Saturday, June 20, 2009

From Galley to Page

Previous articles have described how type was set into columns utilizing several systems which evolved over time. But, whether they type was produced on plain paper or through a photographic process, the end result was the same. The long columns of type, called galleys, had to be cut apart and precisely positioned into the columns, headlines, and captions which made up each finished page of a document. The resulting camera-ready copy was then photographed by the printer utilizing a horizontal flat bed camera to create a full-size negative which, in turn was used to “burn” the plate used to print the finished product. The creation of the finished page was done by graphic artists on a drawing board who utilized a variety of tools and products to create the finished “pasted-up” document. Following are some of the tools that were used:

Each column was created by cutting the galleys to the specific length of each column and accurately aligning them using a t-square and triangle. The type was held in place utilizing a removable adhesive which allowed the layout artist to position and reposition the type as necessary. Rubber cement was the adhesive most widely used although many artists preferred to use a molten wax adhesive. In both cases, the adhesive was affixed to the back of the galley of type and placed into position.

Because the making of plates for the offset printing process required a separate negative for each color, screen, and photograph to be printed, each object had to be pasted up on its own sheet in order to be phtographed. In order to be sure these elements were properly positioned, they were pasted onto a clear acetate sheet, each layer on top of the previous. In order to create areas of color or tint, a product called Rubylith (and its cousin Amberlith) were used. This product was a clear sheet of acetate on which was a thin red film that could be cut into the needed shape and then peeled away from the acetate base as needed. For instance, if the artist wanted a 20% tint of black behind a box of type, the type and border for the box were pasted onto the base sheet, the Rubylith was placed over the area and the red film was cut along the lines of the box and all of it peeled off except for the area covering the box. Interestingly, this can be seen today as a function in Photoshop. When selecting a portion of a picture and then pressing the “Quick Mask” button, the selected area is highlighted in a transparent red which can then be further edited as necessary—Adobe’s tip-of-the-hat to the Ulano Company’s product.

Rules and boxes were created using a variety of products including some called Formaline. Available in a wide variety of sizes and designs, think of it as the rules that are available in InDesign, but in the form of an adhesive tape on a roll. Each line was put into place on the layout and held in place by the adhesive material on the back of the product. Boxes were made by placing four lengths of the rule perpendicular to each other (forming the four sides) and then cutting a 45 degree angle at each of the corners where two pieces intersected. If done accurately, this created a perfect corner. Thin lines, one point or less, were hand drawn using special ruling pens, the best of which were manufactured by Koh-I-Nor. The very fine tip created thin solid black lines and it required some skill to create lines of consistent weight.

Photographs were reproduced as halftones utilizing a screen and special photographic film in the print shop’s darkroom. The positioning of each photo required a “window”, usually cut from Rubylith or a similar product called Zipatone, which was the size and shape of the printed photo. Photos had to be cropped and scaled in proportion to the size of the window and each photo had to have crop marks and percentage of reduction clearly marked on it. The Proportion Scale was the tool used to quickly make the necessary calculation. Shaped like a wheel and not much more than a basic slide rule with two scales, the artist aligned the original size of the photo with its reproduction size and the resulting percentage appeared in a cutout area of the scale. For instance, if the length of the original picture was 8” and it was going to be reproduced at 3”, the proportion scale would indicate that the picture was to be photographed at 37.5% of its original size. Crop marks were affixed to the border of the original indicating the area of the photo to be reproduced and while maintain the proportions of the window that was made for it. It was a tedious process, but there was no option for either the graphic artists or the printers.

Other tools we used included the Haberule (used to measure leading), the X-Acto Knife (for cutting), Bestine (for thinning rubber cement), Zipatone (for placing screens, patterns, rules, and dingbats on camera-ready art), Presstype (for manually setting headlines), and process printing color charts (for specifying which percentages of the four printing inks were needed to attain a color).

It’s fun to look back at the way we created pages not too long ago and how easily each of these functions are now available at the click of a mouse in products like InDesign. Next week, I will describe the leap from manual pasteup to the use of page layout software. I hope you are enjoying this series of postings and I welcome your comments, questions, and feedback at

1 comment:

  1. Paste-up! I haven't thought about these tools in years. Thanks!

    Lynda Roy