Re:document production basics for consumer product documentation - basics

Subject: Re:document production basics for consumer product documentation - basics
From: "David Neeley" <dbneeley -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Sat, 7 Apr 2007 09:01:44 -0600


For this situation, you should look to the printer to help you a great
deal. Some of the top printing companies who do this kind of work have
their own guides to help with your problem.

Further, your graphic artist should already be familiar with
production of camera ready copy. If not, you may have the wrong
graphic artist. (I have participated in the original computerization
of several graphic arts departments over the years-but that was a
*very* long time ago!)

Layout software such as InDesign or Quark have settings for producing
camera ready copy, quite often these days done as special Acrobat
files. Essentially, you produce separate plates for each color to be
printed, with special alignment marks so that they register properly.
Much depends upon your illustrations, though, as to whether issues
such as trapping become significant. You probably won't have to worry
about these things, though, because your printer will probably do the
separations and trapping from your original.

You will probably have the illustrations done on computer, which for
most projects such as yours is far better than trying to create the
images and then scan them. For the most part, this kind of thing is
generally done with a "draw" or vector-based program such as
Illustrator. That makes color separation simple, for the most part.

As a matter of practice, you should determine what colors your
illustrations will be using. If you keep the color palette limited you
may be best off. For example, if your pull-out pages consist of
diagrams and line art, you may want to choose specific colors. Your
printer will have one or more color systems, with swatch books of
available ink colors. By specifying the exact color, you avoid many
potential problems trying to create colors from the usual color model
(often CMYK). That eliminates many problems of registration when an
outline drawing is done at a color that would require a mix of various
of these colors--by specifying the ink color, it is done by single
lines in that precise color. The number of colors selected will have a
great deal to do with the cost of the job, and keeping the total
number of colors within the capability of the printer's press for a
single pass will further keep the cost and complexity down.

As far as scheduling goes, again that will be between you, your
artist, and the printer. Printing is at its basis a manufacturing
process, and the printer must schedule press time carefully if it is
to make money. For your project, the color plates may well be done on
a separate press, with the plates joined with the black and white
pages at binding time. The color plates will also often take a little
extra time to produce--so you may be well advised to schedule the art
to go to the printer a little in advance of the rest of the project,
if possible. That, too, can reduce costs at times, as the printer can
work the job in between other things running.

Also affecting cost will be the number of pieces that will be run.
Once a job is on the press, running it a few minutes longer to produce
additional copies is very cheap compared to the cost of original
setup. If your project will have a relatively limited number of copies
to be produced, you may also wish to explore having it done on a color
copier rather than an offset press. Again, a good printer should be
able to explore the alternatives with you. In fact, though, you may
wind up producing the color plates one way, and doing the "normal"
copier routine for the balance of the book--joining them up at binding
time. Some of the largest xerographic printers and copiers can insert
such plates quite easily as part of their regular print and binding
process (as might be the case with a current DocuTech, for example).
The plates may therefore be produced by color xerography or by offset
press. This alternative may be the most cost-effective if the result
is needed in fairly low numbers and/or if it is subject to frequent
change during its available life.

This is all a top-of-the-head rundown of some of the issues involved.
I obviously don't know where you are, but here in Dallas a company
called Johnson Printing Service handles hundreds of manuals and such
each year. If you don't have a local printer with this kind of
specialty, you might look at They also have a
nice booklet that covers many of these questions--or they had one
available about three years ago, at any rate. You might ask them. (I
have no connection with the company, but I've seen some of their

I hope this helps!


From: "Jessica Weissman" <Jessica -dot- Weissman -at- hillcrestlabs -dot- com>

I have been asked to lay out the steps required with some guess at
scheduling for producing product inserts. The inserts are foldouts
items with fancy graphics. A graphic artist will do the layout and
drawings. I will produce the words and, with help from the artists,
specify the drawings.

Everything I've written so far has been printed directly onto plain
paper, then photocopied. I have no clear idea about the other steps
required to produce camera-ready copy.

Can someone point me at an up to date reference that might help me
figure this out? I understand there are a zillion variables, but need a
good basic intro, either online or in book form.

Many thanks.

Jessica Weissman

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