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ARCHIVED  February 1, 1997

Desktop publishing’s latest tools: Bells and whistles can’t be new enough

Light tables, Rapido graph pens and T-squares are dinosaurs whose time in prepress production rooms hasn’t only come, it’s long gone.
Replacing it is software whose life span is about six months before a revision is created and marketed as newer and better.
The definition of old equipment is changing as well. Many owners of Northern Colorado printing companies have updated their image setters and printers in the last year and are able to handle just about any file a customer may bring in, but most admit they don’t have the latest equipment. Keeping up isn’t just difficult; it’s costly.
Software companies, “offer upgrades at about $150 each time,´ said Paul Schmidt, owner of a small business in Loveland called Colorado Typographics. Buying decisions are made “by demand. Customers ask that we use the same programs, and we have to keep up,” Schmidt said.
The exception to constantly changing software is QuarkXPress, the software of choice for most desktop publishing and prepress production houses. Schmidt said it was a relief, rather than a burden, that its capabilities hadn’t been enhanced recently, but because it’s been so long, the cost will be high when the update finally comes.
For Chuck Black of Montage Graphics in Fort Collins, upgrading has been all about color. He’s added full-color capabilities and equipment for higher-resolution scans. He’s able to provide the customer with highly accurate proofs or examples of how the work will look when complete. The business is equipped with a Scitex scanner for high resolution, a (3M) Imation Match print system that provides the customer a laminate proof, and the (3M) Imation Rainbow System that provides the customer a digital proof off a file. Less expensive than laminate proofs, the digital proof is the job in glossy print form.
The main advantage of all of this is lower expense and highly accurate forecasting of color.
“In general, the people want more color,” he said, “They expect it, and we’re going for exact color control.”
He also uses the Colortron II, a device that looks like a phaser that is held to a computer screen, then to the objects whose color you want to match. This is a highly accurate way of calibrating the color shown on the monitor.
Digital photography is the greatest area of interest at Impressive Images, said owner Scott Ackerman.
“It’s faster than conventional photography, the color is better, and the product catalog is the greatest application,” he said.
A digital camera transfers the image immediately to a computer screen. He said customers who want the speed and high-quality color available through digital-camera shots range from Hewett-Packard Co. to sculptors to wheel manufacturers. He agreed that color improvements are the future of the industry. Six- and seven-color processes as opposed to the widely used four, are in the future for Impressive Images, he said.
Darrell Schurle of Pony Express Printing Co. in Greeley runs the programs on a Macintosh 8100 and has a CD library of clip art. He has Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Dimension, QuarkXPress and OCR, and although it’s not the latest software, it works for the market he’s after.Schurle has a Unity 800-DPI Printer, a 2400 DPT Image Setter, a scanner for slides and photos, a Toko press and a Risograph press. The quality of the Risograph, a machine that doesn’t require too much skill to operate, also eliminating the need for camera-ready copy because it interfaces directly with a computer, is between that of a traditional press and a copy machine.
Schurle said he can use it for about 70 percent of his two-color printing jobs. A 200 megabyte SyQuest drive takes the place of a file cabinet. Customer work is stored there and is available for easy retrieval and change.
“They’re coming out with new things all the time,” Schurle said. “There is a bigger, faster Macintosh I’d like, and the Risograph now has tighter registration. I’d also like new pricing software. There’s a program I don’t have that is more user-friendly.”Pony Express has invested $37,000 in desktop publishing, he said. The only pieces of equipment Schurle still has from the old days are a paper cutter and a plate maker. They aren’t used.
For what’s the latest and what’s coming up in the pre-press industry, Kass Johns, a Colorado Springs-based writer and consultant to national and international computer-trade magazines is a great source.
A former graphic artist, Johns’ work can be seen in “Digital Creativity,” where she’s a contributing editor, and “Folio.” Her Web site, http://uNm,csn.net/kassi, includes a list of desktop publications, trade-organizations, book recommendations for graphic designers and Web resources. Have a question about your Syquest drive? The site has probably covered it.
The technology is opening to new audiences due to things such as digital printing combined with lower-cost digital cameras, Johns said. Pure digital printing, bypassing even a traditional printing press, is about two years old.
Digital printing isn’t yet very widely used in Colorado, but it eliminates film, film processing and photographic plate exposure. Machines look like a large box with a monitor at eye level. The first digital presses were by Indigo and Xeikon and are just beginning to appear en mass. Some of the top users are real estate companies because they often need a press run of only 200 to 300 before they change their advertisements.Johns simplifies this year’s upcoming hot tickets into two industry trends. One is “big color.” Big color refers to poster-sized printing based on Plotter technology printers, such as architects use for large printing, that works like a high-resolution 4-color dot matrix printer to produce posters up to billboard size.
“It’s a way to meet all of the marketing needs of the customer, from brochures to bill boards, even trade-show banners. The file doesn’t have to be big because the dots per inch aren’t high. At a distance, you can’t see 10 or 15 dots per inch,” she said.
The World Wide Web contributes to the second trend.”What publishers and prepress houses need to see is that it won’t replace printing,” Johns said, Like big color, “it’s an additional marketing tool. We’ll find the lines crossing over. Technology moves so fast you can’t wait for it to be done. In the future, clients will want a brochure and a Web site. The graphic artist service provider of the future will have to offer design, prepress operations and Web sites. I predict exclusive color houses will go away.”
ÿ

Light tables, Rapido graph pens and T-squares are dinosaurs whose time in prepress production rooms hasn’t only come, it’s long gone.
Replacing it is software whose life span is about six months before a revision is created and marketed as newer and better.
The definition of old equipment is changing as well. Many owners of Northern Colorado printing companies have updated their image setters and printers in the last year and are able to handle just about any file a customer may bring in, but most admit they don’t have the latest equipment. Keeping up isn’t just difficult; it’s costly.

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