external image 488Prepress.jpgPrepress is the procedure that occurs between the creation of the print layout and the final printing. This includes manufacturing of printing plates, image carrier or form, ready for mounting on a printing press, as well as adjusting images and texts or creation of a high-quality file.

History of Prepress:

The eighties: desktop publishing takes over
In the early 80′s many of the technologies that are still in use today first appear on the market. IBM launches its Personal Computer. The Apple Lisa offers a first glimpse at the graphical user interface that will later be made popular by the Macintosh.
In 1985 the Apple LaserWriter and Aldus PageMaker are thrown in the mix and the desktop publishing revolution can start. A designer now has the possibility to create a full page design using standard computers and off-the-shelf software. Linotype’s Linotronic assures high-quality output on film or paper. Pretty soon other publishing applications appear for both Mac and PC, closely followed by drawing programs such as Illustrator and freehand. Larger screens, faster networking and improved support for peripherals through standards such as SCSI make sure the market matures rapidly.
Artistically the new found freedom often leads to pages that contain at least a dozen different fonts in two or three different typefaces, mixed with fairly low-resolution graphics.

Some of the highlights of the decade:
1980: The Ethernet specifications are published.
1981: The IBM PC legitimizes personal computers in the business market.
1982: Adobe is founded, Sony releases its first Trinitron monitor, Sun is incorporated.
1983: The Apple Lisa introduces the graphical user interface and mouse, Creo is incorporated.
1984: The Apple Macintosh is launched, Adobe releases PostScript, Linotype introduces the Linotronic 300 imagesetter.
1985: The Apple LaserWriter and Aldus PageMaker start the desktop publishing revolution.
1986: Ventura Publisher appears on PC, Apple ships the Macintosh Plus, Radius make the first Full Page Display.
1987: Quark launches QuarkXPress 1.0, Adobe Illustrator 1.0 ships , Linotype starts making PostScript typefaces.
1988: NeXT starts selling the NeXTcube, Aldus releases FreeHand 1.0.
1989: Helios EtherShare is shown, CorelDRAW 1.0 ships.

