Most of us have spent our careers focused on design and production for print. But we’ve reached a point where we’re routinely asked to create or share artwork in other media that we might not be completely familiar with. You may be asked to send design comps to a client by e-mail, or to “throw the images on a CD,” create a quick slide show or PDF document that can be viewed by clients on any platform. Or maybe you’d like to create an online portfolio of your best pieces to be e-mailed or posted to a website for potential clients or employers.
In each of these cases, you’ll have to process your artwork in different ways than you would for prepress. In this article, I’ll share some ideas on how to prepare and present your visuals in electronic form.
Familiar … but different
When prepping files for digital media, you’ll be performing some familiar production tasks such as cropping and resizing, contrast and color correction, sharpening, and choosing a file format—although the kind of correction and sharpening you’ll do here is different from processing images for print.
You can perform these functions in any image-editing program such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Elements, etc. I’ll be showing these techniques using Adobe Photoshop CS2.
File size trade-offs
First, a few notes on file sizes: Digital media offer an unexpected bonus. When the viewing is to be done online, final file sizes are miniscule compared to what’s required for high-quality printing. This is to match the resolution of monitors, which tend to be around 72 dpi, and to ensure that artwork can be speedily e-mailed and uploaded/downloaded from websites. Happily, this also translates to smaller archived projects.
On the flip side, you’ll need to master the art of balancing image quality with file size. Improved quality inevitably means a larger file size, which can be a no-no. Unfortunately, there are no simple rules for determining optimal file size. Optimal size depends on the purpose, resolution, and dimension of the final piece. For example, a comp for a DVD menu might feature a full-screen image at 72 dpi, with only a few selected colors. In another case, a rich-color photograph shot on location and e-mailed to a client might need to be proofed on a color printer, requiring a larger file size. Each situation has unique requirements based on factors like the transfer medium, appearance of colors, final resolution, storage, etc.
Work on a duplicate
It’s very important that you edit a copy of your original artwork, which may have been created for a different purpose. You can either duplicate the file on the hard drive, or choose Duplicate from the Image Menu in Photoshop and save it with another name.
Crop and resize
The goal for resizing an image is to end up with the “ideal” file size—that is, the smallest possible file size on disk and the best image quality at an appropriate viewing size. Unless your resulting image will need to be printed as well (or you’re aiming to stay inside of a standard printable size such as 8x10 in.), you should be thinking in terms of pixels. (Standard units such as inches, cms and points aren’t relevant to this medium, which uses pixels as building blocks).