Monday, 18 February 2008

The book-making process - some things I've learnt

Having spent quite a lot of the weekend putting together a book from my 36 bicycles pictures I've learnt quite a few practical things that may be of use to others (especially the SoFoBoMoers). This is all to do with the mechanics of the process rather than the design aspects:

First, my mental arithmetic is as bad as ever. I'm working an 11"x8.5" landscape format with 1" border and 0.5" gutter. Image width is thus 11-2.5 = 8.5". I resized all the pictures to 9.5" wide. Next time I'll take more care and write it down.

On that border size, for this format that is probably the smallest border (i.e. largest picture) that I could go with. Each image actually ends up looking quite large on the page.

The paper mock-up I mentioned in my last post was invaluable, especially when I missed a shot from the sequence in the software. Having my desired sequence handy was useful. Next time I will also try and print the filenames for indexing.

Indexing the computer files into a dedicated folder makes life simpler. I had the order I wanted on paper but had to search around through the files to find the right one as I added them to the book design. This took far too much time and could have been quicker. I will probably run 3 versions of each for the book, with separate folders. 1 version for the online/dedicated software (such as Blurb & Bobbooks use), 1 for a low-res online pdf version (with sRGB colour space) and 1 for the high-res print pdf (with AdobeRGB). That gives me distribution possibilities and is minimal effort to generate.

As for pdf generation, I'm finding it useful to run up copies at key stages: initial layout, image sequence, final completion. This helps me with the editing and quality checking as I go along and reduces mistakes in the final output.

Composing text in a separate file then adding to the software will make it easier. Word processors are far faster at raw text generation, spell-checking and the like. That will also give me independent versions of all the book components. I find Scribus a bit clunky for this bit and it then had me confusing layout and content generation. For me, the best workflow is to create all the content then put it together & lay it all out. Content and design are 2 separate issues.

As to Scribus, I may have to write a separate post but I like it quite lot. I find it quite intuitive to work with, it doesn't get in the way of simple tasks and the interface is quite simple. All of that hides a huge amount of power but for a photobook I don't need all the power, just the ability to get at key features quickly. I find it's enabling me to do that. All that from free software. Microsoft could learn a lot about interface from these guys - I'm not constantly being hassled by the software to do things the way it thinks best, it just does what I want with minimal fuss.


  1. This is just the sort of combination I was thinking of using (

    Question: how do you force Scribus to embed the correct profiles? Does it just preserve the ones embedded in each image file? I found that when I printed a Scribus-generated PDF on my inkjet, the image colors are off compared to printing straight from an image editor (e.g. LightZone). I suppose this depends partly on what application you use to print a PDF?

    Thanks for any suggestions on this.

  2. There are 2 things you need to do In Scribus to get colour management going. First in the document properties (File-Document properties) switch on the colour management (last group in list).
    Second, when exporting to pdf, set the option to printer then tell it which colour spaces to use. there are 2 sets, one for solid colours (top) and one for images (bottom).
    I haven't run a print yet but it seems to do the job.

    How it looks in print will depend on whether you are using application or printer controlled management. I always control from the application which makes pdf printing a bit tricky for me.


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