Prepress in the Digital Age (1,182 words)
Prepress in the Digital Age
By Jim Chase
What a decade it's been for the prepress world. In 1990, prepress production of catalogs mostly meant processing from film. Today, most catalog prepress production is digital, never seeing physical reality until plates are burned for press.
In recent years, the only constant in the printing industry has been change. Catalogers and printers already have seen some of the benefits of digital prepress, namely, shorter turnaround times, greater product control and cost efficiencies. Expect more such benefits as the linking of print and Web content becomes increasingly feasible.
Considerations for Computer-to-Plate
Today, most catalogers submit jobs to their printers electronically. Unlike publishers, most catalogers don't incorporate outside advertising, and so have total control of their content. Consequently, most catalog pages go directly to plate. Computer-to-plate workflows require catalogers to make some adjustments, including the following:
File formats. There's no standard computer file that a cataloger can submit. Many catalogers still prefer native PostScript submissions, sending in the desktop publishing (DTP) files created in QuarkXPress, Pagemaker or InDesign, accompanied by fonts and graphics.
Catalogers are taking on greater responsibility for file formats, performing typography and color correction tasks. However, the savings and control are worth the trouble. In terms of creativity, DTP workflows enable designers to do things in print they never could have dreamed of just a few years earlier. Once they get used to the demands of DTP, most catalogers like the change.
Increasingly, catalogers are extended their roles even further into the prepress process and are submitting imposition-ready files in formats that include:
n TIFF/IT (Tagged Image File Format/Image Transfer);
n DCS (Desktop Color Separation);
n CT/LW (Continuous Tone/ Linework); and
n PDF (Portable Document Format).
Theoretically, imposition-ready files can be dropped into the imposition software—which creates the layout of the plate—without any further processing. For some of these formats, catalogers must install expensive software and/or hardware packages, while others can be created with simple, out-of-the-box applications.