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I want to publish an art book with a major publisher. I need to finish my artwork and then approach publishers, so I cannot ask for printer specifications beforehand. My art is digital, and I want to create it with the option to print it at any common unknown printer.

I understand that for normal purposes it is enough to create images at a resolution of 300ppi. But suppose, for the sake of this question, I wanted to print my art at the highest possible resolution that common art book printing allows.

What is the highest possible output/printer resolution (dpi, lpi) in printers that print art books for major mainstream publishers?

And what is the best digital file resolution (ppi) for that output resolution? Identical (bitmap), double (300dpi => 150lpi), quarter (pixel to CMYK), ...

And finally, does the resolution differ for K as opposed to CMY? That is, does black have a higher possible resolution than color, because, I assume, that text is not printed at "300dpi" in books.

I am not talking about PoD, Small Press, or specialized high end single print art print photographic printing, but printers that print illustrated books of artistic photography or museum art such as you find in the coffee table book section of a bookstore.

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The highest line screen I'm aware of is 300lpi. So, conversely the highest dpi would be 450dpi.

However, a 300lpi is very, very rare and most often used for very, very high end printing. You may find you have difficulty finding a printer who'll use a 300lpi screen for a book. More common line screens are 65, 85, 150 and 175.

And "No" on the black part. dpi/lpi are consistent across all plates. There's no special attention to the black plate. In most cases text, for books, is simply printed 100%k. Avoiding screens on text, especially small text, provides solid text.

  • Thanks. So if CMYK, then dpi = 1.5 * lpi? And why the common recommendation to scan linework at 1200dpi? – user18356 Dec 22 '14 at 12:38
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    Yes. DPI = 1.5 x LPI. You typically scan at a higher ppi becuase you are capturing data when scanning. The more data you capture the better. And note a scanner actually uses ppi not dpi (I know manufacturers mix terms). 1200ppi does not equal 1200dpi. – Scott Dec 22 '14 at 12:39
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    This is incorrect--in a way. The DPI of a typical piece of film/plate is 1200dpi. The line screen will obviously be much lower, but if there is line art and text, you will want that at 1200 dpi. – DA01 Dec 22 '14 at 17:36
  • True and image setters use 2400dpi. But the press generally doesn't go that high. – Scott Dec 22 '14 at 18:11
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Scott's answer is good.

Some pedantic nit-picking:

It really depends on the type of art. If we're talking line art, and your printer creates engraving plates, the resolution can be considered infinite. Granted, that's an atypical scenario.

If the art is digitally scanned, so that it is an image of some sort, than 300dpi is pretty much the standard, though as Scott states, you can go a bit higher.

It also depends on how the color separations will be printed. If it's a typical line screen, it will be lower than if they are using a method such as stochastic screens which can handle more dpi data.

As for black vs CMY, there is no difference in terms of the LPI (the line screen resolution). But note that the LPI is different than the DPI of the film/plate itself. Typically, film output for creating plates is 1200dpi. Some can go as high as 4800dpi. This won't directly affect your LPI, but will affect your solid line art (such as text). Text printed at 300dpi is fairly awful.

The likely bigger factor, however, is physical size. Do you know how big your art book will be? A 300dpi image set up for an 6x8 book will be insufficient for a huge 12x14 book. If your hardware can handle it, it probably makes sense err on the side of too-much resolution for now until the details of the final book are finalized.

  • Wouldn't the limit of engraved plates be impacted by the limit of the resolution of the process used to create them? Eg some kind of CNC mill/engraver? – Lyndon White May 13 '17 at 8:57
  • @LyndonWhite yes, engraving would be different. I was referring to offset 4-color. – DA01 May 13 '17 at 16:43
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Some things said in the comments are wrong and misleading.

Reason why the printer ask for lineart at 1200dpi (AND bitmap mode) is because it has almost the same quality as a vector once printed. It needs to be in bitmap 1bit. If your printer asks for it, he's totally right.

If you manage the black text the same way as the CMY, you'll end up with "hairy letters" if it was scanned text. That's why it needs to be at very high resolution and in bitmap (tif, eps); your print-ready file should also keep that resolution.

Maybe the lpi is consistent across all plates but there is truly the "wrong" and the "best" way to handle your text scans before getting the files to the printer. It makes a difference as much as using vector text versus rasterized text or CMYK vs RGB! These are details hard to know for someone who has never work in prepress and cheap printers won't argue with you if you want to have your texts at 300dpi and looking fuzzy!

Black is the color that can hide the most bad surprises in printing, it must be verified in a different way than CMY. There's the rich vs pure black issue, there's the text quality, the overprint itself, black that is not truly 100%, black 100% on a composite and not enriched, etc.

Be careful with the 300lpi "press"; a lot of them are in fact digital press that imitate the offset effect. They cannot be used for big projects. Real offset wide format presses are worth millions of dollars; for example, a "small" Mitsubishi 6 colors 200lpi 60" can cost up to 2 millions dollars and requires a special installation (building) because of the vibration,its size and weight. Not many printers can afford this. A digital press is worth about $40,000-$300,000. When printers advertise for 300lpi, go visit the print shop. Most of the time they do not print in-house or they use a digital press. Keywords that give hints about digital: eco-friendly (unless it's soy inks)

What's wrong with digital printing? Inconsistency. Too many factors can affect the quality (eg. needs to be warmed up or the colors will be too red, has a very poor alignment in duplex, doesn't keep its color from start to end of the run, etc.) I really don't suggest using digital printing for any prestigious project unless it's for something small like wedding invitations.

In any ways, if a printer says he can do 300lpi (realistically 175-200lpi), then you need to provide 600dpi files to make sure you got the top quality, and 1200dpi for scanned texts (in bitmap 1bit). But if you can scan arts or images or texts at 2400dpi, do it; on drum scan if possible and if you can scan the negative, that's even better. Don't bother scanning at home if you want top quality; ask your printer.

  • Virtually all printing presses require special installation due to the factors you mention and others. – Stan Dec 19 '16 at 0:06
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Resolution for printing pictures on a printing press, industry standard is usually 300 dpi at same size. Higher quality can be achieved at 400 dpi but remember its a photo-mechanical process, the image is broken up in various dot sizes for theimage transfer from plate to paper. Resolution for text is 1200 dpi, hence is sharpness. Graphic reproducer with 55 years experience in printing in Australia

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