By Olivia Cahoon
Design software tools help print providers edit pre-designed graphics. Print files that are too small result in a pixelated print at full output. Design software helps ensure the customer receives a quality product. Features like resizing, sharpness, and color conversion adjust graphic files for suitable printing. Photo enlargement plugins can resize images without losing resolution or sharpness and are offered as standalone applications and plugin filters.
“These solutions are the go-to tools in any graphics workflow when a design needs to be taken from idea to execution,” says Sobia Hameed, product manager, CorelDRAW Graphics Suite, Corel Corporation. By using the software, operators tackle tasks ranging from vector design and creation to layout and publishing.
Above: AKVIS Sketch includes features to add a textured surface to imitate canvas drawings or insert an inscription signature, greeting, logo, or watermark.
Design tools add unique effects, enhance appearance, restore and retouch damaged photos, resize images, and improve sharpness. Software allows users to handle a range of tasks essential to providing a quality graphic for printing. This includes “preparing a print job for final output to the press, visualizing a design, iterative change cycles, and reviewing or approving,” says Mark Lewiecki, senior product manager, Adobe Systems Incorporated.
It’s not enough for a design tool to resize images, it must also do so efficiently without loss in quality. Software can colorize B&W photos, improve sharpness for out of focus images, and save time on complex selections. Some design software even imitates traditional and contemporary painting techniques without requiring any drawing skills, says Lidiya Azanova, press manager, AKVIS.
Design software is found in several applications where files need assistance to prepare for printing. “It is the backbone of a variety of graphics production industries including wide format printing, sign making, vehicle wrapping, textile design, and packaging,” says Hameed. A popular ability is to convert logos from raster to vector, which allow them to be printed at any size or to enhance and enlarge photos for a variety of projects.
Lewiecki says CAD applications are often used to create diagrams, architectural blueprints, maps, and biotech drawings. In this space, converting a CAD drawing into a PDF file makes it easier for clients to collaborate with colleagues that don’t use the authoring application.
In the three-dimensional (3D) printing space, design software creates 3D objects with surface coloration or surface printed designs. Lewiecki believes that design software with two-dimensional (2D) and 3D features are useful for visualizing and commenting on drawing appearance as well as creating 3D objects that are eventually output to 3D printers.
Most design software offers print production tools to preview output, edit, convert colors, fix hairlines, and add printer marks. Lewiecki explains tools for managing ink, trapping, and saving files as a PDF are also included. Preflight functions automatically fix common issues in PDF files prior to printing to avoid production bottlenecks.
Color management is an essential feature that converts images to an ideal printing condition while managing black point compensation. It can be used to repair damaged or old images.
If an image is beyond color management, photo retouching functions include border sharpness, image contrast, removing date stamps or distracting details, and image resizing. Some design software improves sharpness on out of focus images and adds artistic blur effects to photos. “It’s possible to refocus the entire image or only certain details,” says Azanova.
According to Azanova, noise reduction software reduces luminance and color noise on digital images without spoiling other aspects of the photo. “They have user-friendly and sophisticated interfaces, enabling even amateurs to edit photos without any hassle or difficulty,” she continues. This is especially important for first time software users that may not have the time to dedicate to learning the software.
In addition to software suites, plugins are available. They can be used to enlarge and enhance original images. Resizing plugins are typically used for billboards and in-home décor like wall-sized prints and photography. Photo enlargement plugins can be applied to enlarge images taken from the Web or photos taken from low-resolution cameras or a post-crop result.
“Plugins are helpful when working with multi-layered projects,” shares Azanova. “Special-purpose plugins frequently provide more effective results compared with built-in editor’s features.” It allows users to maximize productivity, speed the editing process, and seamlessly apply a range of unique effects.
Alien Skin Software offers Blow Up, a photo enlargement plugin for graphic designers that resizes images up to 300,000 pixels per side. It retains sharpness and avoids blocky artifacts. Finley Lee, CEO, Alien Skin, says Blow Up is designed to be easy to use. The plugin features tools for cropping to the desired output size. Using Adobe Lightroom and CMYK support, Blow Up integrates into professional workflows.
Plugins should be user friendly, especially for print providers that don’t have the time to emerge themselves in a new program. Blow Up includes a library of standard paper sizes for fast resizing. Once a paper size is chosen, Blow Up sharpens the right amount to compensate for ink diffusion.
