral Draw create these types of files.
These files are resolution independent meaning that they will print out at the best
resolution of the output device regardless of scaling. There is only one exception, if you
save a scanned image (bit-map) as an EPS file it does not become resolution independent.
When using eps files avoid nesting or embedding two EPS files. Nesting is when you
import a eps file into a new Illustrator, Freehand or Coral Draw file and save that file
as another eps file. Often refereed to as a "RIP-killer" and rarely print. The
simple solution is to open the eps in the original drawing program, make the modifications
and save the resulting file as a eps file.
Put your files together the right way
Of course the most complicated aspect of preparing your files correctly is the actual
page composition. There are a number of things you need to do right as well as a number of
things to avoid. Here are few things of the more common problems and solutions.
Before a file is an eps file it is saved in a file format from that program, that is
called an application file. Before illustration programs could open their own eps files it
was critically important to include the original application files. Although not as
important as it used to be it is still a good idea to include you original graphics files
when you send your page layout files. Of course don't rename your graphics files after
you've placed them into the page layout document. The file name is the link between the
graphic file and the layout file.
Another issue when incorporating graphics into page layout programs is how you define
lines. When you create an eps file with certain line weights those line weights will
change as you scale that eps in the page layout program.
Don't use the predefined "HAIRLINE" width rule if you are working with two
programs. Different programs define hairline rules differently. Therefore the hairline
rule you define in your drawing program may have a different weight then the rule you
specified in your page layout program. Instead, define your own hairline width rules as
.25 point. Used in both programs without scaling the eps will not match.
While discussing rules, avoid if possible using lines or rules to create frames. Even
when you spend hours of proofing that the rules align perfectly from you 300 dpi
laseprinter, it may not at the higher resolution imagesetter. An alternative is the frame
command in XPress. Be aware that the XPress frames are bitmaps that print at 300 dpi which
introduces other problems such as trapping and overprinting.
Of course there are two basic ways to output color as a spot color or as a four color
process equivalent. If you want a spot color remember to set the separation button to OFF
to ensure that the color that you specify is not generated as a process equivalent.
Another important distinction is that your monitor works in RGB while the printing process
works in CYMK. Therefore anything done in RGB will not work that well.
There is a manual called CREF (Color Ready Electronic Files) which is designed to
standardize file preparation. It has been created by Scitex and in some instances the
recommendations are specific to workflows involving Scitex equipment. Another good
resource is a book from Agfa on how to work with prepress suppliers.
The CREF manual recommends the removal of the predefined base colors of red, green, and
blue from the default color palette of master grids, as well as any colors that you may
have defined. This will avoid creating colors based on RGB and decrease processing time.
Four color blacks come in handy for certain applications. Some designs call for it. In
addition it is one way to avoid problems in trapping black text to background colors.
According to the CREF manual you should use the process equivalents of 60C, 100K to create
a Rich Black and 60C, 40M, 20Y, 100K to create a Full Body Black. In general, you should
always match up whatever tints and colors you plan to define to a printed tint guide. This
will eliminate unpleasant surprises at proof time!
If you ever created a eps graphic with a Pantone color in your illustration program and
defined the same color in your page layout program then you know that when it is printed
those colors may not match. The reason is that different programs will take the same
Pantone color and generate different CMYK percentages.
The way around this problem is to define your Pantone color as a CYMK mix in your
illustration program and give it a unique name. Then define the same color in your page
layout program with the same equivalents. When they print they should match. It’s
important that the name match exactly. For example PANTO02 will not be recognized as PMS
The latest versions of Quark XPress (3.3x) incorporates the Quark XTension
"Prepare For Service Bureau" into the "File " menu as 'Collect for
Output". This utility can help you send your files. IT can copy all the graphics and
updates the links. And most importantly it creates a file with important information, such
as fonts, colors, traps, etc.
Send Responsible Files to Responsible Staff
There are several methods for transferring files to service bureaus. The most common
way is to use floppy disks. If a file gets too big for a floppy disk, the file can be
“stuffed” of "packed" with a compression program like Stuff-it (Mac) or ZIP
(DOS). Unlike color compression, this type of compression does not alter the data.
Another option for transferring large files is to "span" the file across
several floppies. Back-up programs and some compression programs like Stuff-it offer this
option. If you are considering "spanning" the disks remember to confirm that the
service bureau has the same program to unspan or reconstitute the file.
In working with files that contain color scans, spanning and compressing are not
productive options. A more productive option is to use removable hard disk technology such
as SyQuest, Bernoulli and optical rewritable cartridges.
Both the SyQuest and the Bernoulli have storage capacities ranged from 44 Mb to 270 Mb.
SyQuest drives are less expensive, but the reliability of data storage has become
controversial. Ask your service bureau if it can accept files from these devices.
Be aware that all SyQuest drives or optical drives are not the same. You might have to
send what we used to call the INIT (initialization program) and today we call the
extension to the service bureau.
One last option is to transmit your files over the phone lines using a modem. Using
this option will require the purchase of a modem and a modem program. Modems are
classified by the speed at which they transmit data, which is known as the baud rate. The
minimum baud rate worth considering is 9600.
Before investing in a faster modem, ask your service bureau if it owns a modem that
will accept faster transmission, like a 14.4 or 28.8 baud modem. However faster modems
have not been standardized, therefore you may have to buy the same 28.8 modem as your
service bureau. Also some modems use their own compression which means that you don’t
have to compress the file before sending it.
End of File
If you are using PC based products it is a good idea to find a service bureau that has
PC based equipment and experience. Not all service bureaus provide reliable output from PC
If possible, try not to wait until a deadline is at hand to test your files. There are
some things which are guaranteed to be different then your 72 dpi screen and 300 dpi
laserprinter. These include line weights, typeface stroke weights, graphic images, and
screen or tint densities. Experienced service bureaus generally suggest running a test
file and then compare it to the output from the imagesetter.
It is important to send laser prints of the files to your service bureau. If you don't
send laser prints to your service bureau then you don't have a leg to stand on when they
say to you, "We couldn't check the files". The best way to avoid the dreaded
phone calls and additional costs is to assume as much responsibility as possible.
FENTON ON PREPRESS INDEX
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