An Overview of Desktop Publishing

Exactly what is Desktop Publishing and how does it relate to Graphic Design and to you as a creative mind?

Desktop Publishing can be explained as the use of a computer and software to create literature such as leaflets, magazines, brochures, and so on. Desktop Publishing software allows you to combine text and graphics in different ways to deliver the message you want to get across with your literature.

It differs from Graphic Design as Desktop Publishing covers the tools that that allow a designer to physically produce a promotional item, while design principles, the way to get your communication across, belong more to the field of Graphic Design. Graphic Design and Desktop Publishing are therefore very much interdependent.

Desktop Publishing Software

Desktop Publishers can use both PCs and Macs because many of the DTP applications are available for both platforms.

Generally a person doing Desktop Publishing will need three types of software:

  1. A layout application. QuarkXPress and InDesign are examples. Layout applications allow you to combine text and graphics to create the final layout of your printed piece.
  2. A graphics editing application for raster graphics. An example of this is Photoshop. You can use this type of software to create resolution dependent graphics and retouch photos, which you will then place into your layout application.
  3. A graphics editing application for vector graphics. Vector graphics are resolution independent. This makes them suitable for any type of artwork that has to be reproduced at different sizes. Logos are an example of what would be produced as a vector graphic, as they have to be reproduced in different sizes on business cards, letterhead, faxes, and so on.

These are the three main types of Desktop Publishing software. However there are a lot of other programs that aid the Desktop Publisher in creating printed literature.

Adobe Acrobat deserves a particular mention. Acrobat allows you to create and edit PDFs. A PDF document is totally cross platform and solves many of the problems related to making artwork ready for press. Factually, PDF stands for Portable Document File. A properly made PDF file substitutes the need of supplying fonts and graphics with the file of the layout application you are using. This allows DTPers to send their artwork to their printer through the internet without having to worry about the total size of all the graphics, fonts and layout application files – PDF files are much smaller. Another advantage is that if your printer doesn’t have your layout application, you can always send him a PDF and he will be able to print it.

How Do Word Processing and Desktop Publishing Relate?

Microsoft Word, Power Point, Excel and any of the applications in Microsoft Office were never intended to be used for Desktop Publishing. Each one of those programs have their own purpose, yet none of them are intended to create artwork that can be used for offset printing.

It is a good idea to use a word processing application to edit your text, whether it be Word, WordPerfect or any other word processing application. Once you are happy with your copy, then you can import it from the word processing application into the layout application. But, don’t fall for designing an entire publication in a program such as Microsoft Word if you intend to print it with a commercial print house. There are several technical reasons for this which I cannot explain in this one article. But I will write other articles about this in future.