Note to PDF Publishers: Black Text with White Background, Or You Don't Get My Money

E.T.Smith

A Most Sincere Poseur
Validated User
Looking more into Savage Worlds lately, I've been digging into the array of professional PDF publications where most of the support for SW seems to come from. And I've noticed a troubling trend. Specifically, for lots of these publishers, simple, easily readable black text on a white background just isn't fancy enough, every page needs to be slathered in muddy graphical excess. Two horrendous examples:

Beasts & Barbarians Heroic Tale #1: The Cliffs Queen’s Court
War of the Dead

Look, I know that modern design software gives you a tempting smorgasbord of visual stylings to play with at your whim. And its probably easy to assume that the busier something looks, the more professional it must be. And I know that the modern preference for glossy-pages in traditional bookbinding favors colorful backgrounds. But for pity's sake, these are PDF's. Y'know, the thing I'm buying on the cheap because its specifically not a glossy-paged traditional book. Either I'm going to print them out on my crappy home printer, in which case all that color results in sodden pages and expensive ink cartridges drained at a prodigious rate, or I'm gonna read it on-screen, where squinting at the somewhat-darker jagged-edged brown artfully fonted text on top of the patterned vellum tan background is a real pain. Maybe I'll spring for a printshop to make me a bound hardcopy, but unless I want it to come out grey-on-grey, I'll have to spring for full color printing, upon which I might as well just by an actual book.

So here's my single-consumer ultimatum: If its not black-on-white text, I'm not buying it. Just because you can smear more color on the page than the average freebie Labyrinth Lord supplement doesn't automatically make it any better (quite the opposite). Offer product that's designed to present usable information in an easily digested format, with due awareness of how its consumed and by what medium, rather than than a sophomore graphic design project, and I'll merrily be your consumer.

(Even the main books are marred by this. A growing annoyance of mine with the Explorers Edition of SW is this little little dark circle in the upper left of the background of every single frickn' page, just dark enough to muddy the word over it and trip me up when reading. And in the Fantasy Companion, the page numbers are just a few steps darker than the gray of the corners they're printed on. EDIT: My mistake both these design gaffs are in the Fantasy Companion).
 
Last edited:

Weebles

Active member
Validated User
Re: Note to PDF Publishers: Black Text with White Background, Or You Don't Get My Mon

Honestly a bit surprised- I was expecting geocities level random colour explosions or yellow on teal or something like that. Black text on pale gray or black text on pale tanned 'weathered pages' look is... very readable to me, but to each their own.
 

Anahit

Tía Madre Varonil
Validated User
Re: Note to PDF Publishers: Black Text with White Background, Or You Don't Get My Mon

Honestly a bit surprised- I was expecting geocities level random colour explosions or yellow on teal or something like that. Black text on pale gray or black text on pale tanned 'weathered pages' look is... very readable to me, but to each their own.
For printable PDFs, Black on White is absolutely 100% necessary. Do you know how much ink you waste printing the entire page surface, and how illegible it is? Greyscale printed is NOT sexy.
 

johnnype

Emaciated do gooder
Validated User
Re: Note to PDF Publishers: Black Text with White Background, Or You Don't Get My Mon

I'm not sure I can agree with you on this. I don't buy pdf's to print them. In fact I buy them specifically NOT to print them. The occasional page perhaps but the whole idea behind a pdf, (for me at least) is to read them on the screen and the prettier the better. I can't imagine any of the 40K RPG's, WFRP, Cthulhutech, Eclipse Phase, Dresden Files, L5R in black and white. That would make me very unhappy.
 

Fabius Maximus

Registered User
Validated User
Re: Note to PDF Publishers: Black Text with White Background, Or You Don't Get My Mon

On my nook color some of hte catalyst games pdf's are almost unreadable, because they make use of black text on a dark gray page.
 

