designed in photoshop, now creating as vectors

hi there

i designed a series of menus for a restaurant i'm doing some part-time work for. I'm comfortable in Photoshop, so put the initial designs together in that - now am recreating in Illustrator to render vector text and shapes.  

I got proofs back from the printer today, printed off on a 'digi press'  (?!?!) - the body text on all menus is black, and looks crisp and clear (sizes range from 10pt to 16pt). However, the header text (in red, same font though as the black content) has a slight blur to it. Against a dark section, where red text is laid against a very dark chocolate brown, the header text looks even worse.

Is it my understanding that the 'digi press' converts all to pixel info?  surely printing the menus off on a normal printing press would yield far clearer results?

any other suggestions?

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David BruggeConnect With a Mentor Commented:

>how much of that could have to do with the stock that they mocked up the menus on?

There is a possibility that it could be the paper, but one hopes that the printer is professional enough to use a paper that will print the full gamut of colors.

The best thing to do probably, is to beg, borrow, or steal a good magnifying glass, a "linen tester" would be better, and a "loop" would be even better still. If you can’t find one, go to your printer and borrow his. If your printer doesn’t have one, consider looking for a new printer.
With your magnifying glass, get in on the edge of your red headline and take a good look. You will be able to see the various dots that make up the red color and the dots that make up the dark brown. You should also see if there is a good hard break between them or if one color seems to blur into the other color.

Sometimes, with certain color combinations, there is actually a good crisp division between the colors up close, but as you pull back the eye causes the line to vibrate, and as you pull back even more, the edges seem to blur. (although this is not very common with red and dark brown unless it is a very deep red and a very intense brown.)

If you do see that the edges actually blur, then go the printer and ask why. Since the entire file was vector, there really is no excuse for the type to blur. You might ask if there was any further "prep" that he had to do to the files (This is a sneaky way of asking him if he messed with the file before printing). Then ask him the same question that you’re asking here, “Could the choice of paper cause the blur? In his opinion, are you likely to see the same blur if you used a different printing method? Does he have any suggestions to reduce or eliminate the blur??
Go ahead and put him on the spot.. It might be something that you did inadvertently (applying a blur filter and didn’t know it) or picking a troublesome color combination. Or it might be his fault and he can fix it, Or it could be that he doesn’t have a clue. No matter what, you will gain valuable information.
David BruggeCommented:
Perhaps, perhaps not. The purpose of a proof is to give you a very good idea of what the printed piece should be.

First things first.

Although you are comfortable with PhotoShop, it seems that you are not comfortable dealing with printers. I don't blame you. Printers can be very intimidating. They can also be your best buddy when you are having trouble getting the look that you want. Printers tend to be very impatient however, and they expect you to do your homework.

The very first step in getting what you want from a printer is knowing what it is that you gave them. It is essential that you have a calibrated monitor (even if it is just hand calibrated using Adobe Gamma to start with). If you say your header is red, and it looks red on your monitor, but is really an orange-brown because your monitor is off, then you will get back a proof that is orange-brown.

Take your proof to the printer along with your file and ask to look at it on his monitor while viewing the proof. If the text is the color that you want on his monitor but not on his proof, ask him why. If the text shows up crisp on his monitor and not on the proof, ask him why. The point is this.

In a digital world, the printer relies on his monitor to give him an accurate representation of the printed output. If what he sees is not what he proofs, something is out of wack and needs to be adjusted.

On the other hand, if what you see on the monitor is close to what you see on the proof, it’s time to rework your files. At this point, you can ask the printer for any pointers he might have to get the look that you’re after but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t have an answer. A lot of printer that I work with know what to do once you hand them a file, but don’t know much else. On the other hand, many printers, especially ones with busy art departments, are the very best source for graphics know how.

Off hand, the problem that you are seeing might be caused by antialiasing and the colors that you have chosen. ( see for more than you want to know )

Black text prints with solid black ink (almost) and has a very distinct edge to it. Colors, like red, are made up of screens of yellow, and magenta, plus a few dots of cyan and possibly some black. The chocolate background has screens of the same colors, but in different frequencies. Under some conditions, it’s hard for the eye to see a crisp edge where there are screens overlapping with frequencies that are close to each other. Your printer might suggest a very thin outline around each letter to increase the sharpness, but again, I’m only guessing at what the problem is and guessing again at the solution.

