8. What you will need for DTP—Computer/Digital Needs


  • This doesn’t need to be a high cost item.  I worked on a 8-10 year-old laptop with Windows XP OS.
  • Can be Mac or Windows based—no differences.
  • You will need internet access to upload your final file (in PDF-format) to your POD Company for submission of printing.


This is where Desk Top Publishing can get costly.  In all the software programs categories, there are free/low-cost options called “Open Source” or “Freeware”. Many of the following software programs can not only be expensive, but they are also difficult to learn and use for a lacemaker-turned book writer/graphic artist.

For up-to-date comparisons of the different sortware programs/editors go to:

Desk Top Publishing/Graphic Art Software is targeted to 3 Types of Users:

  1. Professional
  2. Small Business/True Desk-Top Publisher
  3. Personal/Home

If I were to start acquiring software programs with what I know now, I would choose free-ware/open-source programs.  From what I have read, they are:

  • very powerful programs
  • do have a steep learning curve
  • but are free.

Page Layout Program/Word-Processing Program/Editor

This is the computer software program that you will use to write the text and be able to place images/illustrations/photos/prickings/patterns etc. on the page precisely where you want/need them.

They are computer applications for creating and editing complex page layouts.In other words—complex page layouts are those that include not only text components but graphic image components such as photos and llustrations—any type of ‘images’.

Word-Processing Programs (such as MS Word) can be used.Newer versions of this software type have higher capabilities for control of placement of text and images.Just like anything there are pros and cons to using a true layout program versus a word processing program.Word-Processing programs are cheap and included on almost every computer sold.They are also easier to use.However, they don’t give as much control/options as a true layout software program.Layout programs can be expensive and the learning curve very steep.They have the potential to do a lot of things the commercial graphic artist use but learning how to do what you want to do can be a daunting task.If you persevere through the steep learning steps, you will be happy with the ability you have to control how each book page is laid out and looks.

These software programs are also known as Desk Top Publishing Software

Page Layout Software Programs include:

  • QuarkXpress
  • Adobe PageMaker
  • Adobe InDesign (part of the Creative Suites package)
  • Microsoft Publisher
  • Serif PagePlus (Starter Edition is free—X5 Edition is ca. $75)
  • Scribus (free-ware)

If you plan to have any images (photos or illustrations) then you will need Graphic Software Programs.These software programs are used to create and edit graphic images—things such as line-scale drawings, illustrations, photos.

Graphic Software Programs come in two forms:

  1. Pixel/Raster/Bitmap Image Editors
  2. Vector Image Editors

Pixel/Raster/Bitmap Image Editors

Raster Image Editing Programs allow you to edit digital images such as photos or illustrations created via a digital camera or a digital scanner.These images are sizeable down without reducing the quality of the image, but cannot be enlarged without destruction of quality.For instance you can crop a photo, convert color of the photo from one format to another (CYMK vs RGB), change/save/convert between file types,

  • These programs allow users to paint and edit pictures and then save them in one of several ‘bitmap’ or ‘raster’ formats (such as JPEG, PNG, GIF, TIFF)
  • good for: retouching, photo-processing, photo-realistic illustrations, collages, hand-drawn illustrations (eg. Done with pen/ink or graphics tablet)
  • Raster images include digital photos
  • Raster images are made up of pixels and are generally more photo-realistic.
  • Bitmap images have a fixed resolution and cannot be resized without losing quality.
  • Tend to have larger file sizes than vector graphics and are often compressed to reduce their file size.

Common Pixel/Raster/Bitmap Image Editor Programs include:

  • Adobe PhotoShop/PhotoShop Elements

Raster/Bitmap Formats:

  • JPEG(8-bit) Whenever a file is saved/resaved it is compressed for lower file size.This compression reduces the quality of the file. (It is analagous to making a photocopy of a photocopy.)When saving in this file format, choose/use the lowest compression setting which results in the highest quality image (and a larger file size).
  • TIFF(8-bit)This format is ‘lossless’ during the compression process.It results in a larger file size compared to JPEG.It is not useable via email or on the Web.
  • RAWUsually this is the file format of a digital camera. 12-bit results in more color depth.
  • PSD(Adobe PhotoShop proprietary format—but it is an industry standard)Lossless compression.As a proprietary format, only the creating program can open/edit it.

