Printing and Design Tips: October 2010, Issue #111

Nesting Graphics

Here's a good rule of thumb when submitting files to your printer. Don't nest graphic files within other graphic files. That is, if you create a vector graphic in a program like Adobe Illustrator and save it as an EPS file, do not then place this EPS file in another Illustrator file, save the nested files as an EPS file, and then place the new EPS file in an InDesign document. If you do, you printer may have problems outputting the file as you expect it to look. For instance, the text you included in the nested file may change to a default typeface like Courier. Or there may be problems with gradients and paths. Or the file may not print at all.

The problem lies in the fact that the Postscript RIP will have to open each nested EPS file as it processes the job. It is wise to assume that if you can't print the graphic on your laser printer, then the imagesetter or platesetter at your offset print shop will probably also be unable to print the file.

To avoid such problems, always avoid nesting. Just position all elements in a single EPS file instead of nesting one file inside the other. As an added benefit, this approach yields a smaller file, which the RIP can then process more quickly.


Just think "pads," like pads of paper. Padding means collecting sheets of the same size, maybe 50 or 100, and spreading an adhesive across the top or side edge to hold the sheets together and to affix them to a board (usually chipboard). You may want to do this if you're creating notepads to accompany an executive stationery package or as a stand-alone marketing item.

Widows and Orphans

These are two pieces of printers' jargon reflecting bad typesetting form. When a word or word fragment at the end of a paragraph falls at the top of a column of text, the result looks awkward. This is an orphan. Conversely, an orphan can also be the first line of a paragraph that lands at the bottom of a column. Again this looks awkward.

A single word at the end of a paragraph is also called a widow.

Needless to say, depending on where you look, you will see the terms widow and orphan reversed or possibly used interchangeably.

But the more useful message is that you should look closely at your typeset text.

  • Avoid multiple word breaks (three in a row is far too many).
  • Also make sure your paragraphs don't end with a single word or part of a word.
  • Avoid "rivers of white" (trapped white space within a block of type). This usually becomes problematic within justified type (i.e., columns of type in which the text aligns on both the right and left, as opposed to having a ragged right-hand margin).
  • Make sure that you include a few lines of type if a paragraph ends at the bottom of a column.
  • Make sure that you include a few lines of type if a paragraph ends at the top of a column.
  • If a subhead falls at the bottom of a page, either move it to the top of the next column or rework the text to allow for two or three lines of type below the subhead before the end of the column of text.

In short, typesetting is an art. Be mindful of the final appearance, especially if your page composition software does all of this for you automatically—as most do. Don't trust this software blindly. Rather, use the page-composition application defaults initially, but also view the typeset copy closely, and then override the automatic settings as needed to adjust the type.

"Cold-Set" Vs. "Non-Heatset" Web Presses

You may hear two different terms used to reference a web press without an oven: a "coldset web" press and a "non-heatset" web press. These are the same thing. Different printers just use different terms.

And if you hear the term "Didde," your printer is referring to a particular type of non-heatset web press often used for direct mail projects and business forms.

To recap, a heatset web press has an oven that flashes the solvent out of the ink, thus allowing the dried ink pigment to sit up on the surface of the press sheet (known as hold-out). A non-heatset web has no oven; therefore, the ink must dry through absorption into the paper.

Printed products appropriate for non-heatset presses include black and white books (including line art, text, and screens) printed on uncoated stock (but not their covers, if they will be printed in color or on coated stock). In contrast, all kinds of printing work are appropriate for heatset web presses.

[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]