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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

March 2015



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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

Pixel Picking

Back in 1985 (before most of my on-line friends were born) I got my first Macintosh. I was working in my own fledgling publishing business producing marketing materials, newsletters, and trade journals, so I went all out. I got the Mac, an ImageWriter, and a unique device called Thunderscan that replaced the printhead in the printer and turned it into a scanner. Everything was 72 dpi. It was the first and last time that I can remember WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) meant anything. And I produced some pretty amazing things with that desktop set up, though final copy typically went through a professional typesetter and keyliner.

For a couple of years I rented services on a LaserWriter because I couldn't afford the $7500 to buy one. But there was a problem. The LaserWriter was 300 dpi and all my graphics were 72 dpi. That's when I became a pixel picker. 72 dpi graphics look terrible on a 300 dpi printer, partly because the number of pixels is out of phase. My first discovery was that if I made really big graphics and scaled them in the publishing program to 25% of original size, then to 96% of that, I would come out with a 300 dpi graphic that looked good on the printer. This was so successful that v3.0 of Aldus PageMaker included "magic sizing" as a feature in the software. I managed to find one of my earliest illustrations created at 72dpi and printed at 300 dpi.

This trip down Memory Lane was inspired by the work I'm doing on my cover art. I want great clean vector graphics for my cover, so of course I'm using Macromedia FreeHand to painstakingly trace the lines in my bitmapped artwork. This is a real pain. My mouse simply doesn't have the control that I need for finer graphics work, and it was taking me hours to trace a single dragon wing. So I went out and bought a graphic tablet to use with the computer yesterday. I've wanted one for ever so long, and now here it is. The speed of completing the outlines was phenomenal, and when you've got something that is close, FreeHand has a lot of automation that will allow you to clean things up with less pixel picking than ever before.

Yes, I still zoom in to 800% magnification and move a bezier point a single pixel to the left to get the right outline or thickness, but ultimately, it will take me less time to finish this fine piece of artwork than it did to individually place the pixels of that Mac above.