Monday, March 10, 2008

Book Review: Digital Prepress Primer

shot from Pages: save to PDF-X

Reviewed by Michael Pastore

When you create a document with Pages (the word-processing software included in Apple’s iWork), you can save it in a number of different file formats. To do that, simply select Export (from the File menu), and then select from four options: PDF, Word (.doc). RTF, or plain text (.txt). Saving to PDF is especially useful for everyone who wants their documents to be viewed the same way, and to remain impervious (well, somewhat) to changes. Your word-processing life gets even more interesting when you chose Print (from the File Menu), which allows you print you file, or to save it to these formats: PDF, Postscript, and PDF-X.

You may or may not know that PDF-X is a type of PDF file (a “restricted subset” in the jargon) that meets certain requirements for printing: all fonts must be embedded; images must be encoded in CMYK or spot colors; active content (forms, sounds, movies) canned be embedded ... and so on. When I need a clear and concise explanation of PDF-X, and everything essential about preparing documents for digital printing, I open up the handy little book titled: Digital Prepress Primer.

Digital prepress involves “all operations necessary to prepare a (printing) job for output to digital device." The book’s 14 chapters are divided into four sections: Job Creation; Digital Image Caputure and Reproduction; Job Engineering; and Digital Output. Author Marin does excellent work in explaining some of the more complex aspects of this field, especially color theory and reproduction; and digital trapping and imposition.

shot from Pages: save to PDF-X

The book is written mainly for printing pros, but the clear language will make it interesting for everyone curious about how modern books are made. Especially notable is Chapter 8, ‘Graphic Arts Workflow’ which takes you inside the mind and office of a book-printing professional, as it describes the basic steps of print production: concept and design; prepress; press; finishing and binding; and shipping.

A glossary at the end defines more than 100 printing terms. The book is generously illustrated with screenshots, diagrams, and photographs. A handy reference, the Digital Prepress Primer reminds me of Strunk & White’s “The Elements of Style” for everyone involved in the work of book production.

Digital Prepress Primer
by Joseph Marin
Paperback, 114 pages
Published by PIA/GTF Press
ISBN: 978-0-88362-563-7

PIA/GATF: the Printing Industries of America, Inc. / Graphic Arts Technical Foundation