The truth about rubylith

Before desktop publishing, the best way to layout a complicated image for printing was to cut a rubylith.

Rubylith is a translucent sheet of thin plastic. A craftsperson would carefully cut the ruby, knowing that the parts it covered would reflect the light when the plate was created. It was difficult and painstaking work.

That’s all obsolete now. An hour of cutting a ruby is replaced by two clicks in Illustrator.

Here’s the truth: images cut by hand with a rubylith weren’t better. They were simply the best available option.

As soon as technology allowed people to skip this step, many of them did. The others fought hard, pointing out that their craft was hard-won and that the old way was the better way.

Defending your particular rubylith skill is not really a winning strategy. Because everyone else doesn’t care.

Defending better, on the other hand, is truly important.


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