It’s critical that photo enlargement plugins resize images while keeping edges sharper without computer artifacts. Poor resolutions and blurry images result in a poor-quality graphic. Lee cautions that resizing low-quality JPEG images accentuates blocky artifacts. He admits that photo enlargement plugins perform best with a good-quality source image.
In June 2008, AKVIS released Magnifier to resize images without loss in quality. “Whether creating poster-size images, adding resolution for printing an enlargement, or reducing image size, Magnifier makes prints appear sharper and better defined,” shares Azanova.
The program enlarges images to resolutions up to 300,000×300,000 pixels for a 90 gigapixel poster. Its image processing parameters are grouped into two sections—downsize and upsize. Magnifier supports Batch Processing, which allows users to automatically resize a series of photos.
Magnifier is available in three versions. A lifetime Home license for Magnifier is $89 on Windows and Mac operating systems. Lifetime Deluxe is $99 and Business is $199. It is available as a standalone application and as a plugin filter for Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. “The algorithm keeps edges smooth, sharp, and clearly defined while improving image appearance by removing unwanted noise and compression artifacts,” adds Azanova.
Some of the newest design software offerings are included here.
Adobe Creative Cloud includes Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, and Acrobat. Adobe’s offerings allow CAD files to be imported into Photoshop and Acrobat, which have 2D and 3D editing features. “These are useful for visualizing and commenting on the appearance of the drawings,” explains Lewiecki. For example, color management features in Photoshop convert images captured by digital cameras to the color space of the device or the target printing condition while managing black point compensation.
The free version of Acrobat Reader displays 3D objects contained with a PDF file. Lewiecki believes converting a CAD drawing, InDesign, Photoshop, or Illustrator file into a PDF file makes it easy to collaborate with customers that don’t use the authoring application.
Acrobat includes print production tools for adding printer marks, converting colors, fixing hairlines, managing inks, minor editing, previewing output, saving as PDF files, and trapping. “The print production suite in Acrobat also includes a powerful preflight function, which can be used to automatically fix common issues in PDF files before they are printed,” shares Lewiecki. In 2016, Acrobat’s user interface was completely reworked to make it less complex and more user friendly. Lewiecki says this is especially helpful for viewing PDF files on tablets and smartphones or for searching specific tools.
Released in August 2006, AKVIS Sketch creates realistic color drawings and B&W sketches, imitates graphic and color pencil techniques, and generates charcoal, pastel, and watercolor effects. It offers two photo-to-sketch conversion styles—classic and artistic.
Timeline features allow users to choose between different sketch options from rough sketches to finished drawings. The Background Effects tab creates a combination of sketches and photos, imitates motion, and adds a time machine effect with background swirls.
AKVIS Sketch includes features to add a textured surface to imitate canvas drawings or insert an inscription, signature, greeting, logo, or watermark. Azanova says AKVIS Sketch Home licensing is $72, Deluxe is $89, and Business is $154 for a lifetime subscription.
Alien Skin offers Eye Candy 7. The set of plugins offers realistic effects like fire chrome, lightning, animal fur, smoke, and reptile skin rendered to individual hair, wisps, and scales. It features a graphic enlarger plugin to resize images.
Eye Candy 7 displays effects as recognizable icons rather than text menus for easy viewing. Its user interface is designed for visual browsing and less clicking. The software includes 32 effect categories and over 1,000 presets. Eye Candy handles images in CMYK mode and 16-bits/channels for professional print work. It requires Adobe Photoshop CS5 and newer or Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 and newer as a host application.
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 2017 was released in early April and consists of several Corel applications for print providers and graphic creators including CorelDRAW, Photo-Paint, Font Manager, PowerTrace, Connect, Website Creator, and Capture.
The software features a LiveSketch tool to deliver a natural vector drawing experience. “Users can free-form sketch vector curves directly on a pen-enabled device thanks to an intelligent tool that interprets and understands sketching styles, including overlapping strokes, folded lines, and even chicken scratches,” explains Hameed.
Redesigned nodes and handles are assigned a unique shape for identifying cusp, smooth, and symmetrical nodes. This includes better visibility for interactive sliders for object fills and transparencies. A CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 2017 full license is $499, $199 for an upgrade, $29.95 for the monthly subscription, and $198 for a yearly subscription.
Software with specific design tools overcome graphic challenges like retouching, sharpness, and sizing. Print providers use the solutions to manipulate graphics into print-ready quality. Features such as PDF converting, photo enlargement plugins, and 3D editing tools are available to help provide high-quality final output.
Sep2017, Digital Output