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Wayne's Photo Library

Preparing art for publication

When sending artwork to an editor you may choose to mail photographs, transparencies, or disks; or send it in electronic format via email.

Sending art via snail mail

If you choose to mail art to an editor—whether a photographic slide/transparency or a print, or a computer disk—you'll want to be sure that it arrives in undamaged condition.

First, do not use paper clips to attach your photo to your press release. If you're mailing a print, the clip will leave marks in the photographic emulsion, which may result in an unusable scan. If the clip comes loose in transit, it can easily produce a scar or nasty crease in the emulsion. And of course, if you use the clip with a slide or transparency, the same or worse fate can occur because of the higher magnification used in scanning slides. A good option is to use a vinyl holder for the print, transparency, or slide. Put a little piece of tape over the open end to prevent it from falling out, but do not attach with staples or paper clips to your press release. If you don't have vinyl, use another sheet of paper or thin cardboard to hold your art. By the way, you can apply the same technique to protect other documents that will be scanned—such as an original piece of art or a plotter output.

If you send a CD-ROM, be sure to use specifically-designed mailers. These will withstand abuse and protect your disc from damage. To prevent the disc from being scratched, you may want to enclose it first in a plastic or paper liner before you put it in the mailer.

Finally, don't send ink-jet produced prints, even if you use a "photographic" quality printer. The chance for moire patterns, out-of-gamut scans, and strange color reproductions could make your "photographic" output look nothing like the electronic original that produced the print. Why not just send the electronic file instead?

Electronic submissions

Which brings us to the next issue: Electronic submissions. Let's talk about producing them, not transmitting them. Electronic submissions can save you money in the long run—postage and the cost of duplicate prints or slides. Here's something to keep in mind. It may mean an extra step for you, but it will win you points with editors, many of whom are strapped for time. No doubt you want your submission to appear both in print and on the magazine's Web site. The problem is that you need two way-different files: a high-resolution (preferably CMYK), 300 ppi TIF or EPS file for print, and a low-resolution (RGB) 72 ppi JPG or GIF file for the Web. You have options.

  1. You could elect to send only the low-resolution (low-res) Web image. If you do, you can be reasonably assured that the editor will not bother asking for an image for the print media—which means your submission probably won't make it into print, and if it does, it will not contain an image.
  2. You could elect to send the high-resolution (high-res) image, which means that if the editor picks up your release, it will probably include your electronic photo in the magazine. The editor will pass along the image, and the art/prepress department may also convert it to low-res for use on the Web site. If the editor passes along the high-res image to the Web editor directly, the image may get on the Web if the Web editor has both the software and the time to prepare it.
  3. You could elect to send both versions of the picture: one for the Web and one for print. If you include them on a CD or in a ZIP file, there is a good possibility that the editor will pass along the low-res image to the Web editor, and it will get picked up. Another advantage to sending both images—you control the quality: conversion to CMYK for print and conversion to low-res for the Web. You save the editors time, and they'll appreciate it.

Making the image

The easiest way to get your electronic images is to ask your photographer to provide you with them. Chances are he's/she's shooting with a digital camera anyway. Unless you're providing an image for the cover, an image with physical dimensions of 5x7 inches (13x18 cm) at a resolution of 300 ppi (100 pixels/cm minimum) will do. Use an 8x10 or 11x14 picture for a magazine cover. Talk to the magazine's art director to get the details on cover specs.

If you have a photographic print or slide, you should have it professionally scanned by a service bureau if you're planning to use it for "cover material." But, if you're planning to use the electronic image for new product releases, a recent vintage scanner (one to two years old) that is sold as a "professional" model will provide quite acceptable results. Expect to pay around $500 to $2000 for a good-quality flatbed scanner. A slide scanner will cost typically from $3,000 to $5,000 (USD). One advantage, however, to having your image scanned professionally, is that a drum scanner is the typical device used, and it usually provides better output than flatbed scanners, and also has a way of not emphasizing any imperfections in the slide or print. And if there are imperfections, the service bureau's retouch personnel can fix them in much less time than you will spend on them.

If you're scanning the images yourself, it's a good idea to set the scanner's resolution to higher than you may actually use, but not higher than the scanner's actual hardware resolution. Yes, you can scan higher than the hardware resolution, but you rely upon the scanner's software to interpolate up to the higher resolution. If you have to interpolate to a higher resolution, use a program like Photoshop® to do the work for you because that's what it was designed to do. Scanner software doesn't necessarily produce the best interpolated results. Once you've scanned your image and have it in Photoshop, you can resize it to something practical, say 5x7 inches at 300 ppi. Rule of thumb—If you resampled to a particular image size, don't resample the resampled image to get to another size; you'll lose quality. Instead, start fresh with the originally scanned, large image.

To keep the file size small for electronic transmission, you may actually want to use the JPG file format. If you're starting out with a high-quality TIF image that weighs in at about 9 Mbyes at 300 ppi, you could save it as a high-quality JPG file in Photoshop, cutting its file size down to about 0.75 to 1.5 Mbytes. When the editor receives it, the JPG file will once again open to a 9 Mbyte file. Chances are that you probably won't notice image deterioration, and it won't show up in print either. Keep in mind that if you want to make further adjustments on the file, start out with the full TIF image again. Another rule of thumb—Don't resave a JPG file of a file that's already in JPG format. If you do, you will immediately note a loss of quality that will also reveal itself in print usually as a "mushy" image. Mushy describes the loss of line and edge quality, plus artifacts that begin to show up in various color tonalities.

