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Posters or large banners can be designed by using a computer software program, but how do you print out a very large sample (a proof) when it's finished so that you can make sure nothing needs correcting? You use a plotter. A plotter is a large, wide machine similar to a printer, except it usually sits upright on two metal legs on the floor, not a desk. The plotter proof, a sample produced on this high-resolution ink jet printer, will serve to show you how the colors and designs you created on the computer will print in the final product.
Several professional fields use plotter proofs in their work. For example, before a book goes to press, it is customary for a final proof to be printed and reviewed. With typesetters now working from computer software programs instead of by hand, this final proof will likely be sent via computer to some type of printer. High-resolution ink jet plotter printers offer a good representation of what the final book product will look like if the book has lots of color photographs in addition to text. The reason for this is that the ink jet printer's inks are made up of a four-part color process that produces better color duplication. However, if the book does not have any color pictures, then a laser printer would be the best choice, because it has the capability of using "black ink only" (rather than a four-color process that creates a black color, which is found in the ink jet printers).
Architectural or Engineering Drawing Use
Architects and engineers use plotter proofs to provide their clients with a high-resolution visual example of the progress being made on drawings that have been commissioned, such as blueprints. These plotter proofs look different than the proofs produced for a book or other profession, because architectural drawings usually show their house or building designs sitting atop a barely noticeable grid pattern. Engineers who design machinery schematics with 3-D drawing programs also have their drawings printed on top of a faint grid. The grid aids in drawing by hand, if the proof needs corrections made to it before final printing.
Archaeological digs generally require some type of map of the area to be excavated. These maps--created from information retrieved from earlier maps, documents or the dig site--require a final proofing and possible correction prior to the actual dig. Plotter proofs can help with that. After the excavation has taken place, plotter proofs aid in the final review of all maps and pictures created about the dig for academic (or other) publishing efforts.
Plotter Proof Sizes and Options
Plotter proofs for any professional need are available in several different sizes and can range anywhere from 13 inches to 60 inches long with widths as much as 8 feet, meeting many different printing-size needs. In addition, and quite surprisingly, you can request that your plotter proofs be done two-sided, even if they are large in size. Another option you have is a choice between low- or high-resolution printings. This is simply the difference between a printout looking very bright and vivid with crisp, clean line detail or fainter with less emphasis on the detail of the lines or drawing on the page. The low-resolution plotter proofs are less expensive and are often chosen when color is not present in the project being printed.
Green Plotting Proofs
In keeping with the move toward environmental responsibility, Dominie Press, with offices in North America, Singapore and Australia, offers its plotter proof customers the chance to "go green." Dominie Press purports that its "light green" to "deep green" print jobs do not compromise quality and are environmentally friendly. In addition, this company uses environmentally safe inks and nontoxic toners in its effort to make proofs "green," even if it is a black-and-white proof.
Holly Huntington's writing has been published online by eHow.