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  The Three "Legs" of Desktop Publishing

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 used.

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 consideration.

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 of potential.

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.

chart9_06.gif chart9_07.gif chart9_08.gif chart9_09.gif chart9_10.gif
chart9_11.gif   chart9_13.gif   chart9_15.gif
chart9_21.gif   chart9_23.gif   chart9_25.gif
chart9_26.gif chart9_27.gif chart9_28.gif chart9_29.gif chart9_30.gif

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.

Bitmap Images

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.

Vector Images

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.


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