Imagesetting Tips

The process of transforming your camera-ready art into film negatives and printing plates has changed dramatically in recent years. Desktop publishing software and imagesetting machines now do work digitally that traditionally was done by a camera and hand labor. Imagesetters transfer the printing files directly to negatives or printing plates, reducing labor time and ensuring that jobs register with pinpoint accuracy. The use of imagesetting technology also increases the quality of the final printed image by eliminating a camera process that could result in lower resolution screens and graphics.

By submitting your art electronically you also take on extra responsibility for the quality of the final piece. While we will gladly work with you during the imagesetting process, sometimes it’s just not possible to print from a digital file because of incompatible formatting or corrupted data. In these cases, the extra time needed to re-create your digital artwork will result in higher charges for your job. You can reduce or eliminate any extra costs and deadline headaches by providing correctly formatted graphics files. The following are some general guidelines for providing digital artwork that can make the printing process easier and keep costs at a minimum.

What software to use

We will accept just about anything you provide, but some software programs are more suited to graphics and printing applications than others. If possible, provide your artwork in Postscript-compatible graphics software. These programs interface well with the imagesetting equipment and allow us to separate and trap colors, impose pages and enhance graphics or photographs.

Some of the most compatible programs are:

Quark Xpress

  • Adobe PageMaker
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Macromedia Freehand
  • Adobe Photoshop

Files created in programs that aren’t designed for graphics usage often create problems with page breaks and graphics positions when the file is output to an imagesetter. When incorrect types of raw files are furnished for use in a printing project, our prepress staff must spend time re-creating graphics and tweaking text. This results in increased costs and longer turnaround times.

Some of the programs to avoid when creating your project include: Microsoft Word, Microsoft Publisher, Corel WordPerfect.

If you must use one of the above software programs, we would prefer to receive your artwork as postscript or PDF (Portable Document Format) files. When files are converted to postscript or PDF format, the fonts and graphics will print here the same way they looked at your office. In most cases, converting files to postscript or PDF is fairly simple and will definitely be worth the extra time. Most software programs have an option on the 'File' menu for saving your file in postscript or PDF format. If you have questions about software, formatting or conversion of your graphics files, please contact your customer service representative.

What to furnish

Supply your graphics files on 3.5' floppy disk, zip disk or CD, or e-mail them to us at Whatever format you decide to use when providing the art, it’s vital that you also send a sample with the job. The sample lets us know if we are producing the piece with the right page breaks, color breaks and graphic positions. If you are ordering a job with two or more colors, please send proofs of the color separations as well as a composite laser so we can double-check the negatives.

If you send your files by e-mail or FTP, include the requisition number and job title in the body of your e-mail message and fax us a copy of the laser proofs with your original printing requisition as soon as possible. Also indicate on the printing requisition that you have already sent the files electronically so our staff can match the art with the printing order.

Color jobs and trapping

When creating your job, use the same Pantone ink name for all elements using the same color, and avoid making up color names. The imagesetter will print a separate piece of film for every different color name, even if two names refer to the same color. Your job will also output faster and easier if you delete any unused color names from your palette before you package it for submittal.

If your printed piece contains colors that touch or overprint each other, the images must be 'trapped' to avoid white lines at their borders. Some graphic design software gives you the option of applying trapping to your files before you send it in to us for processing. We recommend that you avoid using the trapping feature in your software because our imagesetter uses sophisticated software to create the proper trapping as it outputs your job to film. Any trapping you apply before the job is processed is deleted at imagesetting.

General tips for providing graphics files

The following are just a few general tips to help you when providing artwork electronically. If you would like more information, please contact your Customer Service Representative (CSR).

Provide complete instructions.

Please include information about the software program used and whether it’s Mac or PC, the file name or names, the fonts used, the ink colors to be used, whether the placed graphics are TIFF or EPS, the job title, and the printing requisition number. Provide your instructions on an imagesetting instruction form or your printing requisition.

Include a copy of all the fonts used in your document.

We have an extensive font library, so we probably have all the fonts you need. However, if we don’t have just one of the necessary fonts, your job may print out with the wrong font or be delayed until we receive a copy of the font from you. When furnishing fonts, make sure you include both the screen and printer fonts, and indicate in the imagesetting information which fonts were used.

Always link your graphics instead of embedding them, and include a copy of all original files used in your document.

Some page layout programs only store previews in the document, which may look fine on a laser print but will look jagged or blocky at the higher resolutions used in imagesetting. If the graphics are embedded, our staff cannot manipulate them to increase clarity or separate colors. By linking graphics and including a copy of original files, you make it possible for us to format the job correctly for output. This means your job can be turned around as quickly as possible.

When using fonts in draw programs for graphics and logos, convert the type to paths or outlines.

Many page layout programs don’t alert you if the font used in a graphic isn’t available, and will print the graphic using the closest alternative match. Converting type to paths before saving drastically reduces processing time and increases accuracy.

Whenever possible, scale, rotate, and crop graphics in the program in which they were created instead of the layout program.

Re-sizing, rotating or cropping images in a layout program creates a larger file and increases processing time. Scan your images at the proper size, and crop or rotate them in a program like Adobe Photoshop before placing them in your document.

As a general rule, scan an image at twice the resolution of the screen it will be printed with.

For example, scan at 300 dpi (dots per inch) for a 150 line printer’s screen. More dots per inch than double the screen resolution doesn’t increase the quality, but it will increase the file size. This rule of thumb assumes a photo will be printed at 100 percent size. Use a larger dpi if the image is going to be enlarged and a smaller dpi if it will be reduced. A 300 dpi image becomes a 150 dpi image when it’s enlarged to 200%, and a 600 dpi image when it’s reduced to 50%. Avoid compressing your scanned images unless absolutely necessary because of storage and transport considerations. Compression can degrade the image and add more time to processing.