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Graphic Design Prepress - Preferred Formats for Graphic Files

This is a great article for graphic designers and graphic design school students as well as prepress and publishing professionals. If you use Adobe InDesign CS2, Adobe Illustrator CS2, Quark Xpress 7, Adobe Photoshop CS2, or FreeHand you should read this. There are so many problems and so much time can be saved by simply choosing the right graphics file formats. Written by a long time trainer and manager in the graphic arts who is nationally recognized expert in the graphic arts and electronic publishing fields.

This must read article is for Graphic Designers to read. many times a job will take too long to process or have unnecessary problems simply because the best file formats were not used. The choice is initially up to the graphic designer, what format to save each graphic into as they build the art and layout for a printing job. More and more jobs are being handled online now through sites like Printing-Quote.

US. As a graphic designer, you want to be able to upload files and have them sail through with no delay or problem.

What's the Problem?

We spoke with the webmaster at Printing-Quote.

US, Mike Blessing. Printing-Quote.US is a leading online site for Print Buyers and Purchasing managers. “Our site makes it so easy to locate a service by state, then, city and find a printer to do business with online. We have maybe 5000 or so printers listed from every state in the US. Our visitor stats has more than doubled over same period last year and people are really starting to buy allot of printing online now. Printers who take orders off our site report a big problem with files submitted that are poorly formatted. For online web to print business, print on demand, this is a critical issue facing online printing companies. We recommend the tool FreeFlight at this URL free-preflight.com, and use of the best file formats.

Best Graphics File Formats to Use:

There are many reasons to NOT use Jpeg. EPS does kind of force a professional requirement but I never build anything with EPS unless it's features are required. Many people do, and EPS is a great format, but Tiff has many many advantges that make it more reliable and actually faster to process. In a catalog by example, will process atleast twice as fast when tiffs are used in Quark Xpress as opposed to EPS. Since catalogs are so heavily image intense they can be a huge load and simply choosing to use Tiff can save huge amounts of time.

Vector Graphics, Adobe Illustrator CS2 and Macromedia FreeHand:

For vector graphics, Illustrator or Freehand, always the EPS file, not an .ai or .fhd file is preferred. Always with all fonts and images embedded but in CMYK only at proper resolution. It is a problem if you receive embedded files that are RGB and or low resolution (72 dpi). If images may require an edit they should be linked for you to embed at a later stage. Always have colors appropriately named and prune out any un-used colors, NEVER use bastard names for any spot colors like "Joes RED" etc. Only use Pantone library for colors and NEVER rename or modify names of colors. Always use Pantone Coated Ex; "PANTONE 185 C", not CVU, or CVC, etc. That leads to problems and this also goes for ALL applications, Quark Xpress layout, Photoshop Duotones or whatever. How you create, use and maintain colors in your graphics files is very, very, important.

Scans and Pictures, Rastered Graphics, Adobe Photoshop CS2

For Rastered Formats, CT (continuous tone) images whether halftone or CMYK, start with TIFF LZW. Tiff LZW is a compressed file, so stays small on disk. But unlike the Jpeg is lossless compression. Always remember, Zip and LZW are lossless compressions. Jpeg is not, Jpeg harms the image EVERY TIME it is compressed/saved. Tiff is a stupid file, Tiff has no fancy tricks like EPS, that's why it is preferred. Unless you need a fancy trick, like DCS2 5th color touchplate, different line screen for a single image, transfer function (dangerous), clipping path, then EPS should not be used. Not that EPS can't be used with perfect reliability, it's just that EPS can have unexpected results, has too many options, and is therefore more likely to cause a problem. If you are going to do a clipping path, use EPS though, it just works better. Also, if you are going to have a drop shadow or feathered edge in an image, use EPS, not Tiff (see jaggy tiff). There are other very important advantages to use TIFF that I will not delve into because I am trying to be economical as possible with my time.

If you need a clipping path, 5th color touchplate, or Duotone, or feathered edge, EPS is your format. ALWAYS save with No Halftone and Transfer function, these are dangerous and can really cause problems. Other than that, you don't need an EPS file, so it's complexity and potential issues are best avoided.

Jpeg is not a good format. Here's why. Once a file is jpeg compressed, whether as an EPS Jpeg, Jpeg when you make a PDF, or any other use of it, that file has been degraded to whatever level of compression used. If you ever may need to edit that image or modify that file again, EVER, do not use any Jpeg. Whether jpeg format or otherwise it is really important to know what Jpeg does and ONLY use it on final files to never be edited again. And then, only use it sparingly by maintaining the highest quality possible. Jpeg almost implies (low res internet crap) If you ever have to modify a JPEG, save it to Tiff and use LZW, never jpeg a jpeg, like a digital camera shot, take it straight to a lossless or uncompressed format and NEVER save it as Jpeg again. The pixel averaging will really harm it if done more than once.

Where can I get more Graphic Design Help?

Prepress Forum - Graphic Design Forum - This online community is a great place to meet other graphic design and prepress professionals. All questions are welcomed from any level of member and it's a very welcoming environment to meet both experts and beginners. Online for about 5 years now, this forum community has over 3000 articles to search and thousands of members from all over the world. Questions are answered around the clock to the most difficult issues imaginable.

Two related articles that I have written about Preflight Software and Graphics file preparation are a must read. These are great to bookmark and send to others, customers, co-workers, etc.

Preflight for Graphic Design and PrepressComputer Technology Articles, An Application Or Process?

Preflight Software and Preflight Checklist for Graphic Design and Prepress

Source: Free Articles from ArticlesFactory.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


©Samuel Hargis 2007 - For years, the author has provided development, consulting, and technical guidance to many of the largest, most successful printing and publishing companies in the graphic arts. Also has trained hundreds of designers, publishers and printers in PDF workflow, Font Management, and PrePress Preflight process automation. The author runs a free prepress support community. http://prepressforum.com - http://software-robotics.com



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