Digital and traditional prepress

While design, document preparation, prepress and printing can be seen as separate areas, they are all connected. Traditional prepress or digital prepress encompasses the entire process of creating a document from idea to finished product.

Strictly speaking, prepress begins after design decisions are made and ends when the document is in print, but in practice the graphic design process must consider the traditional or digital prepress process and its limitations, as well as printing methods, in order to be successful in design.

  1. Design and prepress for desktop publishing
  2. design
  3. A type
  4. Pictures
  5. File preparation
  6. Spelling
  7. seal

Design and prepress for desktop publishing

For many of us who may not have worked in publishing before the advent of desktop publishing, digital prepress may be the only type of prepress we know or understand. But before PageMaker and laser printers, there was a whole different industry (and a lot more people) involved in publishing a book or pamphlet.

To help understand the differences and similarities in the two processes, it is helpful to see a comparison of conventional or traditional and digital prepress jobs, including the design process. You can immediately see how many different tasks a designer has to do when desktop publishing software has replaced (or significantly changed) the job of a typist, a paste professional, a stripper, and others.


An individual or group of people chooses the overall look, purpose, budget and format of publication. The graphic designer may or may not be involved in the conceptualization. The designer then takes the information and develops rough sketches (generally more accurate than just sketches) for the project, which include item-specific measurements and standard specifications.

An individual or group of people chooses the overall look, purpose, budget and format of publication. The graphic designer may or may not be involved in the conceptualization. The designer then takes the information and comes up with rough representations created on the computer (they can initially create their own sketches). These rough compositions may use dummy (Greek) text and placeholder images. Multiple versions can be obtained quickly.

A type

The typesetter receives text and letter specifications from the designer. Typesetting, which may have been done later with metallic lines, has given way to mechanical compositions such as the Linotype. This type is then sent to the poster, who places it on the billboard (assembler) along with all the other elements of the publication.

The designer has full control over the type – the numeric type – who can directly change it, place it on the page, set the lead, follow, kerning, etc. No layout designer, no one to paste it. This is done in a page layout program (also known as computer publishing software).


Images are photographed, cropped, resized, or resized using traditional photographic processes. FPO boxes (position only) are placed on the artboard where the images should appear.

A developer can create or scan digital images, crop images, scale images, and enhance an image (including color correction) before placing the actual digital images in a publication.

File preparation

After the text boxes and FPO boxes are put on the cutting boards, the pages are filmed with a camera, negatives are made. The snapshot tool accepts these negatives plus the negatives of all previously acquired images and is sized to fit into FPO boxes. The tractor checks everything and then assembles everything into plates or flats. These sheets are then superimposed – arranged in the order in which they should be printed, depending on how they are folded, cut and collected. The parent pages are converted into plates from which the publication is printed on paper on a printing press.

The designer places everything in the publication, from text to images, and rearranges them where necessary. File preparation includes either preparing the digital file (ensuring that all digital fonts and graphics are correct and included with the digital file, or embed as needed) or printing a camera-ready page. The preparation of the file may include a layout, which can often be done entirely in the software used to create the publication.


A potentially time-consuming process where pages are printed and carefully corrected for errors. Error correction may involve creating new negatives and carefully replacing “bad” elements in the original to ensure they align perfectly. New plates are created and pages reprinted. Errors can occur at many stages because many different people can work with individual elements of the publication.

Since it is much easier to print intermediate copies or proofs (for example, on a desktop printer), many, many errors can be discovered this way before publication proceeds with the negatives, sheets and final prints.


The printing process has shifted from Insert to Film to Flat to Overlay (if necessary) to Plate to Print.

The process can remain the same or similar (film-to-plate laser output), but other processes are possible, including direct output to film from a digital file, or directly from a digital file to a plate.

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