File Format Fundamentals

Graphic images – such as photographs, illustrations, drawings, logos, and clip art – are a great addition to any printed piece. When combined with text, images measurably increase reader comprehension, retention, and interest when compared to text only.

In printing and publishing, graphic images are two-dimensional (2D), while on the web images can be two- or three-dimensional (3D) or multimedia.

There are two ways to form graphic images: pixel by pixel in a grid (called a bitmap or raster image) or mathematically from geometric objects such as points, lines, curves, and polygons (called vector images). Digital photographs and all images that have been scanned are bitmap images; vector images originate primarily from illustrations or drawing software programs or from plotters used in technical drawing.


The PDF Standard… Preparing Files for Print

Adobe_AcrobatColorOriginally developed for office communications use, the PDF file format is now the world standard for electronic document exchange. A PDF file’s unique characteristic — the ability to exist independent of the hardware, software, and operating system used to create it — allows file creators to share documents and to keep them secure from modification.

PDF version 1.0, an internal project of Adobe Systems conceived by founder Dr. John Warnock and based on the page description language PostScript, was first announced at Comdex Fall 1992 where it won the “Best of Comdex” award. After years of continuous improvement, and in recognition of the power of PDF for document exchange, Adobe relinquished control of PDF to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 2008.

For printers, PDFs solve many problems associated with using customer-prepared files. Before PDF, printers had difficulty opening and preparing files that were created using many kinds of software programs and containing fonts not owned by the printer. This led to delays in getting on press, extra cost for file repair, and frustration for both customers and the printer.

By using PDF as the standard for submitting files, customers can use any platform and their favorite software program to create files. Printers can accept the files and prepare them for output to press plates or for digital printing knowing that the finished page images will be what the customer expects.


Technology… Changing How We Print

techThe printing industry today is in the midst of a change in the production methods we use to produce printed products. As digital printing technology has evolved, past issues that made full color digital printing a less-thanperfect alternative to offset print – issues such as color fidelity and the range of papers that digital printing devices can print on – have all but disappeared.

And because of the efficiencies of digital print – no press plates, no makeready, and the ability to handle printed sheets immediately without waiting for drying – small quantities of full color printing as well as shorter production times have arguably given digital color printing the edge in many cases.

A second, more dramatic shift – a change in the range of services printers offer their customers – is also driven by technology. Ten years ago, functional forms and documents – things like business cards, letterheads, envelopes, carbonless forms, inventory control sheets, sales report sheets, sell sheets, product specification sheets, and manufacturing forms – represented a large proportion of the overall work of a print shop. But as customers increasingly incorporated digital technology into manufacturing lines, sales management, and other business activities, the need for functional forms and documents decreased.

In addition, the convenience and affordability of desktop color printing meant that the text of letters could be printed with the letterhead image directly onto unprinted writing grade paper without having to keep a supply of preprinted letterheads. Full color PDFs could, in some cases, replace printed sales sheets, spec sheets, or even brochures. So the need for functional forms and documents receded further still.


Bitmap or Vector Image…Which Do You Choose?

Graphic images – such as photographs, illustrations, drawings, logos, and clip art – are a great addition to any printed piece. When combined with text, images measurably increase reader comprehension, retention, and interest when compared to text only.

In printing and publishing, graphic images are two-dimensional (2D), while on the World Wide Web, images can be two- or three-dimensional (3D) or multimedia.

There are two ways to form graphic images: pixel by pixel in a grid (called a bitmap or raster image) or mathematically from geometric objects such as points, lines, curves, and polygons (called vector images). Digital photographs and all images that have been scanned are bitmap images; vector images originate primarily from illustration or drawing software programs or from plotters used in technical drawing.

Examples of bitmap file formats are Tagged Image File Format (TIF); Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPG or JPEG); Graphics Interchange Format (GIF), Adobe Photoshop (PSD); bitmap (BPM); Windows Paint (PCX); and pixel image format for Macintosh (PICT). Photo editing or image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel Paint Shop Pro or Microsoft Paint all work on bitmap files.

Examples of vector file formats are Encapsulated Postscript (EPS); Adobe Illustrator (AI); and CorelDRAW (CDR). Popular vector drawing software includes Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, and Macromedia Freehand.

PDF from A to Z

In the last few years, portable document technology has created one of those quiet evolutions with significant consequences. You may not realize that when you download and print an interesting article from the Internet or view a soft proof we have sent of your printing project, that portable document technology is at work. You may encounter it several times each day without understanding its current use and potential.

How to Build RIP-Roaring Digital Files

February 2002 Printips

Your electronic document – business card, flyer, brochure, newsletter, direct mail post card – is composed of digital images that will be reproduced in print. These images are: text or type (produced by fonts); line art such as drawings or sketches (created in a drawing or paint program or captured with digital scanners); and continuous tones of highlights, shading and shadows (such as photographs).