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Prepping Artwork for Fast Separation

(October 2011) posted on Tue Oct 25, 2011

Rushing the separation process can lead to disaster in production. Find out how to determine which approach represents the best mix of quality and speed for your shop.

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By Thomas Trimingham

Though this process sounds complex, it’s really just using a pre-selection to create a more precise selection and then averaging the color of these areas in a new layer like a lens on top of the original artwork. This process alone can reduce the number of colors necessary in artwork dramatically and improve the overall look, separation, and printing of images with color pollution.

Resolution and file size Every printer wishes that customers would provide original artwork ready to go onto the screens, but the reality is that only a small percentage of the artwork provided is considered ready to separate. More often, artwork is supplied that was compressed for Web viewing to 72 dpi and at a small size. These files—if they’re not rejected outright—must be adjusted, averaged, or in some cases completely redone. Low-res images don’t retain enough information to create a definitive separation set.

If the file is borderline and the client cannot provide a better source, then you can do several things to enhance your results (Figure 3). One solution is to take the original artwork and then up the resolution in the image/size dialog box to 200-250 dpi at the final output size. Review this ramp-up of the resolution carefully to see whether there is enough information to justify investing more time in the art.

Pay special attention to type clarity and sharp-edged lines in the artwork that may have appeared jagged in the low-resolution version of the file. If the file looks like it can be saved without a ton of work, then the first step is to copy and paste the image in as a new layer and then use the curves command to force the contrast up by pushing the white and black points together. This removes some of the marginal values that may have been created when the resolution was increased and define the edges better.


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