Does font file format really matter in printing?

IP's picture

Man there is so much to learn....after you thought you already knew all there was to know! How humbling this website is!

That is me grovling to you guys- how have you learned all of this!!!! Anyways, here is my question.

Does the font file format truly matter in printing nowadays? Here is a convoluted example, if you see anywhere there could be a problem please tell me.

Let's say I am creating something like a flyer using any typical font found on my computer. I test it on my Canon pixma ink jet printer, then I take it to work and test it on their HP Laser printer. After these two tests I then take the project- which I assume is in fine printing order to a print shop like Kinkos. Then to a professional printer where they will run 5,000 copies.

Do you think there would be any printing difficulties during any of these steps? If I use a certain font file, could I expect a problem anywere?

I here of projects getting canned at the printers because of an issue. I am trying to learn whatever I need to know before this would happen. Confusing??? I agree! HELP!

Quincunx's picture

If you use PDF, it doenst really matter.
If you provide an open document, like a InDesign/Quark file and you are using, for example, an Apple T1 font or something like that, then that could give problems if the printer is using Windows. They wouldn't be able to use the font. Or vice versa of course.

Is that what you mean with problems?

pattyfab's picture

You need to make sure that you include both the screen and printer fonts when you deliver the file (if Quark or InDesign). In Illustrator you can "create outlines" and in any of these apps you can create a pdf with the fonts embedded (which may send the EULA police after you).

IP's picture

You both hit on the very two points I am confused about :) THANKS! :) I want my prints to be fully legal and to work- explanation below.

If I create a design using a stock font (could have come from anywhere, as there are 5,000 on this computer- ranging from O,T, A, font file types) how do I know they will print on from every computer and output device? If it is illegal to include the fonts for the pritner to install them...then I don't know how this works.

Is saving the file as a pdf so the font is now embedded(which I am assuming means rendering the font neutral and unloadbale to those viewing it digitally-thusly "safe" from being pirated) illegal?

How do I include the screen and printer fonts?

Where do I find the EULA for fonts already installed (and I don't know where they came from- checked the font info on EULA)?

Tell me what to do here. Once a person steps into the commercial realm where they truly want to be legal, I am finding that things are extremely complicated when it comes to fonts. HELP!

pattyfab's picture

LOL they are complicated. I'm not sure there's such a thing as a "stock" font (except the ones that come bundled with the OS or software and see the comment above on that). So you need to at least try to figure out where the fonts come from, i.e. what foundry, and then look up the EULA on their site.

Regarding including screen and printer fonts, as above you can embed fonts into a pdf and avoid this step, however in Quark you do "Collect for Output" and in Indesign it's Preflight.

Linda Cunningham's picture

And it you send it as a .pdf, keep it as big as you can (i.e., don't downsample the graphics) to ensure best quality. I'm about to head over to Staples to pick up a job I send them yesterday that's colour, double-sided legal, and worked out to be a 28MB file.

IP's picture

The ones that come with the computer are what I mean by stock fonts. I know others have come with programs over the years, some from cheapy purchased font packs from best buy, some from those free online sites.

Miguel Sousa's picture

> After these two tests I then take the project- which I assume is in fine printing order to a print shop like Kinkos.

I just went to Kinkos the other day, to print a PDF document. Awkwardly, printing from one workstation was fine, as the type in black came out sharp, but printing the same file from another workstation and the same piece of text came out all rasterized. Never figured out what was wrong, since I was printing the same file with the exact same settings. My guess is that the printer driver installed was different between the two computers.
This goes to illustrate that things are sometimes not as straight forward as we'd like.

pattyfab's picture

When it comes to Kinkos nothing is straightforward. That place is one of the circles in hell. I remember when I was just starting out before I'd bought all my equipment I had to go to three Kinkos to find one with a working Mac, a working printer, and a person who had the remotest idea how their network was set up.

And to bring the conversation full circle, the last time I went to a Kinkos they wouldn't let me load fonts (temporarily of course) into Fontbook which means that the only way to print a doc is to make a pdf. This then violates the EULA. They already had a bunch of fonts in Fontbook and I sincerely doubt they had licensed all of them.

