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Prepare a publication for commercial printing

Halftones, and bitmap converted to halftone

Fig. 1  Halftones are based on an optical illusion.
Callout 1 When viewed closely, you can see that the halftone is a regular grid of tiny dots whose size varies depending on the darkness or lightness of the area of the image they represent.
Callout 2 When viewed at normal distance, the closely spaced, tiny dots appear to be a continous tone.
Fig. 2  When a bitmap is converted to a halftone
Callout 1 The line screen grid is superimposed on the bitmap grid and the gray level is determined for each square in the line screen grid.
Callout 2 Based on the gray level, a halftone dot is created in the center of each square of the line screen grid. Higher gray levels create larger dots. lower gray levels create smaller dots.

The recommended resolution for a bitmap graphic depends on the line screen frequency that your printer will use to digitally create the halftones.

Halftones are used to print continuous tone images, such as photographs and gradients, on paper. Halftones are made up of small dots that vary in size according to whether the area of the image is darker or lighter. Darker areas use larger dots, lighter areas use smaller dots.

The line screen frequency is the number of halftone dots in a linear inch or centimeter. This is expressed as lpi (lines per inch) or lpc (lines per centimeter). The higher the line screen frequency, the more detail the printed picture will have. Typically, the line screens used for printing will fall into the following categories:

  • Newspapers and newsletters at 90 to 100 lpi
  • Brochures and magazines at 133 to 175 lpi
  • Fine art books and magazines at 150-200 lpi

When your printer creates a digital halftone from a digital image, the resolution of the image must be high enough to make the halftone at the specified line screen frequency. The most widely-accepted rule of thumb is that the resolution of the bitmap must be twice the line screen frequency. This means that if your printer will use a line screen frequency of 110 lpi, the resolution of the bitmap must be at least 220 ppi.

If the resolution of the bitmap is lower than recommended——especially if it is significantly lower——the image may look pixelated when printed.

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