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Author’s Guide to Digital Art

Author’s Guide to Digital Art How to Prepare and Submit Artwork with Your Manuscript www.jkeckert.com ©2010

How to Prepare and Submit Artwork with Your Manuscript

www.jkeckert.com

©2010 J. K. Eckert & Co., Inc.

Author’s Guide to Digital Art

Introduction Presumably, you are reading this because you need to submit artwork for inclusion in a pub- lished document but don’t fully understand the basics of digital graphics. Perhaps you are starting from scratch, or maybe you have submitted artwork that was deemed to be unacceptable. In either case, this document should provide all you need to know, and probably a little more.

1. Square One: Types of Art

Vector Art Dozens of graphic file formats exist, including tagged image file format (TIFF), Joint Photo- graphics Experts Group (JPEG or just JPG), encapsulated PostScript (EPS), graphic interchange format (GIF), et al. But there are only two basic types: vector art and bitmapped art. A decade or two ago, vector art was highly desirable because computers still had relatively limited storage space and processing power. Vector art consists of a set of instructions to the output device (printer, monitor, or whatever) telling it how to “draw” an image. It might specify, for example, the beginning and end point of a line, how much and in what direction it curves, how thick it is, and what color it is. When you put a collection of such commands together, you end up with a complete drawing. The advantage of vector art is that it takes up relatively little space on your hard drive and executes very quickly. Perhaps the most popular vector art application is Adobe Illustrator, but its heritage goes back at least as far as Apple’s old Turtle Graphics. Even if the concept of vector art seems foreign to you, in all likelihood, you use it every day; the type characters you use are all tiny pieces of vector art. That’s why a page of type requires much less storage space on your hard drive than a photo with the same dimensions. That’s also why it is so easy to scale the type to whatever size you want. If type were bitmapped, you would need a separate character for each and every possible point size. Because computers are now much faster and more powerful than they were when vector art was developed, there is no longer much of a penalty to be paid for using bitmaps. Vector drawing applications are still great for artists who have the time and inclination to learn how to use them, and they offer the ability to produce beautiful original pieces. But if you are working with existing images (and we assume that you are at this point), then vector art becomes irrelevant. It therefore has been discussed here mostly for background purposes and will not be covered any further.

Bitmapped Art You almost certainly will be working with bitmapped art, so it is important to understand its fundamentals. Whether your images come from a digital camera or a scanner, they fall into this category. Bitmap is one of the relatively few computer terms that actually mean pretty much what they say. An image captured by a film camera and printed out the old-fashioned way is called a contin- uous tone image because the photo is made up of a continuous flow of color or gray areas. Digital cameras (and scanners) work in a completely different way. The image is converted into a collec- tion of dots (samples) and stored as a map of the dot layout. If you scan (or shoot) an image at 300 dots per inch (dpi), it will take 300 samples of what it’s looking at horizontally and 300 samples vertically, for a total of 90,000 dots. The number of dots per square inch, or dot density, is referred

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to as resolution . Generally, 300 * dpi is the minimum resolution that is acceptable for professional- level publications.

Details You May Not Need to Know

Strictly speaking, only line art (artwork made up completely of black and white elements, with no color or gray) is properly called bitmapped . But the term is loosely used to describe any image that is made up of dots rather than vector instructions. A true bitmapped images uses one binary digit (bit) of binary data for each dot. Because a bit can represent only two numbers (1 and 0), each dot can be only black (1) or white (0). To reproduce shades of gray in between black and white, the computer uses 8 bits, which gives it the ability to store 256 shades of gray. To represent a color image, each dot uses 24 (sometimes 48) bits. This is why a grayscale image takes up much more disk space than a bitmapped one, and a color image takes up much more than a grayscale one, even if they’re exactly the same dimensions. Another detail is that there are two types of color images: RGB (designating the primary col- ors red, green, blue) and CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). RGB is generally used for video images such as on your monitor. Printing presses, which blend ink rather than pixels, use CMYK color. If you have the ability to provide your artwork as CMYK, that is a good thing. But if you can’t, don’t worry about it—the conversion is simple. But be aware that there will be a slight change in hue when your images are converted. This is unavoidable. If the above doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry about it. It’s just there in case you want a deeper understanding of the process.

2. More on Resolution

As mentioned, resolution refers to how many dots per square inch your image contains. It is important to understand that if you make an image larger, it loses resolution, because you have the same number of dots occupying a larger space. Conversely, you can gain resolution by shrinking an image. On the following page, four images are shown in the same dimensions at various resolu- tions. You can see the serious degradation in quality as the resolution drops. The 72-dpi one (which is the most common resolution used on the Internet) looks decent on your monitor. But if you blow the page up to about 200 percent, you’ll see a big difference. And it will look worse if you print the page from an inkjet printer, and much worse coming off a printing press. This shows why 300 dpi is considered to be the minimum acceptable. One might think that the higher the resolution (i.e., the more dots), the better, as quality is a desirable thing. In principle, that’s true. However, when liquid ink is applied to a porous surface such as paper, it spreads out, and the dots overlap and blend. As a result, there is always a point at which higher resolution becomes a liability rather than an asset. The bottom line is:

More dots = better theoretical quality, but

More dots = bigger files, slower transmission over the Internet, and slower printing

* You might think that resolution would be specified using both horizontal and vertical numbers, such as 300 × 300 dpi. And in fact, at one time is was, because scanners could achieve much greater vertical resolution than hori- zontal. But the numbers are nearly always the same now, so the redundant number has been dropped.

