Adobe InDesign Question
March 14, 2008 6:38 AM   Subscribe

I am new to Adobe InDesign and need to understand the embedding/linking of images and graphics.

Why does the software not treat an imported picture the same way as, say, PowerPoint? How does linking work? What is the best way to import graphics to ensure they stay put and optimized for offset printing. If I touch up a photo in Photoshop should I import a .psd file to InDesign or .jpg?
posted by punkfloyd to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Why does the software not treat an imported picture the same way as, say, PowerPoint?

Because PowerPoint is a piece of shit and this is the right way to do it. Linking a graphic means that you can edit the file and it will remian properly updated in your document. It also means that it doesn't increase the size of your document, because even something as small as a two-sig newsletter would be enormous if you had print-quality images in it.

Linking is just a pointer. When you go to export or print, it takes the file at the specified location and includes it in the ouput. InDesign will tell you if your link is broken or needs to be updated.

If I touch up a photo in Photoshop should I import a .psd file to InDesign or .jpg?

There's really no reason to take the extra step to make it a jpg. I like to make my final files unlayered TIFFs, but PSD works just as well.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:48 AM on March 14, 2008

Because in a professional publication environment, linked files are assets that are used by many people in a team; the master copy of the asset is important and you don't "clone" things into your page layout document and forget about the original. Need to change your company logo in several thousand documents? Just change it once.

When you want to send a document out for output, you preflight it and package it.

I do photo work for print in a lossless format like TIFF (make sure you are working in CMYK, not RGB) or, if it's a duotone, EPS.

(If you're looking for good InDesign info, InDesign Secrets is a great blog, and The InDesigner is an incredible video podcast for tutorials. It never fails to blow my mind.)
posted by bcwinters at 6:50 AM on March 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

OP's answer is spot on.

Linking works in a similar way with web pages. You don't include all of the code for the graphic elements in the page code, just a link to the file. If you update the graphic then you only have to work with it's file rather than poking around in the layout document.
posted by i_cola at 6:55 AM on March 14, 2008

Optimus Chyme is right. The philosophy behind XML and image linking is that you want InDesign to act like a layout container for arbitrary bits of content, not as a souped-up content editor. This way you can reuse things, keep organized, and reduce the number of repetitive tasks you do.
posted by cowbellemoo at 7:33 AM on March 14, 2008

Again, agreeing with Optimus Chyme. The simplest way to put this is that your printer will hate you if you embed your images.
posted by nathan_teske at 7:46 AM on March 14, 2008

Why does the file link instead of embed like PowerPoint? Optimus Chyme is right, but I'll throw in one more thing: size. When you're working with print-quality images, often these files are massive. I have in the past had to deal with outputting a linked file that was over 150MB. (That takes a while to output seps on when you're sending to an old imagesetter.) If you have 25MB worth of artwork in a file, do you want it embedded or linked?

As far as the file formats themselves, I prefer to keep my files in PSD format. This way they're easily changeable, and when I change the PSD, the link will typically auto-update.

Here's a very nice thing about the program: You can export your file to PDF with a click. This way you keep your native file and don't have to package everything for your print shop. Simply preflight the document, and then export to PDF. (Ask your print shop what version they prefer - I'm partial to PDF-X1A since it will work on about anything.) PDF is the currency of the printing industry these days.

In the meantime, you would do well to brush up on what you actually need for press output. Images need to be CMYK when done. They also need to be high-res; 300 dpi is a good rule of thumb for most press work. What this means is that typical screen resolution images won't look good on a press. ("But it looked fine on the screen" is something I hear at work all of the time.) There's a lot more to cover, but these are biggies. Work closely with your print shop and they'll help you through things.
posted by azpenguin at 7:55 AM on March 14, 2008

Go with PSD instead of JPG. A JPG will reduce the quality by compressing the image. This effect will get worse each time you save the file, unless you keep a copy of the original in PSD format.

A PSD retains all the image information.
posted by dosterm at 8:23 AM on March 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't import anything. "Place" linked CMYK PSD files in your documents, and keep them organized in a project folder however you see fit - by model, by shoot date, by page section, whatever works. If your final printer is up to speed you will only need to do a "Package" operation to export your page documents and images to an easily archived folder, usually something I burn to a dual layer DVD if possible. Depending on final specs you can "print" your pages directly to postscript files and distill to PDF, or print directly to PDF, single page or by the "book". This is by far my favorite part of working with InDesign, I can't imagine the old days of shipping an entire directory structure with the application documents and graphic file links supposedly retaining correct relationships... yeah, right. Bake it all into a PDF and wrap it up!
posted by prostyle at 8:52 AM on March 14, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you all. Exactly what I needed to know.
posted by punkfloyd at 9:20 AM on March 14, 2008

Response by poster: Oh wait. One more thing. If I save an InDesign file as a print-ready PDF, aren't all the images ultimately consolidated into a single file? Or do printers prefer to work with .indd file an folder(s) of linked content?
posted by punkfloyd at 9:32 AM on March 14, 2008

If I save an InDesign file as a print-ready PDF, aren't all the images ultimately consolidated into a single file?

Yes, but in my experience a page with a few hundred MB of linked PSD's distills down to a 4-6MB PDF @ 300DPI CMYK.

Or do printers prefer to work with .indd file an folder(s) of linked content?

Depends on the printer, in my experience over the last few years the prepress departments love the ability to simply give me some FTP info and then find a few dozen PDFs in a working temp directory within a few hours. Even if they want the documents and linked content, you are looking at burned DVD(s), snail mail, etc unless you both have blazing fast internet connections. So there are more benefits than simply removing linked relationships, but again it depends on the printer and the level of advancement of their prepress department. There are also various specs within the PDF itself, but the printer will make all this rather clear and it is not very difficult to wrap your head around it, fill out a distiller preset and let it rip on a batch operation.
posted by prostyle at 9:46 AM on March 14, 2008

In most cases, PDF is preferred. They can work with the native InDesign file and all the linked graphics and fonts, but this present its own set of problems at times. A PDF file is ready for them to preflight, output, and go. I get PDFs from clients all the time, and of tales me very little time to process their ads. On the rare occasion I do get a native file, it takes me a good bit of time to make sure fonts are activated correctly, images are the right mode and size, etc. PDF files are soooooo much easier to deal with. Like I said, they've become the currency of the industry.

Most important, work with your print shop. That one, I can't emphasize enough.
posted by azpenguin at 9:49 AM on March 14, 2008

Response by poster: Outstanding reponses. Thank you all.
posted by punkfloyd at 10:15 AM on March 14, 2008

What azpenguin said. Listen to your print shop. If you don't know what they prefer as a file, ask (though in almost every case now, it's a PDF). I know that when I worked as a film guy at a service bureau, we liked the designers who asked questions, even if they were elementary or n00bish.

We hated the ones who showed up with a file that had missing art, fonts, or RGB jpgs embedded -- and then said we buggered their job up. They got the 15% "a**hole" markup.

And, be glad you don't have to manually trap your work, as we used to have to do. Now get off my damn lawn. :)
posted by liquado at 11:39 PM on March 14, 2008

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