Simplifying Your Art Files
Someone once said "Time is money,"
and this truism is equally valid in the prepress arena.
It is very easy to create a file that will take a long time
to image on your print provider's imagesetter. Even if this
doesn't cost you extra money, it may at least encourage
your printer to put your file aside to process other work
to avoid getting behind. Therefore, simplify your files
There are a few easy ways to do this.
For instance, curves created in Illustrator are really made
up of many small, straight lines. Setting the "flatness"
of a curve to a higher number (increasing it from 0 to 10,
for instance), will make your file print faster without
visibly degrading the image (of course this depends on the
output resolution, so check your user's guide first).
- Simplify paths in Illustrator. More
points on a path slow down the imaging process.
- Crop and rotate TIFF files in Photoshop.
Expecting your page composition software (Quark, InDesign)
to do this also slows down imaging.
- Convert display type to outlines in
Illustrator (Freehand also has a similar option). When you
do this, the output device will not need to download the
font used in the illustration.
- In your page composition application,
don't use a white box to hide anything. If you don't want
something on the page, delete it. This is particularly true
for placing an image and using the picture box to crop it.
Instead, crop the image in Photoshop, throwing away the
unwanted portions. In short, what you hide must still be
- Use fewer rather than more typefaces,
gradients, patterns, etc.
All of these options create smaller
files that are easier to edit, take less time to image,
and redraw faster on your monitor.
A novel way to save money by getting
more ink colors from a press unit is to "split"
an ink fountain. Usually, only one color of ink is placed
in a fountain (the trough-like ink receptacle of a printing
press). So a two-color press would have two ink fountains.
But if you block a fountain, you effectively make one fountain
into two and can use two separate inks, one on either side
of the block. You might, for instance, use a match color
one one side of the fountain and one of the four process
colors on the other side, effectively turning a four-color
press into a five color press (and saving money in the process).
Splitting a fountain has certain limitations,
however. Since half of the fountain contains one ink and
half contains another, you cannot have both colors in-line
on your press sheet. If you have a sixteen-page form (eight
on either side), for instance, your spot color might be
on the pages on the left half of the sheet, while the process
colors might be on the right.
Also, you will need a certain distance
between the two colors used in the split fountain. This
is because one roller will come into contact with two different
inks, and you want to avoid either ink's touching (and therefore
contaminating) the other. Your printer will tell you how
much space will be needed between colors (possibly up to
eight inches), and you can design your piece accordingly.
In the example noted above, the clear area might be two
pages (one above the other on the press sheet) that would
be black text only. On the left of these, you could place
your PMS color (on two pages, one above the other), and
on the right you could use 4-color process (on four pages,
two above and two below for a total of eight pages on this
side of the sheet).
Since this is a rather complex
printing trick, it would be wise to involve your printer
early in the process to make sure what you want can be done
on his press and to make sure you understand the limitations
and requirements of the process. But done right, this can
be a creative way to economize.
[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]