Vector Image Editors

Vector-based graphics/programs are better for sharp-edged artistic illustrations–such as technical, diagramming, flowcharting, typography, etc.

My visual patterns are created this way

Vector-Based Image Editor Programs include:

  • Adobe Illustrator
  • CorelDraw
  • Macromedia Freehand
  • Serif DrawPlus
  • Serif DrawPlus SE—free version (SE stands for Starter Edition)
  • Xara X
  • Inkscape—freeware
  • Microsoft Paint
  • Corel Photo-Paint
  • Corel Paint Shop Pro

Popular vector-based graphics formats include:EPS, PDF, WMF, SVG, VML

  • EPS-Encapsulated Post Script. Developed by Adobe.
  • Designed for printing to Post Script printers.
  • Considered the best choice for high resolution printing of illustrations.
  • Cannot be edited from a page layout program—but it can be placed, viewed and printed.
  • When you create a EPS file you will also create a ‘pre-view’ file at the same time.

There will be 2 separate files in the post-script code:

  1. the actual (high-resolution) image
  2. low-resolution preview image.

The pre-view file is a low resolution bitmap image (either TIFF or PICT format) that allows you to see the EPS file onscreen for programs (such as page layout programs) that cannot render onscreen graphics.It also allows printing of a low-resolution proof of the EPS file to a non-Post Script printer.

When you import the EPS file into your page layout program, the image you see on your page will be the low-resolution preview image and will look terrible.Do not despair….the actual file will be the high-resolution file that you created.

When you print out the page layout program document, you must use a post-script printer for the actual image to print out at full/high resolution.If not using a post-script printer the preview image will be used instead and the printed image will be low-resolution (ugly!).The non post-script printer will be able to interpret the PICT or TIFF preview image but not the post-script code of the vector-based EPS actual file.(If you print the document on a non post-script printer with the preview image missing too, you will get a gray path with a black stripe.)

  • PDF This format is considered the ‘future of publishing’.
  • AI This a propietary/native format of Adobe associated with Illustrator (Vector Editor).It does not work in non-Adobe programs.You can convert this format to PDF and use it.When you save a AI file, include the PDF in it (an option when saving).

Adobe Acrobat Distiller–A software program that turns a Post-Script file into PDF documents

Raster Image Processor/Processing–(RIP)  The process/means of turning a vector-based document/file (such as a Post-script file) into a high-resolution image before printing. It acts as a translator between the document and the printer. The RIP receives data in PS, PCL, PDF format (vector-based) and converts them to bitmap/raster image, a format that most printers can utilize.

RIProcessors come in two forms:

  1. Hardware installed in Post-script printers
  2. Software such as GhostScript and Ghost PCL

Every Post-script printer contains a RIProcessor in its firmware.Most laser printers come with “PS Level 3 RIP”.Most inkjet printers will need a separate software RIP solution.

RIP Problems

  • Keep files small
  • Crop images in the graphics program (not the page layout program)
  • Simplify the document:
  • Avoid complex blends and nested graphic images.
  • Don’t mix Type 1 and TrueType fonts in the same document.Fonts are a common source of errors.Use ones you know work.
  • Use Preflight tools (in the page layout program or dedicated preflight software) to catch problems before they reach the RIP stage.
  • When preparing PDF files use Acrobat Distiller not PDFWriter.

When troubleshooting RIP errors:

  • Print only a page or two at a time.The document may be too big or elements on a specific page may causing the problem.
  • When you find a problem page, troubleshoot it for font/graphics problems by deleting one element at a time.
  • Use Adobe Distiller to create a PDF file. Print this file to see if you get errors.
  • Open a file in another version of application.Save, print again.
  • Copy contents of the file to a new document. Save. Print.
  • Open graphics in the original application. Save in a different format. Place in a copy of the original document.Save. Print.
  • Try printing to a different Post-script printer.
  • Reboot the computer. Print again.

I use:

  • Adobe InDesign as my ‘page layout program’
  • Adobe Illustrator as my ‘vector image editor program’
  • Adobe PhotoShop as my ‘bitmap image editor program’