Stephen Coles's picture

Miguel - could it be a RAM problem?

IP's picture

Hey guys!

You are all great! :)

Those kind of quirks are what I am talking about! I have printed at all sorts of little hole in the wall places and the experiences haven't been very pleasing. From being charged $5-$15 just to load a CD to help that are computer-phobic to what all else. I am asking all of these questions to try to make the process as smooth as possible.

Quincunx's picture

Well I guess that is the way it works when it comes to print shops. Just 'shop around' the different places. I did that over here, and compared them. See what kind of equipment they have, prices, and what kind of people work there. And of course quality of print. I chose the best one from the ones I tried, and I usually go to that one now if I need anything printed.

But there is always going to be unpredictable things with different file formats, fonts, etc. But PDF usually works fine.

IP's picture

So my answer is PDF.

Awesome! Thanks :)

By the way- the one and only print place in my hometown told me not to flatten my images and bring them in in their native format (mostly PSD). What should I do about the font?

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

how have you learned all of this!!!!

Experience is a great teacher, IP. :-)

To the other comments here I would add, be prepared for things to go wrong. If you can, burn all of the fonts, images, files, etc. for the job on a CD before you leave home, to save yourself some headaches.

This saved me one time when I found a typo on a PDF I had burned to a CD, and I was already at Kinko's. Having the font files with me let me fix the mistake in Acrobat before printing that particular page.

Thomas Phinney's picture

"You need to make sure that you include both the screen and printer fonts when you deliver the file (if Quark or InDesign)."

Patty is making a couple of assumptions: that you are using a Mac, and that you are using Type 1 ("PostScript") fonts. If these two things are true, then her advice is sound.



pattyfab's picture

If you are planning to be a designer you ought to be using a Mac!

Linda Cunningham's picture

One former client of mine has the "creative" department on Macs, but has switched everyone else over to PCs, including the department that cranks out most of the print material: go figure. At least they upgraded everyone to CS2 at the same time....

wormwood's picture

pattyfab: "If you are planning to be a designer you ought to be using a Mac!"


I don't mean to be rude or facetious (or prompt a huge debate) but would just like to hear a few key reasons why you think Mac is better than PC for a designer.

Si_Daniels's picture

>but would just like to hear a few key reasons why you think Mac is better than PC for a designer.

1. The other designers hanging out in the independent organic coffee shop will laugh at you. The more fragile designers may even choke on their granola, and you wouldn’t want that on your conscience would you?
2. Clients will be more willing to pay you larger fees to support your Mac habit.
3. It matches your iPod
4. "Bootcamp" it up and you get all the benefits of Windows ownership while retaining 1, 2 and 3.

It's a slam dunk, no?

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Hey, IP, I have to amend what I said about experience being a great teacher -- making mistakes isn't the only way to learn! So I have some book recommendations for you, in case you are looking for some handy manuals on digital print production.

I don't mean to overwhelm you with choices, here, I just want to give you an idea of what's out there. It's probably best to go to a bookstore and look through some or all of these books, if you have that possibility, before actually buying one of them. Also, I can't comment on all of these, since I don't have all of them myself. But they're out there.

Pocket Pal This is a cheap guide that gets updated every now and then by International Paper. It turns up at used bookstores quite often, so if you go that route, be sure to get a recent edition which covers digital prepress.

Forms, Folds and Sizes One of those handy reference books that has specs for almost everything.

The Mac Designer's Handbook This is not available right now, according to Amazone, but I see it at used bookshops now and then.

Getting It Printed

Getting it Right in Print

Official Adobe Print Publishing Guide We had an early version of this at a magazine I once worked for. I think it came with our copy of Photoshop, and it was really great. I'm glad that it's available as an independent publication now.

Graphic Designer's Print and Color Handbook

pattyfab's picture

Mac is what the design community uses, for the most part. This means that most printshops are set up to receive Mac files, most of the design apps were created with Mac OS in mind (altho are now available for PC too), your workflow will be smoother. It seems if you try to go forward on a PC as a designer you'll always be playing catch-up. If you're not a designer but just want to do the odd design project you'll probably be fine w/a PC but otherwise I'd go with Mac. They aren't that much more expensive anymore either.

