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Perfecting Your Digital Proofs

(August/September 2018) posted on Wed Oct 03, 2018

With the right techniques, you can produce digital proofs that even your most demanding customers will accept – and you can even automate the procedure.

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By Thomas Trimingham

9. On the resulting image, I selected all with Ctrl-A.

10. Then I copied the selection (Ctrl-C).

11. I closed the file (not the whole program!) using Ctrl-W. When prompted to save “untitled file,” I clicked “no.” 

12. When the file is closed, it automatically goes back to the original file on the last channel that was copied, so I pasted the converted channel with Ctrl-V.

13. The first channel was now a halftone simulation. I selected the next channel down (“color 1”) and did the exact same steps to copy it, create a new file, convert it, copy it again, close it, and then paste the conversion over the original channel.

14. I followed this pattern for the rest of the channels in the file until they were all completed.

15. Then, I used the Flatten Image command on the file (Layer/Flatten Image) so I could convert the whole file.

16. Carefully, I selected just the separation channels starting with the shirt channel, then the underbase, then color 1, etc, until they were all selected.

17. Then I went up to the top right arrow in the Channels menu and selected Merge Spot Channels.

18. The design was now converted to a halftone simulation. The final step was to use the Output for Web command (Ctrl-Shift-Alt-S) to get a compressed file that could be emailed. I selected a JPEG format and saved the file to an open folder labeled “email proofs.”

19. Then I stopped recording and checked the folder and final file to see if there were errors.

Since everything seemed to work, I did an acid test and selected a copy of my original file and then hit the “play” triangle in the action dialog with the halftone proof 1 action script selected. In just a few seconds, I had a halftone proof of my file ready to email to a customer! (See Figure 4.) I did two other tests with this script on different files and everything seemed to work perfectly.

Figure 4

Troubleshooting and Finalizing

You will likely get an error or an unexpected result the first few times you try this process. Don’t give up! If you walk slowly backward though the steps and keep practicing, you will quickly get the hang of it and figure out what types of files it will and won’t work on. 

You can make the process even more versatile by recording different action scripts across the full range of the number of colors you’re likely to print – in other words, separate scripts for three colors, four colors, and so on, up to 14 or whatever your maximum separation size is. This way, you’ll immediately be able to run a proof regardless of how many colors are in the file and you won’t have to stop to create a new action script. Similarly, you can create new action scripts for different halftone styles and patterns depending on your shop’s preferences. 

Once you are comfortable, take a much more complicated file and run it through the set of steps to see how well it works. (See Figure 5.) 

Figure 5

One final benefit to learning how to simulate your prints in Photoshop: In some cases, this process may give you insight into how your halftones will interact and blend, and it might even suggest some needed edits to your separations. After I ran the action script on my practice file, I noticed that the yellow separation needed to be spread out more or the underbase was going to show through it in the final print. The main benefit is to quickly create digital proofs that simulate halftone conversions, but the technique is also a great tool for learning how to automate some Photoshop processes and learn more about your separations at the same time. 

Read more from our August/September 2018 issue


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