Layout Printing Knowledge

Page Layout / Keylining

Prior to the introduction of electronic publishing, page layouts were composed as mechanicals (also called paste-ups or keylines). Artists and design professionals (sometimes called keyliners) would assemble various elements on the paste-up board. The elements could include type, which was set on a phototypesetter and output in galleys of type on phototypesetting paper; boxes drawn for photo placement; and line art which was shot in a camera onto a stat, or as a photographic print. Each element was pasted into position using wax, spray mount, or rubber cement. Crop marks and registration marks were drawn on the board and then a tissue overlay was attached over the layout to be used as a guide for indicating the location of color breaks or writing special instructions. The resulting layout was referred to as "camera-ready art".  

After completing the layout, a negative was produced. Black and white photos were shot separately onto film using a screen. Color photos were sent to a color separator where the full color image was separated into 4 films with each film representing one of the basic color components of the image. The separate films were then stripped up with the rest of the job. Solid black or rubylith windows were cut to allow for a clear window on the negative where the photos would be placed.

Computer-Ready Art

Today, artwork is prepared primarily on a computer. Apple Macintosh has been the computer most widely used by the printing industry in their art departments, although PC's are increasingly being used. Photos can be scanned into the computer and retouched or color corrected. Type is easily set into a page layout program and images are imported. The color is added directly to the type and the graphics. The resulting file is then output to create a proof, film, or plates. The computer has shortened the process of preparing artwork significantly and making changes is faster and easier.


It is important to learn the system of measurement used in the graphic arts and publishing industries. The system of measurement is based upon the point and the pica. A point is defined as exactly 1/72 of an inch. There are 12 points in a pica and 6 picas to the inch. Type and rules are specified in points and page elements are measured in picas and points.

Text Usage

Consider the following items concerning the text in your project:

  • Choose a type face or font that compliments and suits your project. There are many fonts from which to choose and picking the right font and style makes a big difference. Use only Adobe Postscript Type 1 typefaces and avoid using TrueType. When working with the Macintosh, do not use fonts that are named after cities, such as Geneva, New York, Chicago, etc. They are "Screen fonts" only and are needed by the Mac system and are not to be used for setting type. More on fonts...
  • Avoid using "ALL CAPS" or keep it to a minimum. Type that is set in all caps is more difficult to read than type set in upper and lowercase. When type is set in caps, all the letters have a similar size and shape, making it hard for the eye to distinguish the letterforms. The use of italic or bold may be a good alternative in order to highlight words.
  • If you create a logo or headline in an illustration program using a typeface that is not one of the standard fonts, convert it to outlines before importing it into the page layout program.
  • Style sheets should be used to maintain a consistent look to the design.. They save time on large projects, and they allow changes to be made easily to the entire document with just one change in the style sheets.
  • Set tabs and use them to space across your page instead of using several spaces. If you use spaces, the lines of text may be misaligned or uneven.
  • Use hanging indents for bulleted and numbered lists. Set the tab in the place where the text begins after a bullet or number and then set the left indent to be the same amount and the first line indent to a negative number of the same amount. Do not put in a hard return and tab over. Doing this makes it difficult to make changes or edit the text later. See example...
  • Do not use more than one space between sentences.
  • Do not use the straight quote and apostrophe marks on the keyboard. Some programs will let you set the default to automatically convert to "curly quotes". If you are not using a program that will convert it for you, then use the following special command keys:  

    Opening double quote = option-[
    Closing double quote = option-shift-[
    Opening single quote = option-]
    Closing single quote = option-shift-]
    Inch = Symbol font option-, (comma)
    Foot = Symbol font option-4
    PC(hold down the Alt key
    and use numbers in Num keypad)
    Opening double quote = alt-0147
    Closing double quote = alt-0148
    Opening single quote = alt-0145
    Closing single quote = alt-0146
    Inch = Symbol font alt-0178
    Foot = Symbol font alt-0162
  • Use ligatures, which combine letters to make a single letter, such as fi and fl. 
  • Use reverse type sparingly, but if you do use it, the font should be sans serif type and least 10 point. Avoid using a thin type face, which can fill in easily and get lost in the background.
  • Be careful when overprinting type on a four-color or tinted image. Avoid overprinting on busy areas in photos. Dark type can get lost in dark areas of the photo. Outlining the type in a contrasting color will help to emphasize the type.
  • Make sure small text is composed as a solid color so that it is easy to read.
  • Use the actual bold, italic, or bold-italic fonts in the font menu instead of selecting them on the style palette. If the printer font is not available for that font, it will still look fine on the screen and also on a laser or inkjet printer, but will not print on a Postscript printer. Never apply a bold style to a font that is already bold because it will result in misaligned spacing when it is output.
  • Do not use the outline option in the style palette. Instead, use your illustration program to create outline type. To create outline type, first type the text, apply the outline twice as thick as is desired, copy, paste on top, apply a fill color, and a stoke of none. If you apply just a stroke to the text without pasting a copy on top, the letters will appear thinner. Note that you may have to adjust the kerning and tracking.
  • Do not use the shadow style because the tint value and the color cannot be controlled. Create shadows in an illustration program.
  • Use the baseline shift feature only for certain characters to be moved up or down. Do not use it to shift whole paragraphs. Instead, use the "leading", "space before" and "space after" features.
  • Instead of hitting a tab key to indent the first line use the "indent first line" feature. Never type 5 spaces for an indent!
  • Change the hyphenation and justification settings. Typically the default settings are set too loose.
  • Set your leading instead of using the "auto" leading, which may give you uneven and uncontrolled spacing.
  • Avoid having widows and orphans. A widow is a single word floating at the top of a new page or column and an orphan is a lone word on a line at the end of paragraph.
  • Always proofread your copy and have another person proofread it as well. Know and use the proofreaders' marks.
  • Apply kerning and tracking to change the look of your text.

