Translating Images and Graphics

Translating Images and Graphics | One Hour Translation

When you receive materials for a new translation project and it’s filled with graphics containing text, you might have a problem.

Ah, the many frustrations and humiliations of the freelance language translation professional. In every industry, there is a pyramid, with the powerful on top and the weak on the bottom – and translators tend to be nearer to the base than the pinnacle. This becomes painfully obvious whenever I take delivery of a new project from a company, because the absolute mess that I tend to receive certainly does not make you think that you are valued as a worker or as a professional.

One of the biggest pet peeves I have is when a significant portion of a project comes to me in the form of graphics. This happens frequently in heavily designed projects like brochures or even websites; in order to preserve a look and feel, a lot of text is contained within graphical elements. Which is great for the design aspects, but terrible for the translation aspects. There’s a lot to worry about, and a few strategies for dealing with text trapped in graphics.

Always Check

First and foremost, always, always, always check for text-heavy graphics when you receive project materials. Clients rarely think to point this out, not understanding the difficulties it causes, and the last thing you need is to suddenly realise you’ve only done 50% of the job when you thought you were nearly finished.

If there are graphics to contend with, contact your client and see if they can send you source files. Clients don’t like to do this, but source files may be the only way you can extract the text from the graphical elements and add them to your text-based translation tools. If you can get the source files, there exist a few software tools that can automatically extract text layers from Photoshop files and similar graphics formats – in fact, if you’re using Trados products you might already have such a tool installed.

Working without Source

If you can’t get the source files, you may have to suck it up and transcribe the text from the graphics. If so, reflect on the quote you gave: If you didn’t realise so much of the material was going to come to you in a graphical format, you might be better served by going back to your client immediately and asking them to let you submit a revised quote.

Don’t be afraid to do this. Again, many clients don’t always understand the trouble that graphics cause, and they may very well understand your point of view. If they don’t, you still have to consider if your quote covers all the extra work of pulling that text from flat graphics files – manually.

The good news is, as you develop a relationship with a client, you can educate them about how to submit projects to you or any professional translator in order to speed up the work and improve the quality of the final deliverable. Step one? Stop sending you graphics files!