Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Making books: 5: Books for printing

This is where my print reproduction education started- I'd been asked to submit a comic for an anthology, but the publisher had had trouble with the artwork they were being sent from people so the guy [Thanks Jamie] who was being our wrangler sent us this: A guide to reproduction, as a way to basically stop us from sending him horribly unusable files. At this point, the Print Geek began it's reign of terror over printers in it's path.

Reading through it again, there are only a few bits really relevant to what I want from my printer- mainly how to print really good clear black and white linework, and if necessary- with greyscale included. It's not actually all that technical, and there are actually several methods to achieve the same thing. [I use an overly labour intensive method and create super huge files which make my printers weep when they receive them, but I KNOW it works.]

In general I draw my linework at 600 dpi. I keep my greyscale and tonework on separate layers to my linework.

When it comes to printing, and I have my page set up to the size and bleed I want, I drop the whole lot in as layers and shift them and resize them in a block. Then I resize the page up to 1200 dpi [In greyscale.]
This is the important bit- I apply threshold to the line layer [If you have a tone layer made of only black dots and lines, do this to it as well- greyscale, you can leave alone] this turns the lines into JUST black and white pixels. This is important because if you just leave your linework without clarifying what is black and what is white, it will contain grey pixels of different levels of grey- when your black and white printer starts printing- it will automatically decide for you if that grey is dark or light enough to merit being printed. And then you get furry looking edges to your line work. You get mucky looking printing. This isn't your printers fault- it is what is already in the file you sent in. So clean up your line work, clean up your tone before you go to print. The more you sort out on your end, the less they can get wrong.

Incidently- the above will work on any linework- but is a little dodgy on washes, if you work in washes- just print as normal, it'll greyscale out. You'll probably get away with 600 dpi - 800dpi for this- as the grey will tone out depending on the printer linecreen anyway.

Colour images don't even have to be that big and will survive at 300dpi [push 600dpi to be safe] simply because of the way the ink dots combine.

I also have these books to help me out- it's more to understand the printing process as I use Litho for slightly larger runs, and the process is slightly more complicated depending on what sort of thing you want. The non-designers scan and print book may be a little dated [It was out of print when I was searching for a copy] but the basic necessary processes of getting stuff sorted so it's considered good enough to use is still there even if the technology is different. I believe Amazon still have a few copies hanging about 2nd hand. Print and finish is my Print Geek Bible. It's printed on a number of different papers with diff inks and contains a bunch of process info as well as examples of print possibilities [most of which will get you a stern look off your printer. ] But look at book info. I pick and choose what fits with my necessities, but they're handy to have about if you ever make books you want to be proud of. Also, you'll get to understand printer terminology. Sometimes, it's like speaking a totally different language with those guys. This will help translate a little for artists.


  1. Just wondering, after you bump it up to 1200 and apply threshold, do you downsize again to 600 or keep it 1200? The last printers I used (back in uni) only did up to 400.

    1. Hi Gemma, resizing it down negates the effect of upsizing and thresholding the lines solid, because that would resize the lines into a lower pixel form again, which would make them blur again. Any resizing after thresholding should be avoided- whether by using rescale at the 1200dpi size, or by downsizing the files to a lower dpi.

      Most printers that don't take files that are 1200dpi because of the size of the files, not because they can't print from them. Show them what it is you're trying to achieve. If they won't- Find a printer who will. [There is a difference between file size at 1200 dpi and a printer printing at 1200dpi btw. An actual physicial printer also has a dpi, but so does your file. Completely separate things.]

    2. I suppose it's better if you're doing a larger run rather than a couple dozen. Handy advice as always Lou!