Prepress in the Digital Age (1,182 words)
Periodically, the printing industry declares that a certain file format is the wave of the future for prepress. For instance, TIFF/IT was predicted to be the trend in file formats a year or two ago. Current thinking is that it might be PDF. Just when you think you've got it wired, some company will come out with another format considered to be the best.
Catalogers assume still more responsibility for the quality of the files. Many formats are "locked" and cannot be altered or fixed at prepress. Usually, catalogers must submit contract color proofs along with the job.
Contract proofs. Color proofs have been troublesome for catalogers and printers ever since film was eliminated. Film was predictable. A prepress house or printer made color proofs from the same file used to burn the plate.
Now the process is more complicated because proofs and plates are made on separate devices. The result is a confusing array of color-proofing systems, each claiming to be the best way to predict how a job will look when it's printed.
It would be helpful if someone devised a reliable method of setting up and calibrating a color-proofing system. Fortunately, Standards Web Offset Printing (SWOP; www.swop.org), an industry association, now certifies proofing systems.
Many techniques currently used by catalogers, prepress personnel and printers will continue to evolve.
Workflow: Catalogers will take on more advanced technical workflows, continuing to move their responsibilities further into the prepress process. Prepress for printers may someday mean just burning the plates from customer-supplied data.
File Formats: Prepress departments will have to continue to accommodate myriad file formats.
Proofing Enhancements: Printers must be prepared to work with catalogers to improve the quality of color proofs. This will involve proper calibration and profiling of the customer's proofing devices. Some catalogers are already moving to remote proofing—that is, installing color-proofing systems at their facilities and making proofs using color profiles supplied by their printers.