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Diving into Digital Workflows

(April 2013) posted on Tue May 07, 2013

Key features to consider when assessing workflow-management software and its role in digital imaging.

By Bill Hartman

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While most RIPs, even with extended capabilities, do not offer extensive editing, a good workflow can. For example, bounding boxes can be expanded to make sure an entire element is imaged.

A good workflow allows text to be edited within copy blocks. Most of the time, it can be accomplished even if the font isn’t resident on the operator’s computer—that is, fonts that are only embedded in the PDF file. Text can also be converted to outlines.

Even image editing within a PDF file can be done using a workflow-management solution. Images can be relinked, or low-resolution images can be replaced by other, high-resolution images. Managed workflows can convert RGB images to CMYK or flatten an image automatically. The color ICC profile can also be converted. This, of course, eliminates the need to return a project file to the customer should the preflight check find that an image does not meet specs.

Examples of other editing processes that can be automated in a managed workflow include generating white underprint, ensuring that printing is accurate and not affected by the color of the substrate; converting black to rich black; generating or optimizing cutting paths; and adding bleeds; and more. Doing these automatically can save a lot of time and help to assure that the print job will be done before the deadline.

All of this is important, because it keeps the file within the workflow, without the need to return to the original application.

Many digitally printed signs and displays need to be finished—at the least, cut. This is where workflow tools provide additional benefit to a print shop. If a display file arrives at a shop without cutting paths—or without adequate paths—it can result in a lot of work and downtime. Typically, the artwork has to be imported into Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop so that cutting paths or bleeds can be created.

Challenge: Making sure the cut matches the print While creating a cutting path takes a lot of work in Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop, automated workflow management can make the job a lot easier. Workflow software can be programmed look at the artwork and create the cutting path—or it can smooth out the path and make it more accurate, even on pixel data rather than vector information.


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