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ATPM 14.05
May 2008




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Wikipedia: The Missing Manual

Thanks for the info, and thanks for ATPM. I am so glad the world has people like you!

—Ever Micheille

ScanSnap S500m

I’ve gone through your review just to know that the ScanSnap is really what I’m looking for. A question: I can’t really understand if there are any hardware differences between the S500m and the S510m. It seems the only difference is the software (e.g. the drivers for Leopard, which I can download from Fujitsu). The price is very different. Can you help me with that? Thank you.

—Ignazio Pediconi from Italy

Ignazio, the main difference, as I understand it, is that the new one is supposed to be faster and have a larger sheet capacity (in other words, both hardware differences). The S510m is a new version that has come out since this review, and I haven’t seen it firsthand.

Wouldn’t it be great if they would release a firmware update that would bring the S500 up to the capacities of the S510? But I doubt it…

—Ed Eubanks, Jr.

Chips With Everything

I didn’t know you guys could read my mind! I couldn’t agree more with your observations re:

  • QuarkXPress 7…check
  • iTunes…check
  • Microsoft Office…check
  • FreeHand…check

Well said! Keep up the good work.

—Beth Pauley

• • •

Stop being so mean to Illustrator. I’ve used both as well and, honestly, comparisons aren’t fair. They each have features the other could use. And, after all, FreeHand is dead, so long live the new Vector King.

—Jacques Daviault

I’m not being mean. Maybe it’s a left-hand-right-hand thing, but Illustrator remains, for many people, the most awkward way of making vector illustrations.

Thankfully, XPress and InDesign both have advanced bezier abilities, plus layers, transparency, and export options that make Illustrator almost unnecessary. Add in better colour control, typography, tables, and multi-pages and you arrive back at FreeHand.

—Mark Tennent

I agree, and I'll hang on to my last copy of FreeHand for as long as it will continue to run on Mac OS X.

For the love of Pete, why am I able to work with bezier shapes more easily in InDesign than in Illustrator? Shouldn't it be the other way around?

—Lee Bennett

A Tutorial on Resolution

I’ve read this entire article and numerous others, and my art brain just isn’t grasping this, so I’ll just ask the question I need answered and hope for the best. I’m creating a digital painting for a book cover that will be printed at 9″×12″ (at a minimum of 300 DPI). However, I’d like to cover my printing options in anticipation of this artwork being printed at 18″×24″ inches for poster-sized prints.

I try setting up the image in Photoshop as an 18″×24″ document at 600 DPI (I figured higher DPI is better…?) but the document ends up being like 11,000×14,000 or something close to that. My machine really slows down with a document that size. It also makes the files size huge, like 450 MB. I know that there’s one of these numbers I can change without sacrificing quality (or at least I think I know), but I don’t want to learn the hard way by finding out after I’ve spent all this time painting the work and then having to redo it because the image is too pixelated. Please help me out here if you can. Sorry if I didn’t understand your article. I really did read the whole thing. Thanks in advance for any help you can give.


The math isn’t really all that hard, and there are two aspects of it to consider.

First: pixels divided by PPI (that should be Pixels Per Inch, not Dots Per Inch or DPI) equals inches. In other words, whatever number is defined as your PPI (or DPI as people improperly call it) is how many pixels are going to be represented as one inch of the image, either in height or width. Thus: 10,800 (total pixels in width) divided by 600 (pixels per inch) gives you the 18 inches.

Second: more resolution does not automatically mean better. You should make a decision on how much resolution you need for a particular job. In most offset printing scenarios, the amount of resolution you were talking about is completely overkill.

I realize it may get even more confusing when you learn that commercial imagesetters for outputting film and/or plates for commercial printing run in the neighborhood of 2400 PPI and higher. These resolutions are needed for things like simple-color line artwork. Take typefaces, for example. Usually one color and maximum contrast (e.g. black text on a white background). These types of images do need more resolution, but because they have fewer colors and tend to be smaller in printed size, they don’t create a multi-hundred-megabyte file.

You say you are creating a digital painting with what I assume will be a full spectrum of colors. Thus, your image will essentially be like a photograph. The easiest rule of thumb to follow is to use a PPI value that is between 1.5 and 2 times what the halftone line screen frequency will be when the piece is commercially printed.