The nineties: the big wars are fought

Once desktop publishing becomes an established phenomenon, a few battles are fought over some of its fundamentals.
  • Traditional prepress vendors such as Crossfield, Scitex and Dainippon-Screen hope to maintain their lead by using their expensive systems to put the final touches to designs created on Mac. Aldus has already developed a technology called OPI to facilitate such workflows. Things turn out differently as Macs and networks within a few years become powerful enough to handle large files. CEPS systems quickly disappear off the market.
  • One of the traditional weaknesses of PostScript level 1 is its screening technology which isn’t really suitable for 4-color jobs. In the screening wars vendors like Linotype-Hell and Agfa try to win sales by offering improved or radically new screening technologies such as stochastic screening.
  • In the early nineties Adobe, Apple and Microsoft also fight over file formats. Adobe looses its absolute control over font formats but manages to maintain PostScript as the standard page description language.
  • In the early nineties the imagesetter market gradually moves from small 1-up devices to larger systems that are capable of imaging an entire press sheet. In the second half of the decade computer-to-plate technology starts taking over but it follows a different pattern: first the 8-up (B1) market moves to CtP, then the even larger VLF (very large format) systems while smaller systems only become popular in the first half of the new millennium.
  • Weak Apple management and the continuous efforts of Microsoft make PC’s an acceptable alternatives to Macs in the second half of the nineties. A lot of back-end processes migrate to the PC platforms, including most of the workflow systems that now enter the market. The resurrection of Apple in 1998 makes a lot of designers stick to their Macs for the creative side of things.
  • The enhanced power of hard- and software leads to more sophisticated designs. The wild typography of some designs is no longer due to a lack of artistic insight but inspired by the grunge movement. Easy to achieve effects, such as blends in QuarkXPress 2, occasionally still take the design world by storm.
Some of the highlights of the decade:
1990: The Mac IIfx sets new speed records, Microsoft introduces Windows 3.0, Illustrator 3.0 ships, HQS screening gets rid of moire.
1991: Apple and Microsoft teamed up to launch TrueType, Adobe releases PostScript level 2, Photoshop 1.07 adds support for CMYK, the Fiery RIP for digital copiers is EFI’s first product, the Heidelberg GTO-DI supports direct imaging technology.
1992: PDF 1.0 wins the ‘best of Comdex’ award, Apple ships the Quadra 950, Photo CD has its 15 minutes of fame, Artwork Systems is founded.
1993: Screen launches TaigaSPACE, Agfa introduces Cristalraster, baby drum scanners hit the market, digital presses like the Indigo E-Print 100 (see below) and Xeikon DCP-1 storm the market, Windows NT is ready to take on Unix, ICC is founded, IT8 test charts appear.
1994: Adobe Systems and Aldus Corporation merge, Creo introduces the 3244 platesetter, Iomega launches the ZIP-drive, Photoshop 3.0 adds support for layers.
1995: The TrendSetter is Creo’s first thermal CtP system, Microsoft introduces Windows 95, Apple allows Mac clones, connectivity standards such as FireWire, USB and Fast Ethernet appear, dye-sub printers are popular for page proofing
1996: Adobe and Microsoft announce OpenType, QuarkXPress 3.3 ships, Scitex releases Brisque
1997: Enfoucs starts shipping PitStop 1.0, the Eskofot EskoScan 2540 dominates the market of copydot scanners, Mac OS 8 ships, this site appears on the internet.
1998: The iMac becomes an instant classic, PostScript 3 is announced, Barco acquires Gerber Systems, Agfa announces the first PDF-based workflow system, Barco acquires Gerber Systems.
1999: Adobe launches both Acrobat 4 and InDesign 1.0, Heidelberg and Creo announce Prinergy, PDF 1.3 is the first PDF version that is really suitable for prepress.The new millenium: 2000 till 2008 The new millennium isn’t as much about technology as it is about business. There are some interesting technical trends such as the increased adoption of PDF as an exchange format and Adobe’s move to capture the entire content creation market. Process-free technology becomes widely adopted for CtP system. The majority of changes however are business oriented: the move to CTP kills many of the remaining trade shops, the internet starts having a negative impact on some markets, increased competition forces some printing companies out of business while others merge. Many vendors actually go through the same merger frenzy.
Some of the highlights of the decade:
2000: Adobe adds support for transparency in Illustrator 9, Creo and Scitex merge, Screen introduces Trueflow, lots of violet CtP systems are launched at Drupa, the millenium crash never happens.
2001: Apple launches the first desktop version of OS X while Microsoft goes for Windows XP, Agfa buys Autologic.
2002: Creo acquires ScenicSoft, Barco Graphics and Purup Eskofot merge.
2003: Adobe launches its Creative Suite software suite, the Canon 300D changes the camera market, Barco exits from the graphics market.
2004: JDF 1.2 gets a lot of attentiona at Drupa, basysPrint is acquired by Punch International, Agfa introduces its first chemistry-free CtP plate.
2005: Kodak takes over Creo, Adobe acquires Macromedia, QuarkXPress 7 shows that Quark can still innovate its product, Epson’s K3 Ultrachrome inks and matching Stylus Pro printers are launched.
2006: Microsoft launches XPS, Adobe announces the Adobe PDF Print Engine, Apple releases its first Intel-based workstations.
2007: Adobe discontinues FreeHand, Esko and Artwork Systems merge, Fuji starts shipping its XMF workflow, PDF 1.7 becomes an ISO-standard.
2008: At drupa 2008 the focus lies on fast inkjet printers, ‘Sustainability’ and ‘Go green’ are the hype of the year, Acrobat 9 is nice but CS4 doesn’t sell that well.
2009: Due to the financial crises, nothing much happens…

Steps of the Prepress:

  • Proofreading for spelling and typing errors
  • making sure all pictures and other graphics are in a suitable format
  • separating the colours for printing on a colour press that's two to four colours
  • checking that all fonts are coming through correctly
  • checking general layout guidelines such as margin and paper size

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Education and Training:

Many employers consider the best candidates for prepress jobs to be individuals with a combination of work experience in the printing industry and formal training in new digital technology. The experience of these applicants provides them with an understanding of how printing plants operate and demonstrates their interest in advancing within the industry.
Traditionally, prepress technicians and workers started as helpers and were trained on the job. Some of these jobs required years of experience performing detailed manual work to become skillful enough to perform the most difficult tasks. Today, however, employers expect workers to have some formal postsecondary graphic communications training in the various types of computer software used in digital imaging and will train workers on the job as needed.
For beginners, 2-year associate degree programs offered by community colleges, junior colleges, and technical schools teach the latest prepress skills and allow students to practice applying them. There are also 4-year bachelor's degree programs in graphic design aimed primarily at students who plan to move into management positions in printing or design. For workers who do not wish to enroll in a degree program, prepress-related courses are offered at many community colleges, junior colleges, 4-year colleges and universities, vocational-technical institutes, and private trade and technical schools. Workers with experience in other printing techniques can take a few college-level graphic communications courses to upgrade their skills and qualify for prepress jobs.


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