Bottom line, discuss your problems with your printer before you decide on a course of action. Let us know what he says and we can try and help you from there.
David BruggeCommented:
Just an afterthought. Why do you need to render your designs as vector art?
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aidan09Author Commented:
thanks for all that!
i was under the impression that vector (especially vector text) prints far clearer than even photoshop-rendered text at 300dpi + ?
i dont have CS, photoshop 7 only.

>>was under the impression that vector

not really,

vectors are better to work with, since they can be scaled with no quality lost
aidan09Author Commented:
I've had a word with another printer that I did some business cards thru.
They seemed to think that litho printing would be the answer.

Any comments to that?

David BruggeCommented:
Offset lithography is the traditional way to go for short runs like restaurant menus and such. There is a good bit of setup time. Each color takes a separate plate, and the press has to be completely scrubbed down between each plate, so very short runs tend to be very expensive on a cost per basis.

Digital, on the other hand does not have the setup and clean up concerns that litho has so in theory, short runs are much more cost effective.
However this is not always the case. Many printer have old reliable offset machines that were paid for years ago. They will keep on working reliably so there is no rush to replace them.

Digital, on the other hand, is the latest technology. The machines are expensive and quickly becomes outdated as newer models come out. Printers have to pay for these machines quickly and that tends to drive the cost of digital up.

This is not always the case, and shopping around will usually get you a wide range of pricing. (be sure to include the internet when pricing digital since you can send files through FTP and national printers tend to be cheaper)

As for quality, offset litho still has it over digital, but not by much. A good digital job will beat a mediocre litho job. Much of this depends on the subject matter the type of machine that it is printed on and the individual operator.

As for bitmapped vs. vector.

The short answer is that yes, vector will render sharper, crisper edges than will bitmapped images (there are exceptions) However, if you are sending the printer native Photoshop files, and you have not rastorized the type, then the type is still in vector format (as are any “shapes” or path outlined masks that you might have created) In fact, Photoshop lets you tell the imagesetter how to render the type—to make it crisper, or smoother, etc.

If you do give your printer native Photoshop files, be sure to include copies of all of the type fonts that you used. Even if the printer has the same font face, there can be subtle differences that can wreck havoc on a carefully laid out design.
aidan09Author Commented:
thanks very much. can't say i'm much clearer on things though. this is all essentially based on the proofs the client's preferred printer came up with.  While all black text came out crisp and sharp, the red header text has a slight element of blur to it - how much of that could have to do with the stock that they mocked up the menus on?

thanks again
aidan09Author Commented:
thanks very much for all your suggestions. very helpful indeed.
will update this thread with any further commentary that's relevant after speaking with the printers again.

thanks again!
aidan09Author Commented:
here's another thought

the overwhelming majority of the menu designs involves simple vector curves, and text. The logo however is a different story - you can see it in its web form at:

(the version against red on the main interface, not the front page version)

it has an element of inner shadow, glow and blur to it to give it that added dimension - would this be printable by litho, to render an accurate effect?  till now, i've used only a very simple text version for the printer the client has wanted to use, but it just doesn't have the right amount of 'pop'

thanks again

David BruggeCommented:
> would this be printable by litho?

Most certainly! Look in any magazine, any brochure, any menu. You are most likely looking as artwork that was either generated in a digital program such as Photoshop, or was made ready for printing with such a program. Not only litho, it can be rendered with a digital press as well. If the digital printer where you got your proofs is worth his salt (which, from the way that you describe the proofs, he may not be) he can show you samples that you will be hard pressed to tell from offset lithography.

There are some things that have to be taken into account in order to get your bitmapped files printed. The very first consideration is image resolution. Ask your printer what resolution he wants to receive the files at and create your artwork to that size.

If the main feature is text, you can safely upsample (increase the resolution of the image) without degrading the image. This is because Photoshop stores text as vector art until it is time to print. Only when it is printed (or imaged to a plate) is it turned into pixels, so it (and the effects assigned to the text layer) are always sharp.

If you are upsampling simple shapes, you will probably have to do some cleanup to sharpen the edges.

If the artwork is more complex, it might be best to start over if you have lost too much detail.

The next concern is color, but it is rather lengthy. You will need to post a new question if we get into setting up color files for printing. You don’t need to assign may points, but it would be good for future reference to keep that info in its own thread.
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