The halftone frequency refers to the tiny little dots used for printing. Take a magnifying glass and look at the pictures in a newspaper. Start with black-and-white photos first. Newspapers generally print with a lower screen frequency than magazines. You might even be able to see the dots with your naked eye. The distance of those dots (which are not individual pixels, by the way) is measured in terms of the halftone frequency. The measurement is Lines Per Inch, or LPI. Newspapers tend to print anywhere from around 85 to 133 LPI, though some are doing higher. Magazines, however, generally use much better (and more expensive) paper, which can handle a finer screen frequency. The higher frequencies on the paper used in newsprint usually make the ink bleed into a solid dark blob. But on the nicer papers used by magazines, you’ll generally get 150 to 200 LPI.

Back to the image resolution. I’ve pretty much always set up my pictures at 300 PPI at the final size they were to be reproduced. Years ago, my less-experienced brain told me I should go with a PPI exactly double the halftone LPI frequency. Back then, we were doing 150 LPI jobs, so I made my photos 300 PPI.

Today, I know that 1.5 times the LPI is sufficient unless the photo has some extremely fine detail in it. However, today, I’m doing all my jobs at 200 LPI. Yet, I still use 300 PPI photos (which is 1.5 times the LPI frequency).

For those photos which have much finer detail, bumping back up to double the LPI is adequate. So, for a 200 LPI frequency, a 400 PPI image will suffice.

Remember those little halftone dots you looked at with the magnifying glass? Those are the reason that any more PPI resolution is wasted—those “larger” halftone dots completely chew up any additional resolution.

Think of it as a container of new tennis balls. They come in a canister of three balls. The balls are pixels and the canister is a halftone dot. Suppose you take out the tennis balls and put golf balls inside. You now have more pixels. But, if you close the canister, you wouldn’t really know what was inside just by looking at it because the canister (the halftone dot) is still exactly the same size. So all that extra resolution inside is useless. (Unless, of course, you’re a pro golfer!)

So, lastly, how do you find out what LPI you’ll be using? Just ask whoever is doing the press work. In most cases, the press workers will generally reply with another question, “What LPI do you want?” That’s because most of them will run the job at whatever frequency you specify—within reason. Talk to them about it, but aim for a 200 line screen.

If they start talking to you about something called a stochastic screen, well, that’s an entirely different discussion which doesn’t work in terms of halftone LPI. If the press only does stochastic (and more are starting to), then stick with the 300 PPI images or 400 PPI for very fine detail images. You should be pretty safe with those.

In summary, no, you don’t need a 600 PPI image. It’s fine if you want to paint at 18×24 size just so you have a nice large image for your archive. But setting it up at 300 PPI should be quite adequate. Then, when you’re done, make a copy of it (always keep original finished images), then scale that copy down to the 9×12 at 300 PPI for your book cover.

—Lee Bennett

Coping With Mac OS X’s Font Rendering

Glad to find this discussion, because I thought I was losing my mind (and my eyesight).

I just got a MacBook Pro and mainly use a 24″ Dell LCD panel—the same one I had previously been using with my Windows laptop. Now I’m running Mac OS X as much as possible, and running XP via Parallels for the Windows software I just can’t escape. Same machine, same screen, same everything.

Since I switched back to Mac (after four long painful years with Windows only), I have noticed my eyes are a lot more tired at the end of the day, and I have been getting more headaches.

Once I got a hint of what was going on, I started comparing browsers, etc. and—who would’ve thunk it—old and slow IE 7 on XP is way easier on the eyes.

As I would rather gargle with shards of glass than have to use XP for browsing, I’m very interested in finding a solution to this.


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Reader Comments (1)

Gregory Tetrault · May 5, 2008 - 14:44 EST #1
This may help Lex with his font issue. I have the usual post-middle age eyesight problems. My monitor is a Hewlett-Packard 23" LCD with a 0.258 mm dot pitch (98 dots per inch) and a 1900 x 1200 resolution. Here's how I set up my Mac to minimize eyestrain:

In the Appearance preference pane I chose the Medium Font Smoothing Style and turned off smoothing for fonts 8 pts or less. In Finder preferences for window text, I chose the 12 point size, but that can be bumped up to 13 or 14 points for those with poorer eyesight.

In my Firefox browser I chose as default fonts 16 point New York (serif), 16 point Arial (sans serif), and 15 point Courier New (monospaced). I set the minimum font size to 14 points and unchecked the "Allow pages to choose their own fonts..." option.

For e-mail (Entourage), I chose 14 point Verdana for lists and 12 point Monaco for e-mail text. Again, those point sizes can be bumped up.

For applications like Word and Excel, I set up the default templates to display new documents at a zoom level of 125% or 150%. I do the same with most other text-heavy applications.

With this combination of choices, I am quite happy with OS X font rendering. If my eyes are tired, I increase the zoom level or use keystroke combinations to bump up font size.

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