The marvels of desktop blind users to the risks

Clilents who are considering desktop publishing to save money, exercise greater control over the end product and shorten the production cycle might be in for a nasty shock if they fail to understand what is required of them by their printer,...

Clilents who are considering desktop publishing to save money, exercise greater control over the end product and shorten the production cycle might be in for a nasty shock if they fail to understand what is required of them by their printer, a graphic consultant says.

Jack Ferns, of Markham, Ont.-based Parr’s Print & Litho, just north of Toronto, says clients who want to avoid delays, costly revisions and, ultimately, disappointment with the end product, must consider all the elements of a job before handing over their diskette for printing.

Disciplines

Traditionally, Ferns says, each stage of the pre-press process, which might include concept, photography, illustrations, typesetting and layout, was handled by someone different.

Today, all of these disciplines are now rolled into the desktop stage.

And Ferns says that while electronic publishing has allowed more people than ever before to get their message out, sometimes their understanding of the various disciplines involved is lacking.

‘Quite often, the onus [at the pre-press stage] is on the person generating the data on a word processor,’ he says.

‘And, quite frankly, the level of expertise necessary to put all those pieces together is not usually found in that person.’

‘You don’t buy that kind of expertise overnight. It comes from experience. And if they are not familiar with all the stages of the production cycle, one mistake can screw up the whole thing.’

‘What type of paper am I going to use, will the document fit intelligently on stock sizes, how many inks am I going to use, is it the most economical way to run the job?

‘All of these questions must be considered by the client before they submit disks for disk-to-print routines,’ Ferns says.

‘That way, they should anticipate getting the most satisfaction out of their personal use of desktop as a means of publishing,’ he says.

Part of the blame for the situation lies with the printers and service bureaus themselves, says Ferns, because they are sometimes reluctant to offend clients by pointing out the errors of their ways.

‘If the people generating the data think they are doing a great job, they are going to continue to do it,’ he says.

‘You could liken it to an artboard that is pasted up wrongly, the printer redoing the artboard at his expense, and producing the finished product.

Not good

‘That’s what we have today, and that’s not good for anybody. It’s not good for the printer, because, more often than not, he’s swallowing the cost of correction, and it’s not good for the client because he doesn’t learn how to use the technology effectively.’

Ferns recommends that clients consult their printer as early in the production cycle as possible to hammer out all the details, including a timetable.

‘The fact that somebody hands you a disk on Friday and expects delivery of 10,000 catalogues on Tuesday is unrealistic,’ he says, adding the process of printing and binding, and the time that process takes, remains much the same as it has for years.

Ferns says early consultation with the printer will also enable clients to complete the printer’s specification sheet, something he considers vital.

‘The questionnaire is very important,’ he says. ‘And leaving out one of the details, although it may not seem important to the originator of the disk, to the printer it may be the most important piece of information he requires.

‘If you haven’t provided the information, and you are not available at three [o'clock] in the morning, they are going to guess at it, and chances are, they are going to guess wrong.’

Specs

Among other things, a typical specification sheet asks for the name of the file to be run, the type of system (Macintosh or dos-based) on which the job has been generated, the page size and the output resolution required.

Output resolution refers to the number of dots per square inch used to apply ink to a page.

While a laser printer might be capable of delivering 300 dots per square inch, the actual printed job may require 600, 1,000 or even 3,000, depending on the end use.

Similarly, Ferns says, the screen value, which is the number of dots per inch used to print a photograph, is dictated by the type of paper on which the job will be printed.

He says newspapers use a screen value of anywhere from 80 to 100, while a high gloss magazine might use up to 300.

‘It’s very important that you know the screen value appropriate to the end product you want,’ Ferns says.

‘If you wanted a 133 line screen, and you didn’t specify it, a lot of programs will default to a 90 line screen,’ he says.

‘Consequently, you will end up with the dots so far apart that the picture becomes very open and not as tight or as truly picture-like as you had intended.

‘If you used a 300 line screen, where you should have used a 90 line screen, the picture will print totally black.

‘The ink that is used on the newspaper, or web press, is so thin, it will seep into the white space between the dots.’

Clients should also be sure to include the high resolution version of their scanned photographs on the diskette they provide the printer.

Ferns says most desktop publishing programs display a coarse, or low resolution version of photographs on the computer screen because it takes up less memory.

‘If you don’t include the high resolution file on your diskette, and some programs don’t do it automatically, it all comes out bit-mapped,’ he says. ‘All the dots get converted to square dots, and it looks terrible.’

Apart from the treatment of photographs, another area in which desktop publishers can get into trouble is in the use of fonts, or different styles of type.

Ferns says clients without a basic understanding of typography tend to get carried away, using 10 fonts where one or two will do.

And unless the client specifies what fonts, sizes and font families have been used, it is possible the image-setter will default to the wrong one.

‘What happens is you end up with 80 pages printed in Courier, when it should have been Times Roman,’ Ferns says.

Ferns says the potential for a poorly printed job increases when a client fails to include crop and registration marks.

Crop marks identify the size of each individual page.

Registration marks are target marks that, when overlaid perfectly, ensure alignment of the two to four pieces of film that make up color photographs, so they do not appear as 3-D pictures, Ferns says.

Sometimes it is the smallest details that cause printers or service bureaus the biggest headaches.

For example, clients who make minor changes to their computer file might neglect to do one last print-out.

Ferns says although that might seem insignificant, it could cause delays while the printer tries to verify which version is correct.

Ferns says that under no circumstances should clients release to the printer anything but a copy of the original file.

To drive the point home, he tells the story of a company which was using a service bureau to print its annual report under a tight deadline.

The final element of the report, an address by the president, arrived by cab at the last possible minute.

The disk was blank, a result of the driver placing it on his dashboard, next to the high-power magnet used in the speaker of his car radio.

While the chances for errors are numerous, clients can reduce the risks by establishing a solid relationship with a printer or service bureau they trust, says Ferns, a company that will answer questions, offer advice and, most importantly, he says, hold the client’s hand through the first few jobs.