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4 A UTHOR ’ S G UIDE TO D IGITAL A RT 300 dpi 36 dpi

300 dpi

A UTHOR ’ S G UIDE TO D IGITAL A RT 300 dpi 36 dpi 72

36 dpi

A UTHOR ’ S G UIDE TO D IGITAL A RT 300 dpi 36 dpi 72

72 dpi

A UTHOR ’ S G UIDE TO D IGITAL A RT 300 dpi 36 dpi 72

18 dpi

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As it turns out, 300 dpi is a reasonable compromise for most commercial book printing jobs that employ typical offset processes. If you’re preparing something for National Geographic , it’s a different story, but that’s their problem.

3. What If My Images Are Low-Res?

Here’s the bad news. The only practical way to increase resolution of an existing image is to make it smaller. If your artwork is oversized, that might be fine. But if you expect it to be printed at the same size you created it, that probably won’t work, and your only alternative is to scan it again at higher resolution. If you don’t have the originals and can’t do that, then you’ll just have to find substitutes. Sorry, but it’s true, and no amount of pleading can repeal the laws of physics. There is, however, one exception to the above. If your image is very close to high enough res- olution, there is a process called upsampling in which new dots are created artificially by interpo- lation. But the bad news is that it doesn’t work very well and generally cannot be used to improve your resolution by more than about 50 percent. So if you have a good, sharp 200-dpi photo, it can be upsampled to about 300 dpi. But it will still be somewhat blurry, and it takes time to process it. And as we know, time is money—probably yours, unless you can do it yourself in Photoshop or some other application. Note that simply typing a new number into the resolution window will not make any real dif- ference. If you merely reset the resolution of a 150-dpi image to 300, it will shrink to half of its original size. If this relationship isn’t clear to you, see Table 2 at the end of this guide.

4. Submitting Artwork

Artwork should be submitted in a standard graphic format, preferably TIFF or JPG . The latter is often used because JPG files are compressed by nature, so they are smaller and travel through the Internet faster. There is no need to use a ZIP or other compression program on them, as there is very little to be gained. Zipping other formats can be helpful. Art must be available to the publisher in the form of separate, individual files. They can be zipped into a single archive for convenience, but it must unzip at the other end into separate files again. Absolutely do not import your artwork into Word, Powerpoint, PDF, or any other applica- tion that creates a document that combines them in one file. The importation process often strips away useful file information and makes the images unusable in any other application. Do not sub- mit them as PDF files. Converting them is very slow and cumbersome. In most e-mail systems, you can attach art files directly to a message as long they do not exceed a total of about 10 MB in any one message. Some systems have no such limit. Check with the intended recipient to find out. If your files are larger than that, or you have many to submit, you can use File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to upload them to the company’s server if (1) they are set up for that and (2) you have an FTP client (program) and know how to use it. You can get one for free from filezilla-project.org if you want to try that. Otherwise, you might consider using a ser- vice like yousendit.com, which provides for transfers of files up to 100 MB in size. Do not submit your artwork until it is complete. You can create a lot of confusion with a note like, “Here is some of my artwork. More coming next week.” Wait until you have them all ready to go. Be sure to indicate how many are to be included so the recipient will know if any are missing. However, if you are not sure about whether your artwork is of acceptable quality, feel free to sub- mit a sample for evaluation. All other things being equal, the smallest file on your hard drive will probably have the lowest quality, so that’s the one to send.

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A Note about File Names You can help to keep things simple if you name the files such that the production staff under- stands what to do with them. If your manuscript says, “Insert photo of Uncle Zeke here,” that won’t be of much help. We don’t know what he looks like. A good strategy is to include your name, and number them in order of appearance in the book (e.g., Smith001.jpg). Then provide a list of file names and captions (e.g., Smith001.jpg, Uncle Zeke Smith with his freshly shot ‘pos- sum.). Note that some applications and file systems have trouble with long file names, so try to keep yours to fewer than 31 characters, including the extension (.jpg, .tif, etc.).

5. Other Considerations

• Information about where to place the artwork should be inserted in your manuscript, not in a separate document that might get lost. The person who checks and processes your images prob- ably will not do the page composition, so that information is extraneous at this point.

• If any of your artwork is not in the public domain (i.e., is copyrighted material), make sure you have obtained written permission to use it, and include the permission documents with your art.

• Scan your images one at a time; do not include more than one image in the same file.

• Crop away areas of the images that you do not want to appear on the page (i.e., unnecessary white space). If you cannot do that, you may be charged for the extra time it involves.

6. Summary

Following the above guidelines will ensure that your artwork works the first time and allow you to avoid wasted time and effort. If you have any questions, ask the art manager before moving forward. The following checklist should prove helpful. Do not submit your artwork until all of the checklist items have been verified.

Table 1. Art Submission Checklist

Each image is in its finished form, with no revisions anticipated.

All images to be used in the book are included, with no more to be sent later. *

All images are at least 300 dpi resolution (but no more than 600 dpi) and at least as large as they are to appear in the book.

All images are separate files, not embedded in an application file (Word, Powerpoint, etc.).

All images are in the form of JPG, TIFF, or another format readable by Photoshop.

File names are short and relate logically to the text.

All required permissions have been obtained.

*But feel free to send one or two samples for evaluation before unleashing the entire batch. †However, it is fine to combine them into a ZIP, StuffIt, or other common compression archive.

Table 2. Resolution vs. Size for a 1500 × 2100-Dot/Pixel Image

Resolution (dpi)

Dimensions (inches)

200

7.5 × 10.5

300

5 × 7

600

2.5 × 3.5

©2010 J. K. Eckert & Co., Inc.