Peter Svensson

Reads Too Many Comics
Validated User
Re: Note to PDF Publishers: Black Text with White Background, Or You Don't Get My Mon

I think the solution is to offer a B&W clean printable variant PDF as well as a full color one. WW has done that on occasion with some of their products.
 

dmjalund

Polychromatic Pikathulhu
Validated User
Re: Note to PDF Publishers: Black Text with White Background, Or You Don't Get My Mon

I think the solution is to offer a B&W clean printable variant PDF as well as a full color one. WW has done that on occasion with some of their products.
Strands of Fate also does this.
 

Chris Tavares

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Re: Note to PDF Publishers: Black Text with White Background, Or You Don't Get My Mon

Weird. I"m looking at the PDF for SWEX right now, and I don't see a dark circle in the upper left hand corner at all, on either my PC or my iPad.

Also, at least for the recent Pinnacle PDFs they've been using the Layers feature in Acrobat, so you can just turn the page backgrounds off, and you end up with - black text on a white background. Well, except for the color art, which you can also turn off if you want to (another layer).
 

Mithras

5859B7 Age 48 7 Terms
Validated User
Re: Note to PDF Publishers: Black Text with White Background, Or You Don't Get My Mon

Here here.

When I finish laying out (actually start laying out) my Vietnam RPG, its going to be black on white. Single column. (Although with a faint watermark on each page... )

Looking more into Savage Worlds lately, I've been digging into the array of professional PDF publications where most of the support for SW seems to come from. And I've noticed a troubling trend. Specifically, for lots of these publishers, simple, easily readable black text on a white background just isn't fancy enough, every page needs to be slathered in muddy graphical excess. Two horrendous examples:

Beasts & Barbarians Heroic Tale #1: The Cliffs Queen’s Court
War of the Dead

Look, I know that modern design software gives you a tempting smorgasbord of visual stylings to play with at your whim. And its probably easy to assume that the busier something looks, the more professional it must be. And I know that the modern preference for glossy-pages in traditional bookbinding favors colorful backgrounds. But for pity's sake, these are PDF's. Y'know, the thing I'm buying on the cheap because its specifically not a glossy-paged traditional book. Either I'm going to print them out on my crappy home printer, in which case all that color results in sodden pages and expensive ink cartridges drained at a prodigious rate, or I'm gonna read it on-screen, where squinting at the somewhat-darker jagged-edged brown artfully fonted text on top of the patterned vellum tan background is a real pain. Maybe I'll spring for a printshop to make me a bound hardcopy, but unless I want it to come out grey-on-grey, I'll have to spring for full color printing, upon which I might as well just by an actual book.

So here's my single-consumer ultimatum: If its not black-on-white text, I'm not buying it. Just because you can smear more color on the page than the average freebie Labyrinth Lord supplement doesn't automatically make it any better (quite the opposite). Offer product that's designed to present usable information in an easily digested format, with due awareness of how its consumed and by what medium, rather than than a sophomore graphic design project, and I'll merrily be your consumer.

(Even the main books are marred by this. A growing annoyance of mine with the Explorers Edition of SW is this little little dark circle in the upper left of the background of every single frickn' page, just dark enough to muddy the word over it and trip me up when reading. And in the Fantasy Companion, the page numbers are just a few steps darker than the gray of the corners they're printed on.)
 

Mithras

5859B7 Age 48 7 Terms
Validated User
Re: Note to PDF Publishers: Black Text with White Background, Or You Don't Get My Mon

For me reading on screen is not a pleasant experience. I print out, or keep it on disc for reference, often printing off a chapter or page here and there to read later in the week.

PDFs are tools to me.

I'm not sure I can agree with you on this. I don't buy pdf's to print them. In fact I buy them specifically NOT to print them. The occasional page perhaps but the whole idea behind a pdf, (for me at least) is to read them on the screen and the prettier the better. I can't imagine any of the 40K RPG's, WFRP, Cthulhutech, Eclipse Phase, Dresden Files, L5R in black and white. That would make me very unhappy.
 
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