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Artwork Guidelines

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Making the most of the portable document format (PDF)

The portable document format, or PDF, has become the de facto standard for file transfer. It is not a “device dependent” software application but a completely open system that can be used on a multitude of output devices and media. For instance, it can be used to convey information to the Internet, in printed format, on CD-ROM, or via e-mail, without losing image quality or the layout, style, etc., of the document.

Download Adobe Reader From Adobe.com

Its strength lies in, as the name suggests, the portability of the document it produces. What this means is that a PDF document can be transferred between systems, i.e. Macintosh to Windows PC, PC to printer, without being altered. So what you see on the computer screen in front of you is exactly the same as everyone else has seen on their computers. In this way it can be sent anywhere for remote proofreading and this consistency is also conveyed to the final printed image. Adobe Systems is the company that developed the PDF file format, and all PDF files can be opened and viewed using an Adobe Acrobat Reader , which can be downloaded free of charge from Adobe’s site on the Internet.

PDF is a direct development of Adobe’s own PostScript page description language that has been, and continues to be, the printing industry’s standard output format. The main difference is that PDF addresses the needs of the overall multimedia market whereas PostScript is really focused only on the printing market and cannot be easily viewed without specialist software. For this reason PDF has quickly gained in popularity within the printing sector mainly because it has the following advantages:

•Simplified PostScript code—PDF files reduce the complexities of the graphic constraints found in PostScript files that need to be rasterised in RIP devices.

•Embedded fonts—the type characters and instructions for kerning and manipulating Type 1 and TrueType®fonts are placed inside the file so the user does not need the font to view, process or edit the document.

•Compressed graphics—file compression can be dramatic with no loss of quality of the image. Vector graphic files can be reduced to 25% of their original size, whilst bitmap graphics can be reduced by up to 75% of their original size. All PDF files are scalable (to 800%) and printable on PostScript and non-PostScript printers.

•Forms and indexing features—enables PDF to serve as a complete Integrated Document Management System.

•Sound and QuickTime files insertion—enables PDF to become a complete multimedia tool. But remember these types of files are not printable!

•Hypertext-linking—allows dynamic visual interaction between pages and documents.

•Page independence—individual pages can be sent for RIPping, rather than the whole document, giving significant workflow benefits in the production process.

It is important to point out that Adobe Acrobat and the PDF format are not intended to be a replacement for page layout, illustration or image creation applications. You still need to create the original design using these applications since Acrobat itself has limited layout and editing facilities. It is only once you have designed your document using the appropriate application software that you convert it. Then, you can start to use the benefits of the PDF format. But using PDF files is not necessarily better than using PostScript files. The final stage of printing from either a PDF or the original application file will make no difference to your PSP as long as all the accompanying fonts and images are available.

If you choose to use PDF files, one thing you must take into account when creating the document is the output device and format. The HP Indigo digital press is a high resolution CMYK printer and therefore the images and design should take this into account. Careful attention must be paid to the set-up parameters for creating the PDF since these directly determine the print quality. These settings are commonly overlooked and very often the result is a PDF that only contains low resolution images. This may be fine for on-screen previews but no good for printing. You should also be aware that if your design requires bleed you must include it in the PDF, it cannot be “invented” later.

From a Vale’s point of view it can cause more problems than it solves if you provide a PDF file that has not been created properly. For example, if you make a mistake in QuarkXPress it is quite easy for you to correct the file. If however, you export PDF without supplying an embedded font, it is very difficult for Vale to correct it. This makes flight-checking even more important before sending a job for printing.

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