Typesetting is great fun. The differences between ‘typesetting’ in a word-processor and typesetting in a dedicated program are relatively small in appearance but massive in effect. Word processors are not designed to produce print products beyond daily work doo-dads and letters, for that you need a desktop publishing program. A proper typesetting program gives you full control over the minute aspects of line spacing, kerning, margins and bleed to name some of the major things: Things that are the difference between a genuinely professional appearance and ‘damn, that’s a good effort for a hobbyist’.
Back in the day, I was mildly familiar with InDesign which remains the leading desktop publishing program. Unfortunately, Adobe has gone down the subscription route for their software and I’ve never liked or understood the software rental market. I looked around and played with the idea of using LaTeX, a typesetting system using a markup language but quickly concluded I’d be better with something more user-friendly. Enter Scribus, another free and open-source program.
There was a bit of a learning curve but it ended up being so quick that the ‘test’ file I’d started to teach myself the program became the final file within a couple of hours. Once I’d got text nailed it was time to head back to Fiverr and find some illustrators.
I ended up hiring two different guys. I was doing the technical drawings but I had some oldish sketches that needed refreshing and I needed a realistic drawing of a simple archaeological feature – so that readers knew what sort of thing the technical drawings referred to. I might not have been that impressed with the proofreaders I found but I was bowled over by the guys I found to do illustrations.
Person one was a vector tracer. He was given ten images to ‘refresh’, essentially he traced over them in a vector drawing program. There are two different ways pictures are normally drawn, vector and raster. A raster is some variant on a bitmap, the information for the picture tells the computer how to plot out a bunch of coloured dots which look like a picture to a human eye. Depending on how they’re compressed and stored they can lose quality over time and cannot be enlarged beyond a certain limit without going all pixely. Vectors meanwhile are a formula which tells a computer how to redraw an image from scratch each time and have no limitations on enlargement. The guy was excellent.
Person two was even better, a watercolour artist. I did have to do a bit of fiddling with the images afterwards but they completely blew me away and were far better than I could have hoped for.
The problem was I just couldn’t find a font I liked...