Rules / Boxes

  • When drawing rules and boxes, consider the following points:
  • Print fine rules in solid colors only.
  • Never use "hairline" for rules or boxes. It isn't actually a size and the results will vary. The thinnest rule you should use is .5 pt.
  • Draw your boxes by using the box tool, not by drawing 4 lines. The corners may not connect. "Close enough" on the screen may not be the same when it is output on an imagesetter.
  • Do not cover an unwanted part of an image with a white box. Just because you can't see it on the screen, doesn't mean it's not there. The covered part of the image will still take RIP time to process the information.
  • Use the rulers and grids for accuracy.

Importing Graphics

  • Computer graphics are grouped into two main categories: vector graphics and bitmap images. Vector-art graphics consist of lines and curves created with software programs like Adobe Illustrator® and Macromedia FreeHand™ and are saved as EPS files. The resolution they print at depends on the printing device. Bitmap images (also called raster images) are created or scanned into Adobe Photoshop® and saved as either TIFF or EPS images. The resolution of the images is set in Photoshop, depending on the type of output you will be using. There are other programs that can be used to create graphics, but those mentioned are the most popular programs used by service bureaus and printing companies. 
  • The files can then be imported or placed into your layout in the desktop publishing software. They should not be renamed after they have been placed, or they will appear to be missing. If you send your files to be output elsewhere, make sure to include the EPS or TIFF files with the layout file. They are linked files and the external files are needed when it is time to output.
  • Additional information is listed below to assist you when working with graphics:
  • Scale, rotate, and crop your images in your image editing software before you import them. If you edit your image in the page layout program, it takes much longer to RIP the files or at times it may make the file impossible to RIP under any circumstance.
  • The resolution of the image should be twice the line screen rating (lines per inch) that will be used for printing the product. For example, most commercial printers use a 150-175 line screen, therefore the resolution of the image should be 300-350 dpi. Check with the printer to see what line screen they use. Resolution for scanned line art should be 1200 dpi if you are outputting on a high-end imagesetter.
  • Before resizing images, consider the resolution that is desired for the output. The maximum recommended enlargement is 200%, unless the final image is to be printed at a resolution less than the resolution of the original scan. If you don't know the exact size you'll need, it is better to make it larger and reduce it rather than to enlarge it.
  • Crop out the unwanted parts of the graphic in the graphics program rather than in the layout program. The entire imported file has to be processed on the RIP even if it isn't being used. White borders around the image count! Also, do not cover something up with a white box if you don't want it to print. Crop out the unwanted part instead.
  • OPI/FPO or APR - Open Press Interface/For Position Only or Automatic Picture Replacement - This concept uses a low resolution version of an image to be used in your layout program. The high resolution version is stored on a server and it is swapped out when it is sent to the RIP. Using a low resolution file in the layout saves on file size and time. You can make adjustments such as cropping, resizing, rotating, flopping, etc., although it is better to have them made on the actual image first. Changes made to the image itself, such as color changes, can only be accomplished on the high-res version. Never change the file names of either file because changing the name will lose the connection.
  • Save your images as CMYK, not RGB, if your job is going to be printed on a press.
  • When placing bitmap files in Quark, never set the background of the picture box to "none". It should always be set to "white".
  • PhotoCD - When a photo is placed on a PhotoCD, realize that the images are stored as RGB images rather than CMYK, which is the format needed for printing. The photo can be converted in image editing programs such as Photoshop, but the results can be unpredictable, if you are not experienced in editing images.
  • When you create an EPS or TIFF file in Photoshop and import it into a page layout program, a white background will be placed around the image. If you want a transparent background, you will need to create a clipping path in Photoshop.
  • Do not place an EPS within another EPS file, this causes major problems in the RIP. Use copy and paste instead.
  • Remember, when you place an EPS file which includes text, the font must also be provided in order for the file to be output.

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