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I'm trying to create a mailer for a group with about a thousand members, and the client wants to have each image personalized with the member's name such as you may have seen on those "my name in the picture" calendars. Here's an example for clarification:
The graphic design is no problem, but I'm certainly not getting paid enough to manually arrange every name on the list. I'm sure these companies have some way of automating the process. They must create the "font" then be able to auto-fill the right name/messages, but I can't figure out that workflow in my head. If the names were written in simpler fonts this would be a cake walk, but some of these fonts look more complicated than I know how to easily automate (in the example above, the blocks-of-snow and hay bale fonts, and I think there are environmental lighting and shadow effects on the lilypad and apple fonts).
Creating each of these images alone is well within my ability, but I've never really worked with font creation and, as I said, the automation in this project is throwing me for a loop. Can anyone help me figure this process out? Can I do it with just Photoshop and InDesign?
What you referring to is otherwise known as Variable Data Publishing in the industry.
In its simplest form, it is a mail merge or data merge feature such as you have with Word or InDesign.
For more complexity, there are excellent commercial solutions that work as plug-ins to InDesign (optionally in conjunction with Photoshop) that do this automation. The output is typically a PDF/VT file. One of the best examples of such a commercial solution is from XMPie.
Note that in the general case, you really don't want to rasterize text, but rather maintain the text using the fonts themselves.
Hey! That XMPie stuff looks exactly like what I need, but unless I'm looking at the site wrong the simplest of their VDP software (uDirect Classic) costs $4,500? Is that right? That's insane.
Edit: Ah, cool. I found a link to Adobe's VDP Resource Center. I haven't checked it all out yet, but it looks like there's a ton of options.
Awesome! Thanks for the help. Evidently just knowing what to call the process was exactly what I needed!
Glad I could help, but FWIW, the high performance, feature-rich professional products are not inexpensive, but when you consider the time and effort it would take to “roll your own” software to do this and/or the value of your time to create a successful VDP campaign including graphically-rich content that can print at full speed on high speed digital presses, this software is well worth it.
When you compare the products available, do not do so simply on price alone. The features actually implemented vary all over the lot.