Tips for successful screen dumps and PowerPoints

We've been talking about continuous-tone photographs. But there are other media with demanding requirements. One is the "screen dump," something which software companies use all the time to illustrate their products. The best way to take a screen dump for print media is (if you're on Windows) use the [ALT] [Print Scrn] keys to capture the screen you want on your clipboard. At this point do an "edit, paste" into Microsoft's® Photo Editor or create a new document in Photoshop, and then do an edit-paste. There are two cardinal rules: Do NOT resize the image using any resampling and DO NOT save the image in any format that causes image degradation, such as JPG. Your best bet is to save the image as a TIF file (yes, you can use LZW compression when Photoshop gives you the option because it does not destroy any parts of your picture). If you save the file as an uncompressed TIF file, you can save transmission time and file space by using ZIP® or Stuffit®. Neither will hurt your image. AGAIN, NEVER SAVE A SCREEN DUMP AS A JPG FILE!

The same rules for screen dumps apply when you're scanning line art or converting from a PowerPoint® slide, which contains type. Like screen dumps, if you resample line art, rasterized type, and PowerPoint-generated images in Photoshop, you will lose quality—if only perceptibly. Never save line art as a JPG file. Your sharp, clean lines and type will get fuzzy and blurred.

Here is another tip for PowerPoint images. PowerPoint is great for presenting a show-and-tell, but handling art in PowerPoint has to be the bane of all editors and art directors. Because PowerPoint contains both bitmap and vector art plus type in the same file (proprietary to Microsoft), this bastardized format makes it exceedingly difficult to translate it into another format easily. Eventually an art director wants it in an EPS format—either all bitmap, or an Illustrator® EPS file suitable for printing. You can't rely on copying and pasting from PowerPoint into Illustrator or Freehand® on either Mac or Windows without a hitch. When you least suspect it, something will go wrong—if not visibly, then behind the scenes. It may be in your final film output, when your imagesetter "hangs" and produces PostScript error output faster than you can wink.

PowerPoint does have export options, which I believe now includes TIF. For sure, you don't want to use JPG for the reasons that we discussed earlier. But even a non-JPG format may not get you the file size you require. For example, if your screen is set at 1024x768, that's the maximum file size that you'll get.

Here's another option to get the file size you want. Unfortunately, this option requires that you have at least Adobe Distiller (Acrobat®) and either Illustrator or Photoshop. But make sure that you do all your final editing in PowerPoint first. Once you're finished, do a File-Print with your printer driver set to Adobe PDF (Acrobat 6) and "Press Quality." Once you have generated a PDF, try opening it in Illustrator. If the page looks OK, you can probably use it. That is, make sure that any vector objects have not skewed into something they weren't in PowerPoint, and it's a good idea to change any type to "art" so that the editor or art director doesn't have to worry about missing fonts. You can now save the file as an EPS or export to TIF. If you're getting unusual or unstable results, do yourself and all the editors to whom you send the graphic a favor. Forget Illustrator, and open the file in Photoshop. It will open with a default size (probably your page size), and give you a choice of the ppi and also color space. For print, choose 300 ppi and CYMK for print. If you're going to the Web, select 72 ppi and RGB. Once you've rasterized the page, any font issues will go away, too. You now have a pure bitmap image that behaves like a photograph.

At this point, you're ready to send your art with your release. Keep in mind, however, when you make the art available to editors, make it easy to get, whether as a traditional photograph, a file on a disk, or an electronic file within an email or downloadable from a Web or FTP site.


Simple glossary of terms:

CMYK—Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black four-color scheme to match the four-color printing process.

dpi—dots per inch, the maximum number of ink or toner "dots" a printer can put on paper or other media.

EPS—Encapsulated PostScript® file suitable for embedding in page layout programs such as Quark XPress® or Adobe® InDesign. To make the file truly transportable among Windows, Mac, and UNIX platforms, save the file with a "TIF preview" image.

GIF—Originally developed by CompuServe® to save transmission time, this Web-based format uses a narrow color look-up-table to keep files small. Files are defined at 72 ppi.

JPG—This RGB or CMYK file format actually "throws away" part of the image, as well as uses compression, to keep file size small. This format can save color and gray-scale images at most any ppi and quality level.

ppi—Pixels per inch is used to measure the number of pixels per inch at which a document is scanned or the maximum number of picture elements a sensor in a camera or scanner can resolve. The resulting file is then often referred to as "dots per inch" or "dpi"—which is technically incorrect because dpi refers to the maximum quality at which a printer is capable of "laying" dots of ink or toner on paper or other material.

rasterize—Conversion of a vector file to a bitmap image, composed solely of pixels.

RGB—Red-Green-Blue color space (the language of light) is the way computer CRTs and TVs reproduce color. Most camcorders and scanners also use the RGB color space.

TIF or TIFF—Tagged Image File Format stores color and grayscale images in any ppi. It does not throw away any parts of the picture. Compression techniques make the file small when it contains line art or large areas of one or two colors.

Copyright (C) Wayne Labs, May, 2004

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