Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Paper to Pixel To Paper Again: Part 24

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A guide to creating the best looking line art in print in the new digital print world

Part 24
More Layout!


This is the twenty-fourth (how did I get into this?!) installment of Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, a series that explains (in an overly thorough manner) the how-to's of preparing line art (and later in the series, color art!) for print.

And as always, if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments!

(continued from last week ... )

Now that you've added page numbers to your A-Master, they should magically populate through your entire docuement. Go ahead and browse a bit to see how it looks, and then make any format changes you think will improve things.

(A general aesthetic parenthetical—when it comes to hand lettering combined with mechanical page numbers, I think a good rule of thumb is making sure that your mechanical numbering has a similar girth/thickness to your normal lettering, so that neither element is too dominant. I think some of the earlier Cerebus printings have page numbers that are much too visually dominant, as they're more than double the thickness of the typical character lettering.)

Now that we've got our document set up, let's save it in the same master folder for our book. Name it something sensible. (And remember the old rule—if you name a document something stupid, like StupidUglyPosterClientName, you will regret it. Trust me! Stick with something easily searchable, like BookTitleLayout_Date)

Now we're going to add our first batch of pages to the layout. Exciting, huh? 

You don't actually embed files into Indesign documents, rather, Indesign just creates pointers that refer to the location of documents. So we'll be "Place"ing the images in the document.

Go to File -> Image-> Place to bring up the Place Image dialogue, and select the first ten images or so. 

Why not just select them all? Because of this!

Indesign needs to generate a preview of each document, and it takes its sweet time to do so, ten at a time seems to be my tolerance point for watching this little status bar. Also, Indesign doesn't do a great job with loading things in the correct order, having trouble for instance, like placing 11 before 1 depending on how you have numbered them. So I tend to just do p 10-19, then p 20-29, etc etc.

If you haven't named your documents to a consistent standard, this is the part of the process where you're really going to start kicking yourself. Don't forget it's not too late to go back and change things at any time, at least until you've placed them in the document. See the previous installment on BulkRename Utility)

Now, after the magic blue bar disappears, you will have a hovering icon of a teeny tiny miniature of the page. Go ahead and click on a page of your layout and watch as a bigger version appears. Go ahead and scroll down and click the next one and the next and the next until all of them have been roughly placed.

Now feel free to either a. place ten more or b. finesse the layout of the first ten. I prefer to go ahead and place 30 or so, as I find the finessing something I need to slip into, and very satisfying, and ten in a row just isn't enough, but YMMV.

Bring up the Select Tool by hitting V, and then start moving the images around, using your guides to, uh, guide you.

Here's what the results look for these pages.

And now you probably are starting to get the idea of why we need to override the master page elements on occasion—the bottom of the recto page is covering the majority of our page number. And you shouldn't move the image in order to accommodate the page number—quite the opposite, keep the margins in place and move the subservient element.

But since it's a Master Page feature, we'll have to do something special. Hold Ctrl-Shift, then click the item that needs to be overridden. Now you should be able to move the page number however you want.

Now repeat for the remainder of your pages!

There are many many many things to learn about Indesign, about working with Character and Paragraph styles, about Variable Data Processing, about image preview quality and color spaces and.... and... and I'm not the best person to explain all of these things in a comprehensive way. So let's skip over them for now and assume you've managed to use the instructions so far (along with your own knowledge!) to lay out your book to your satisfaction.

Now we're hitting another critical post—outputting your book into an actual usable format that your printer can paginate and print from.

That form? A PDF, a digital container/package that supports a wide variety of file format, resolutions etc. It's a very flexible format, which is both good and bad, as there's a lot of room for error, and one click can turn your carefully-treated pages into a digital horror.

Go to File -> Export to bring up the PDF export dialogue.

The dialogue suggests several "Adobe PDF preset"s, none of which is really what we want. So start with "High Quality Print" and then modify as follows.

On the General tab, make sure you have All pages selected as opposed to a range.

Then click the second tab, Compression.

More sins against beautiful books have been committed on this dialogue box than you and I have any conception of.

Okay, so, assuming you've already set up your images the exact damn resolution you want them at

1. Stick your middle finger in the air
2. With your other hand, change all of the drop-down boxes to DO NOT DOWNSAMPLE.
3. Write a long letter to your congressman.

Depending on the application, mild JPEG compression for color images can be fine, but the safest thing is to stick to lossless compression for all of these settings. ZIP and CCITT compression are both lossless, meaning, solely mathematical and only reduce file size, without affecting the image at all.

Lastly, we're going to click on Marks and Bleeds.

This is another thing you can run by your printer and ask their preference, but many printers won't object to you including crop marks in your output files. Click on the Crop Marks check box, and then move down to Bleed and Slug and click Use Document Bleed Settings. This ensures that your extra image area actually gets shipped out with your files.

Now, hit Export, and then open that sucker up in Adobe Acrobat!

Next week: Preflight, Alpha Flight's Junior team??!

Sean Michael Robinson is a writer, artist, and musician. See more at


Carson Grubaugh said...

The title for next week's article! LOL

Sean R said...

Yeah, would that be the nerdiest, most esoteric super hero parody concept ever?

carson said...

We could make it work. A closeted gay coder working with a room full of typical beta-male computer wizards working in comic industry pre-press departments.

Delwyn Klassen said...

"Preflight: Cerebus to Melmoth: Secure doors and cross-check"