Graphic Arts, Digital Imaging and Technology Education

By Reed, Mike | T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), December 1993 | Go to article overview

Graphic Arts, Digital Imaging and Technology Education


Reed, Mike, T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


In a process where the graphic artist and the printer were once considered almost adversaries, digital electronics has forced the two into an important alliance. The combination of personal computers and digital imagery coupled with the development of direct digital-imaging presses has brought the designer and the printer into a unique partnership, responsible for communicating and problem solving, which will follow printing into the 21st century.

Traditional prepress techniques required a designer to prepare artwork that was "surrendered" to a printer, who then converted it to film by utilizing expensive and often complex equipment. However, the personal computer allows an artist to prepare digital images that are, in theory, transferable directly to the printing press. Artists of the 21st century will most likely be doing just that.

Learn by Doing

Most of us have computers in our classroom and many of those machines have color capabilities. For those of us who do, the ability to emulate the digital-imaging process is at hand. It requires a PC (IBM-compatible, Macintosh or Amiga) with at least 5MB of RAM and 20MB of available (not total) hard drive storage, a color monitor, plus access to a flatbed color scanner or CD-ROM drive (or Photo CD reader).

Through the use of a single software program such as the powerful Photoshop (Mac) or Photostyler (DOS)--which were designed primarily for image modification--a student can manipulate and combine photographs as well as add color borders and text in various typestyles. While there are more effective programs for text, Photoshop or Photostyler can be used to create impressive visual images ranging from postcards to package designs. And the two programs offer instruction, by their very use, on the theories of color separation without requiring students to engage in the intricacies of learning additional software. Photoshop and Photostyler are bit-mapped programs. This means they actually embed type into an image, thus making the text difficult to manipulate within the whole image. However with careful planning, educators can come up with projects that utilize both photo| graphs and text to teach the concepts of trapping, dot size, frequency and gain, as well as the color characteristics of hue, tone and saturation.

Since images created in bit-mapped programs can become quite large, caution should be taken to work in fairly low resolutions. Scanning, storing and manipulating at 100 to 150 dpi, while not commercially ideal, will allow students to gain experience in the use of popular programs such as Photoshop without the burden of excessively expensive computers or storage devices.

Should, however, the instructor or students like to go further and incorporate additional contemporary concepts, drawing or painting programs such as CorelDRAW (DOS) or Freehand (Mac) combined with page composition programs such as PageMaker (DOS and Mac) or Quark Express (Mac and DOS) will serve nicely to present industry standards.

Additionally, a thorough understanding of file formats (HCT, TIFF, EPS, GIF, TGA, etc.) and their differences is absolutely necessary when moving files between various programs. The graduation announcement in the accompanying photograph illustrates the successful result of a project in which the student utilized Photoshop to adjust and combine the two photographs along with Freehand to accomplish the typesetting. Assembled as a 4.25"x 6" full-color image with a resolution of 100 dpi, the file's size did not exceed 1MB and was easily produced on a Mac II.

Alternatives

It is reasonable to expect that while many educators have color-capable computers, they may not have color scanners or appropriate software. If not, there are alternatives.

Before discussing alternatives, be aware that the first choice is to acquire a scanner. This offers teachers and students maximum .. flexibility in terms of what can be brought in digitally to the computer--photos, line art, physical objects and textures, etc. …

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