They are much more intuitive and fun to use.

You'll get more spot on advice on this forum.

Besides it will look much cooler on your desk.

Si_Daniels's picture

Adobe CS and PDF are the great equalizers, and once CS3 hits the street MacTel early adopters won't have to suffer any more - - blub ;-)

aluminum's picture

“If you are planning to be a designer you ought to be using a Mac!”

You ought to be using a Mac. Period. ;o)

That said, the OS really doesn't matter in terms of success in the industry. You'll do fine with either. Many of us prefer the Mac, but don't think you need a Mac.

If your printer 'only accepts Mac files' then find a better, more competant printer.

Patty is right about them looking cooler, though.

adnix's picture

InDesign also lets you convert a font to outlines like Illustrator, though for a multipage document with a lot of text, that will probably result in a huge file.

IP's picture

I love you guys!

I could explain my whole personal history so you know where I am coming from on all of this but that is a book unto itself that would be quite pointless to read.

The Mac vs. PC thing has been a large part of my life. I have used both, love both- I had a PC custom built for me.

Getting it Right in Print- I HAVE THIS BOOK AND I LOVE IT :)
That book has actually spawned many of these questions for me.

As for some of these questions....I live in a rural setting and have "art folk" to chat with. You guys are fulfilling that need, so you have no idea my gratitude. I have been reading many of the posts on here and posting like crazy.

I am mostly jittery about transitioning from small local owned copy shop type places and working with huge printing press operations. I read of soooooooooo many problems that I am researching and working like mad to keep building to my skill set. I went to college but as many of you know, this stuff isn't commonly taught at the liberal arts level. Now that comment is not to spark controversy about education and so forth(as some places are better than others, and there are different methods of doing things), I am simply trying to fill holes in my knowledge base.

The most important thing I have learned is that TYPOGRAPHY IS COMPLICATED. Sounds like common sense...

Lots more questions to pick your brains with.

jason's picture

The ongoing Mac nonsense continues to baffle me. At this point it's a preference issue, nothing more, and even this is far too caught up in a mob-mentality, seeming blindness about Macs "looking cooler." I just don't understand that one. Look at the last half-dozen Macs and, one at a time, they fall away as ridiculously dated (and difficult to upgrade) desk accessories (I mean, the first iMacs? Seriously? Or the current lot of them? Cool? Come on...). Sure, if you can afford a top-notch MacBookPro or a MacPro tower with a 23" HD display, great, but there's nothing particularly "cool" about the more affordable gunk that Apple hangs out there for the fashionably desperate kids these days.

I'm not denying that talented people with years of experience can produce stunning work using Macs, but the machine on the desk has little, very little to do with those abilities. The thing on the desk is just a thing on a desk. I work on both platforms, teaching on Macs because, for whatever reason, my university thinks this lends some kind of credibility to the program, but I have for years and still prefer to work on a PC. There's really nothing to that but a preference; I can get both machines to do what I'd like them to do. Beyond that, they're just wires and spinning disks.

As to print shops being "set up to receive Mac files," I have not, in the past half-dozen years, had a single issue delivering PC files to a wide variety of commercial printers, both as PDFs and as full InDesign packages. That is, not a single issue that was not due to a mistake on my part, which had nothing to do with the platform used to create the files.

IP, to actually address your post, stick to OpenType fonts and none of this will be an issue. If you can't stick to OpenType, it's time to do some research into the various other formats, with the goal of gaining an understanding of how they work, as opposed to simply looking for a quick answer to your current circumstances.

IP's picture

Jason, I appreciate your response.

That is exactly why I am doing all of this posting.

There is a lot of hype, brand loyalty, opinion driven preferences that may or may not actually benefit any given process or circumstance. It is difficult to get past personal opinions and dig to find the facts beneath them. One post will say this is the way to do it, the next will say this is better and the third will say neither are the actual professional standard. This is a nod to human nature, society and the way things are communicated.

