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Digital Prepress vs. Traditional Prepress

Creative Services Prepress is the process of making a document ready for printing. The tasks involved in prepressing a document vary depending upon the complexity of the document and the printing method. In fact, the scope of the term has expanded and contracted significantly in the last two decades due to advancements in technology.

In general, the following tasks are carried out in prepress:

  • Typesetting - Organizing textual elements in a graphical format
  • Copy-editing - To refine the accuracy, formatting and style of a document
  • Markup - An artificial language that is used to provide a description or instruction about the text
  • Proofing - It involves making an exact copy of the original copy before production. This copy serves as the agreement between the printer and the customer that the final product meets the desired expectations
  • Proofreading - Reviewing the document to detect and eliminate any errors
  • Imposition - Combining multiple pages together into a single copy
  • Plates - Plates are manufactured and delivered to the site beforehand. The cost is also included in the final price
  • Separation - The process involves the positioning of images or text on plates
  • Paper selection - Selected appropriate quality paper for printing
  • Bleed Settings - Defining the bleed area, which ensures that no unprinted edges transpire in the final print

Practical Application of Prepress

For instance, a designer has created a copy; while reviewing the same, he updates various attributes such as the font, image and color to suit the requirement. The designer also arranges the content to suit his vision. However, the copy is not yet ready to hit the press. It has to go through prepress stage. In this process, the designer will take the steps to ensure that the final output - the printed document - will not differ from his vision.

The Switch from Traditional To Digital Prepressing

Many professionals among the current generation might have never worked in the publishing industry before the dawn of desktop publishing; and therefore may be only familiar with digital prepress. The fact is, however, that there was a completely different process for getting a book or a brochure printed at a point in the past. Our rapid advancements in technology resulted in the demise of these processes.

While desktop publishing made its entry in the middle of the 80s arguably, the impact of its arrival was visible extensively by the early years of the 21st century. By this time, computers had become an integral part of the prepress process. More importantly, the use of traditional techniques began to diminish greatly due to the adoption of digital processes that were comparatively inexpensive and far more effective and reliable. The introduction of technology also brought a great change to the skillsets required to perform prepress.

Earlier, printing was done by commercial establishments that employed skilled professionals to perform certain activities using specific tools. Thanks to technology, a single individual can deliver the output using a single computer these days.

Differences between Traditional and Digital Prepress

  1. Design

    The design process is mostly the same in both types of prepress with the major difference being the technology used. The purpose, budget, and appearance are determined by a group or an individual. The graphic designer may be a part of the conceptualization. The designer then prepares rough sketches based on the information he/she receives. The advantage of digital prepress is that several versions can be simultaneously generated with ease

  2. Typesetter

    In traditional prepress, the designer provided the input - text and type specifications - to the typesetter. The paste-up person then put the type and other elements on a paste-up board.

    In the digital prepress, the typesetter, paste-up person, and the paste-up board are eliminated from the process. The designer has full control over the type and can perform any action - change it as per his convenience, arrange it in a different format, and experiment with various styles, etc.

  3. Images

    Traditional prepresses used traditional photographic processes to photograph, crop, enlarge or reduce images. To denote the position of the images on the layout, FPO boxes were placed on the paste-up board.

    In digital prepress, the designer can then perform his work on the images - crop, scale, or enhance the photos - in an image editor. Once the work is complete, the designer can place the final images into the publication

  4. File Preparation

    In traditional prepress, the paste-up board is prepared with all the information. Once this is done, the picture of the board is taken with a camera and the negatives are produced. The stripper takes the negatives and assembles it into a sheet or flat. The flat is imposed and turned into plates. From the plates, the publication is then printed on to paper.

    In digital prepress, the designer places all the content in the publication. He then prepares a digital file or prints a page that is "camera ready". Other activities, such as imposition, can be done within the software

  5. Proofing

    In traditional prepress, pages are printed and carefully proofread for errors. To fix errors, one may have to make new negatives and replace the erroneous items in the original copy carefully. New plates are created, from which, pages are printed again. As one can imagine, this is a time-consuming process.

    In digital prepress, one can easily print interim copies. Thus, countless errors can be eliminated before the publication reaches the stage of producing negatives, plates and final prints

  6. Printing

    In traditional prepress, the printing process included the following steps - Paste-up, Film, Flats, Plates and Printing.

    The digital prepress may follow the same process, but can also include other processes like output from digital file to film directly

Digital Prepress is the Way Ahead

With prepress is becoming more digital and flexible, printing too has joined the bandwagon. In the last decade, the market share of digital printing doubled while that of lithography reduced by as much as 20 percent. Apart from the points mentioned above, following factors have contributed to the widespread embrace of digital prepress and printing:

  • Digital printers are inexpensive to home and office users
  • Digital printers are easily accessible, which empowers users to print on demand
  • Digital printing makes it possible to personalize images easily and conveniently

Outsource2india has been working in the field of prepress for over a decade now. Our team has worked on a variety of projects for various types of printing requirements and can easily provide high quality and professional prepress services to businesses across the globe.

Contact us for your prepress and premedia requirements, we will be glad to assist you.

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