What is the highest possible print resolution in book publishing?


I want to publish an art book with a major publisher. I need to finish my artwork and then approach publishers, so I cannot ask for printer specifications beforehand. My art is digital, and I want to create it with the option to print it at any common unknown printer.

I understand that for normal purposes it is enough to create images at a resolution of 300ppi. But suppose, for the sake of this question, I wanted to print my art at the highest possible resolution that common art book printing allows.

What is the highest possible output/printer resolution (dpi, lpi) in printers that print art books for major mainstream publishers?

And what is the best digital file resolution (ppi) for that output resolution? Identical (bitmap), double (300dpi => 150lpi), quarter (pixel to CMYK), ...

And finally, does the resolution differ for K as opposed to CMY? That is, does black have a higher possible resolution than color, because, I assume, that text is not printed at "300dpi" in books.

I am not talking about PoD, Small Press, or specialized high end single print art print photographic printing, but printers that print illustrated books of artistic photography or museum art such as you find in the coffee table book section of a bookstore.

12/22/2014 8:07:00 AM

Accepted Answer

The highest line screen I'm aware of is 300lpi. So, conversely the highest dpi would be 450dpi.

However, a 300lpi is very, very rare and most often used for very, very high end printing. You may find you have difficulty finding a printer who'll use a 300lpi screen for a book. More common line screens are 65, 85, 150 and 175.

And "No" on the black part. dpi/lpi are consistent across all plates. There's no special attention to the black plate. In most cases text, for books, is simply printed 100%k. Avoiding screens on text, especially small text, provides solid text.

12/22/2014 12:42:00 PM

Scott's answer is good.

Some pedantic nit-picking:

It really depends on the type of art. If we're talking line art, and your printer creates engraving plates, the resolution can be considered infinite. Granted, that's an atypical scenario.

If the art is digitally scanned, so that it is an image of some sort, than 300dpi is pretty much the standard, though as Scott states, you can go a bit higher.

It also depends on how the color separations will be printed. If it's a typical line screen, it will be lower than if they are using a method such as stochastic screens which can handle more dpi data.

As for black vs CMY, there is no difference in terms of the LPI (the line screen resolution). But note that the LPI is different than the DPI of the film/plate itself. Typically, film output for creating plates is 1200dpi. Some can go as high as 4800dpi. This won't directly affect your LPI, but will affect your solid line art (such as text). Text printed at 300dpi is fairly awful.

The likely bigger factor, however, is physical size. Do you know how big your art book will be? A 300dpi image set up for an 6x8 book will be insufficient for a huge 12x14 book. If your hardware can handle it, it probably makes sense err on the side of too-much resolution for now until the details of the final book are finalized.