Reading all of the responses from various questions that I have posted over the past several days, one can start to grasp a greater understanding of typography, real world attitudes and share personal experiences. That kind of exploration into a new topic is something that a book can't touch and youth hasn't had an opportunity to explore yet.

These forums have added an extra dimension of education available to those who wish to pursue it. My ultimate goal is to understand as much as possible....It is true that nothing can quite replace experience, but experience comes with time. Time=age.

Lifelong learner! :)

jason's picture

IP, nice post. Keep'em coming.

My comment about OpenType is the same advice I give my students; the point is that keeping to OT you're likely going to end up using relatively well-made fonts with decent character sets that will allow you to expand your skills setting type. Yet that's no reason to avoid learning all you can about TrueType and PostScript fonts. Some might think these formats are next to dead (I'm one of those 'some'), but investigating what they are, how they're built, and what they were/are used for will only add to your general knowledge.

To my mind it's similar to printing letterpress with polymer: a whole world of options opens to you, but a solid understanding of setting metal type will add a depth and breadth to any designer/printer's abilities.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

I hate to get into a quasi-religious argument here, but Macs look cool because they are well-designed machines, from the inside out. And I mean the software, not just the hardware. Everything is made to work together from the get-go, which is why you can take it out of the box, plug it in, and it's ready to go.

Notice that I'm not saying they're perfect or better, I'm just stating a fact: the software and hardware are designed to work together. Can you say that about PCs?

dberlow's picture

The original question:
"Let’s say I am creating something like a flyer using any typical font found on my computer."

This is clearly a windows-oriented project: Take any font, make any flyer, take to any printer. Windows and TT's your path.

"1. The [] designers hanging out in the [] coffee shop will laugh at you."
(Most Macintosh owners a. don't drink coffee, b. if they do they have their own coffee machine, or c. send someone out for it.)

Do I need to continue? :)

Si_Daniels's picture

My advice was based on personal experiences in the Seattle and San Jose areas - I can imagine things being different on the Vineyard. ;-)

jason's picture

Ricardo, I would suggest we're talking philosophy more than religion. That is, you seem to be priveleging convenience, and convenience has it's merits. For example, convenience allows one to remain ignorant about how a thing actually works, which, surely, allows one to focus on the task at hand. Yet that focus remains primarily task-oriented, rather than exploratory and question-oriented. To my mind the Mac philosophy is built on this sort of mentality: take the latest trendy bells & whistles, make them shiny, hide all the "works" (why confuse the ignorant consumer?), and jack up the price. It's the same mentality as the bottled water industry. Who needs to worry about where water comes from or how it impacts one's regional environment when you can buy it in a fancy container for a mark-up of only 1000% and all you have to do is twist the cap? This sort of convenience shifts the attention away from what's inside the container and locks in on the container itself, and if the fancier container is twice the price and has a cap that's easier to turn, well, that's the better bottle of water, right?

As my feedback to IP's post was meant to convey, I've always prefered to gain an understanding of how something works, rather than simply apply a surface-fix to a problem. I'm not suggesting that Macs are simply ornaments, but that the arguments in their favour tend to focus on the ornamental qualities. Again, these are all just machines we're talking about, nothing more. They are not important in the least except in what one is able to do with them, and what I'm suggesting is that a skilled & experienced user tends to be the one who wants to poke around in the works of the machine they're using (both hardware & software).

Like I said, to my mind it's like the difference between polymer and setting metal type: the former is great and a lot of fun, but inserting brasses & coppers will produce a more educated, thoughtful and skilled typographer.

pattyfab's picture

Jason, you can't possibly be saying that using a PC "will produce a more educated, thoughtful and skilled typographer."

While I freely admit a Mac bias for both functionality and aesthetics, I do acknowledge that the PC has played a nice game of catch-up, and that it's unquestionably possible to produce fine design on a PC. That said, I honestly don't see how you can argue its superiority over the Mac for design. If this were the case, then why has Bill Gates made such a concerted effort to imitate Mac OS and not the other way 'round? Why not just stick with DOS?

