Desktop publishing (DTP) is generally regarded to have
three "legs" or branches - image editing,
illustration and page layout. There are many software
applications that fall into these categories, but the
undisputed leaders of these applications are Adobe®
Photoshop®, Adobe Illustrator® and QuarkXPress.
That is the state of affairs as it exists today because
these applications are so entrenched in the industry.
All responsible instructors will steer students into
learning these applications because they want their
students to be able to use the tools that are being
It is worthy of note, however,
that with the recent release of Adobe InDesign®,
QuarkXPress's position as undisputed leader for page
layout may change. Designers, teachers and students
should take a look at this new package and give it serious
There is one application which is unique in that it
does all three at the same time and that is Deneba Canvas.
It is the only program that was designed with the purpose
of being able to create and edit bitmap and vector objects
concurrent with page layouts and not have to leave the
application. This is an exciting product with a lot
The chart below illustrates the concept. Please do not
draw any inferences that one application is better or
worse or as good as another or that Canvas is equal
to all three. I'm not here to judge them or place one
over the other. The point is that these are the functions
and these applications are the leaders for these functions.
My purpose in pointing this out is to encourage students
and professionals alike to learn these applications
and obtain the skills to use them.
How I Work - Strategy and Workflow
I will tell you how I work. There are other applications
that have more "bells and whistles" and some
do things faster and easier than these. I will use any
and every application I can to make my work easier.
Some effects are only possible in certain applications.
What I will try to do is learn what exactly each application
can and can't do, how well the files port between each
other and which features get lost or altered in the
process. That takes a lot of experimentation and practice,
but the result is that you can plan a workflow in a
correct sequence and wind up with a good result. That
is the strategy behind how I work. One important point
to make about file formats is that if a file format
doesn't port well between applications, it's not the
format that is at fault. Each software vendor writes
or obtains its own import and export filters so the
results can be quite unpredictable.
The Photoshop PSD format is widely supported and ports
between most applications easily. However, I avoid using
editable text layers until last when I finish the image
in Photoshop. Most bitmap formats (TIFF, PCX, BMP, etc.)
port without a hitch but I prefer the PSD format because
it supports layers. On the PC I use Paint Shop Pro
for all the screen shots (on the Mac® I use Snapz
Pro 2). I'll save them as Photoshop PSDs on both
platforms. Cropping is fast and easy, I can copy and
paste rectangular selections quickly and I prefer it
over Photoshop for bitmap editing of GIF files.
Most applications will port generic vector EPS with
no problem as long as there are no gradient fills and
the image uses solid colors for strokes and fills. There
are a lot of clipart images in WMF (Windows® Meta
File) format. This format does not support Bezier curves.
All "curves" in these files are composed of
short, straight line segments. I will use Macromedia®
FreeHand® to simplify the paths in these files and
convert the straight segments to curves. CorelDRAW®
would be my second choice for that job. Now even Canvas
7 has a tool this. A plug-in for Adobe Illustrator 8
called "Smart Remove Points" from BeInfinite,
Inc. is available for the Mac. If the application only
supports Windows metafiles I prefer to use the EMF (Enhanced
Meta File) format over the WMF format because it supports
Bezier curves. I have also found that there is wide
support for Adobe Illustrator version 7 and that format
ports quite well. Even some versions of the CorelDRAW
format port well also. I try to avoid passing gradient
fills between applications and certainly not any of
the special strokes or patterns. I will save those for
the final application used to produce the image or composition.
Images With Clipping Paths
As a rule I use Adobe Acrobat® PDF format for porting
masked bitmaps between illustration programs. Sometimes
EPS images with clipping paths will port with the mask
and bitmap intact, but not always. Sometimes the Adobe
Illustrator 7 format will work for this purpose. I will
always make the final image with a clipping path as
an EPS and I will use Photoshop to create the file.
Sometimes I will use Illustrator, though. The reason
I use an Adobe product to create an EPS file is because
EPS files are PostScript® (Encapsulated PostScript)
and Adobe is the source of PostScript. I know I can
count on a clean file if I do.