There will always be designers and production folks who make the extra effort to learn the inner workings of their machines. You certainly can't expect everybody to do that, however, and to say that being a tech-head makes you a better designer is absurd. The beauty of the Mac is that it is a much more intuitive machine - both hardware and software - and therefore more user-friendly to a designer who does NOT want or need to know how to disect it. I know plenty of extremely talented designers who simply know who to call when things aren't working on their computers. This takes nothing away from their skill as designers.

And furthermore, how many PC-users do you know who have a deep and thoughtful knowledge of their machines?

Thylacine's picture

Quote from IP: I am mostly jittery about transitioning from small local owned copy shop type places and working with huge printing press operations.

There's no need for the jitters.

Neighborhood copy shops fill an important niche, but they're staffed mostly with relatively untrained and short-term employees who work in an environment set up to service the messy needs of the general public. In other words, it's frequently chaotic and uneven.

Good professional printers (that use presses, not copy machines) are staffed with career professionals and craftsmen who have learned their trade through years of experience. Specialists within these printing companies handle various parts of the job. The prepress people, for example, will analyze your job, look at all your files, make sure it will work, and provide you with high-quality proofs for you to approve before your job even makes it to the press. In other words, they're trained and experienced in spotting problems — that's part of their jobs.

If you use professional-level software tools and know how to use them, you should have few problems in working with printers. Just make sure that you provide them with all the files — fonts, graphics, photos, etc. Quark and InDesign have preflight and packaging functions that error-check your job and automate the file collection. If you send inappropriate files to printers (MSWord, WordPerfect, PowerPoint, RGB, etc.), you can expect problems.

Most printers prefer to receive high-resolution, press-quality PDFs because it saves them time. The best printers will give you detailed specifications on preparing PDFs to meet their particular needs. I usually supply printers with both a high-resolution PDF, plus all the files for the job and a laser printout.

Keep in mind, though, that printing companies tend to specialize in particular types of jobs. It takes some experience and calling around to find just the right printer for the job. But even here, good printers have specialists who will provide you with bids, advice, information and technical suggestions. I regularly work with huge, printers who print only books and magazines on high volume web presses, but I also work regularly with smaller, short-run, sheet-feed printers who specialize in high-quality smaller offset jobs. You just need to call around to various printers and talk to other designers about who they use and who they've been happy with for particular types of jobs. I have a handful of long-term relationships with printers that I know will consistently give me good value and good work. Good printers are always ready and willing to work with you, answer questions and provide you with personal tours of their shops to show you how it all works.

Other things worth mentioning about fonts and printers... If you send all the fonts that are in the document, professional printers can handle it. (Most printers are platform neutral and deal with all the usual font formats equally well.) If you embed fonts in the PDF, that's great, but I always supply the fonts separately too — just in case. For example, sometimes there might be fonts in, say, a FreeHand file that you've imported into InDesign, and those fonts might get overlooked. If you convert the fonts to outlines, you obviously don't need to include the font files, but doing so eliminates the hinting found in the font files, which might make a difference (another subject). Also, there are copyright issues with fonts — you can't legally just give copies of them away. However, a printer can't print the job without the font data. If you run into a font whose copyright holder forbids sending their font to a printer or embedding it in a PDF file, you're dealing with a font that might not be legally usable in a practical sort of way.

wormwood's picture

Sorry IP for what I've done to your thread when I said...

"I don’t mean to be rude or facetious (or prompt a huge debate) but would just like to hear a few key reasons why you think Mac is better than PC for a designer."

...but I thought it was relevant to your original question "Does font file format really matter in printing?".

I think what has been said shows that choosing a platform is more to do with personal preference than any inherent benefits for working in design. And now, thanks to PDF, issues about file formats/missing fonts etc are no longer such a concern.

I prefer my OS and software to look as neutral as possible so it doesn't taint the design I'm working on with any other aesthetic.

I'm baffled as to why anyone would want to have their computer on their desk. I recommend leaving your desk space free for pencils and paper, beer and nuts, books and toys, **** and photos etc etc.

Computers aren't cool or interesting. Put it on the floor and use it to keep your feet warm :)

wormwood's picture

IP, if you're gonna be a regular here I think you're missing the bigger and more important issue...

...where's your User ID Pic?

You won't get anywhere in this business these days, sonny jim lad, without one damn impressive avatar. We're all waiting. No pressure.


wormwood's picture

I've just spotted a question that I don't think has been answered...

"By the way- the one and only print place in my hometown told me not to flatten my images and bring them in in their native format (mostly PSD). What should I do about the font?"

In the past I've worked in print shops and litho printers and I can't recall any cirumstance when I would want a customer to supply a layered PSD file. If they were supplying pixel artwork I would want a 300dpi CMYK TIFF. No chance of me screwing up their job then.

Can anyone else think of a reason for requesting an un-flatttend PSD or not wanting a PDF?

Thylacine's picture

Wormwood wrote: "Can anyone else think of a reason for requesting an un-flatttend PSD or not wanting a PDF?"

The only reason I can think of is if they were anticipating such a badly prepared set of files that they wanted the originals so that they could fix them or do the CMYK conversion themselves.

Si_Daniels's picture

>Jason, you can’t possibly be saying that using a PC “will produce a more educated, thoughtful and skilled typographer.”

90% of design is crap, and 90% of designers are using Macs - coincidence or herd mentality? ;-)

Thylacine's picture

Is the acrimony that always accompanies the Mac vs. Windows debate really productive or even justified? Both platforms have pluses and minuses, but in the end they're just computers that do pretty much the same thing.

I prefer Macs for several reasons, but I also have a Dell running XP sitting on my other desk. I have a couple of employees (both good designers) who prefer Windows, and I try to accommodate them. Most graphics apps are cross-platform and font incompatibilities are mostly a thing of the past. This debate is a little like bar patrons arguing over which beer is best or which team will take the series.

At one time Macs were clearly superior to Windows for desktop publishing, but today it largely boils down to whatever you feel most comfortable with. I mean, really, why this is still such a bone of contention is a mystery to me.

jason's picture

Patty, my last post has been popping into my mind periodically throughout the afternoon in that my analogies were all over the place, and that sort of sloppiness can ruin my day. I didn't mean to imply that PCs will make anyone a better anything -- one's skill depends only on one's desire to learn. (That said, I do think that setting metal type will make anyone a more thoughtful and skilled typographer). Ultimately the "platform war" is simply a preference issue which has nothing to do with any sort of skill, end of story.

That said, I suppose my defensive posture on this nonsensical matter is simply an irritation caused by the inanity of much pro-Mac gibberish I come across which seems to think that looking pretty is more than enough to ask of a computer.

And that you thought I was arguing PCs' "superiority over the Mac for design" speaks to the fact that my last post was a mess. If anything my point was more along the lines of "who cares what the bloody computer looks like?"

As to the Mac being "a much more intuitive machine ... and therefore more user-friendly," this is, of course, simply a matter of experience and temperament. I can see how some might find Macs more user-friendly, but I have always found moving around a PC much simpler. The OS organization is far more transparent and therefore, I find, easier to configure and customize. But that's just me.

You're right, too, that many folks, perhaps most, aren't all that interested in the guts of the machine and its software, and that such folks are no less "designers" than those interested in such things. It's just that to my mind "designers" sometimes tend to get lost in surface, because that's what they "do" (hence the somewhat hollow Mac bolstering that I find irritating). This is not a slag at people who design things, but I find that working on "graphic design" projects, projects that don't involve and/or require me to learn something new, something which requires effort, leave me feeling rather deflated at the end of the day. Too often graphic design solutions are simply exercises in being clever with the goal of selling product. Such projects are simply jobs, and jobs are boring.

My repeated references to setting metal type continue to come up for me here because it is not the sheet pulled from the press that is the project of such endeavours, but the curiosity, patience, discipline and practice that goes with doing something the hard way for the pleasure of doing it the hard way.

As above, convenience might fascilitate product, but product is not all that interesting a vocation.

Jackie Frant's picture

First - back to the original question.
IP - I suggest once a job is finished and a outside source is selected to do the printing - you talk to that outside source. I use a guy near Columbia, SC who does fantastic printing. However, I have found I cannot send him TTF fonts - only Type 1. If I send him a PDF, it must be made through Adobe's Acrobat, and not through Quark 7.0... he can't do a thing with those...

Second, Mac vs IBM PC/IBM-Compatibles (Dell, Gateway, Sony, etc.)

I am a Mac user for all graphic arts. PERIOD. I've been on Macs since 1988 - I have helped by being a beta or gamma tester for many of the programs I still use to this day.

I also happen to own a real live genuine IBM. I used IBM way before 1988. They were great for billing, inventory, etc. Still are. If I were a financial person, and IBM is the only computer I would look at.

I know IBM has come along way, and many of the programs I use are now available for the IBM. But "windows" per se are still "clunky." Just not as intuitive as my many years on the MAC.

Besides, since I'm on a Mac computer all day for graphic arts -- it's nnice knowing when I'm going to play, it is playtime on the IBM. Know what I mean? Breaktime!!!

If you are doing well with whatever computer you are on, and you've made your investment in programs, fonts, etc. and it does the job for you -- stay with it!

IP's picture

Amazing posts with unique insights. I will touch on some of the comments

Wormwood - I will create an avatar soon. But until then, my real name is Heidi. :)

Jason - I get the feeling that the way you teach and the way I learn is very similar. My thirst for knowledge is insatiable and I want to get my hands on as much as information possible. Some take that as being a busy body, others see it as a waste of time or pointless but being worried about the opinions of others is certainly not worth the energy. Any knowledge helps, how it does is by far more interesting than the original concept itself.

I have much more to add but this topic should be transferred over to a new post.

Wormwood - I can give you the reason why the copy place requested an unflattened PSD file but it doesn't clarify much. The worker(and long time owner) told me she needed to center my image manually in order for it to print correctly. She said all work should be brought in that way. There was no word on PDFs and this was only two months ago. I have been to my fair share of "copy places" and this is the first and only one ever to request this.

As for the Mac and PC thing once again. Like I said previously,I am a technology lover and asking whether one platform is better than the next is like asking a mother to choose which of her children she loves more. But here is an interesting thing. I was in a job interview two weeks ago where the interviewer insisted that "the absolute best clarity in graphic creation comes strictly from a Mac".

What are your thoughts about that comment?

My printing question has been answered and my anxiety over making the transition from copy shop to a full fledged print house has been quieted.

Until the next post,


Thomas Phinney's picture

I find it sad that anybody seriously thinks that either major platform is innately superior for graphic design.

It's interesting that on the one hand, Mac OS is still dominant at the high end of the graphic design industry. On the other hand, looking at Adobe's 2006 public revenue info for investors, our revenue is 75% Windows and 25% Mac OS. Given that software for creative professionals is more than half Adobe's revenue as well, one knows that at least half Adobe's creative pro buyers are on Windows. Further, you can see that the trend towards Windows has been increasing over time. Of course, Windows has been well-supported by most service bureaus and printers for quite a few years now.

So, to comment briefly on some of Patty's assertions:

"Mac is what the design community uses, for the most part."

Actually, this is only true of the high end, as described above. At the low to mid-range, the converse is true.

"This means that most printshops are set up to receive Mac files,"

Most print shops are also set up to receive Windows files.

"most of the design apps were created with Mac OS in mind (altho are now available for PC too),"

For most of these apps, they have been made and released simultaneously on Mac and Windows for over a decade, and there is no functional difference between the Mac and Windows versions. This is certainly true of Adobe's applications, at the very least.

My point is not that Windows is better, just that most of the Mac-superiority talk is just that, talk. They're both seriously usable operating systems, and you can get the job done with either one. Your personal choice will likely be dependent on factors other than which one is "better," though that may quite reasonably include what's in use by your school or peers.

For my part, I've been doing graphic design on computers since 1987, and font dev since 1994 or thereabouts. I have switched my primary platform five times. At the moment, I use Windows, but that's mostly because there was a point when I needed to either move from Mac OS 9 to either OS X or Windows for a new laptop, and a few particular circumstances made Windows the right choice for my personal needs at that time.:

  • OS X 10.0 was clearly not ready for prime time (solved mostly around 10.2, and almost entirely by 10.4.x)
  • FontLab beta versions would come out a year earlier for Windows than for Mac, so I could work with a newer/better font development environment on Windows (still true today)
  • I could get a significantly higher res LCD screen on a Windows laptop than on a Mac laptop (still true today AFAIK). I found 1200 vertical pixels a really useful amount when working with a 1000-unit em square.
  • Virtually all of Adobe's applications functioned identically on both platforms (still true).



pattyfab's picture

Actually, this is only true of the high end, as described above. At the low to mid-range, the converse is true.

Well... which would you rather be?

My last thought on the subject - I think that the fact that Macs just plain look great (both inside and out) is a big selling point for a lot of graphic designers - at least the high end ones. We like things that have style, which is why graphic design studios are - usually - much cooler looking than your accountant's office or the local Jenny Craig. Apple was smart to recognize this at a time when most computers were clunky putty-colored boxes. Of course PCs have played a nice game of catch-up on the industrial design front too. But to answer wormwood - we need computers on our desks, and when the entire package looks like an iMac or a MacBook, and is that space-efficient, yeah, I'm gonna shell out a few extra bucks for it.

I guess other than price point (which is not that big a difference anymore) I just don't really understand why a designer would choose a PC over a Mac, unless their client base specifically requires the PC platform. And even then... find another client.

aluminum's picture

"I live in a rural setting and have “art folk” to chat with."

Minneapolis is Rural? ;o)

"how many PC-users do you know who have a deep and thoughtful knowledge of their machines?"

Having worked in large all-Mac design studios, I can tell you many, many graphic designers can barely turn the computer on themselves...regardless of the OS they are using. ;o)

"Is the acrimony that always accompanies the Mac vs. Windows debate really productive or even justified? "

Is the acrimony that always accompanies the [whatever] vs. [whatever] debate really productive or even justified? Of course not. It's just a fun waste of time online. ;o)

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Something to consider: OS X uses Display PostScript (and PDF as an intermediate format for everything) to generate what you see, thereby providing the best approximation of what you're going to get in the end (PostScrip/PDF being defacto what printers etc. use).

Another consideration is that colour management is a lot easier on a Mac. And you are going to need good colour management!

(When I started doing design and lay-out on a computer, Photoshop wasn't called Photoshop yet and a guy in Denver had just launched a page layout program that did everything one needed — dare I mention the Q-word? Apple was the platform then and I never felt the need to change that).

BTW If you are in any way connected to the internet, you are in for a lot of s**t using Windows if you are not fairly competent re firewalling etc.

dezcom's picture

Regarding getting stuff printed. You will have far more trouble getting what you expect out of the average Kinkos than you will out of a real professional printing firm. Kinkos staffs are spotty with a few decent workers mixed with many clueless ones. When taking even a PDF to Kinkos, you can get color shifts and wierd PostScript failures because they may be using an emulated PostScript RIP or printer and the staff may not be able to troubleshoot. I have had InD made pdf files screw up at Kinkos on some of their HP printers (they may not keep current with them). I have learned to prerasterize my pdf files in Photoshop so that you are not asking much of the Kinkos equipment or staff. Kinkos is fine for run-of-the-mill duplication but not for anything color or postscript critical. Meaning, if you care, don't take it there.


PS: I have sworn off the PC vs Mac pissing contests so make up your own mind about that mine shaft.

Si_Daniels's picture

>Kinkos staffs are spotty

They'll probably grow out of it, or maybe they could try ointment?

Lex Kominek's picture

My brother once took a 10 page PDF to Kinkos at 20:00 - he came home at 02:00 with the first 3 pages printed, and ended up printing the last 8 pages on his own inkjet because Kinkos took 2 hours to figure out how to open the PDF on their computers, then about an hour to print each page.

- Lex

dezcom's picture

"...or maybe they could try ointment?"

That just might be their only salveation Si :-P


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