Design Tips and Tricks

Design Tips and Tricks

Using Custom Flattener Presets

Your commercial printer’s workflow may require that transparency be flattened.  We discussed flattening transparency in this blog post.

The printer may have created a custom Transparency Flattener Preset which has the settings they require for their workflow. This post explains how to use such a preset.

The first step is to load the preset. In Adobe InDesign, choose Edit > Transparency Flattener Presets. In Adobe Illustrator, choose Edit > Transparency Flattener Presets. In the dialog that appears, there will usually be three standard presets called [Low Resolution], [Medium Resolution] and [High Resolution]. Click the Load button, navigate to the preset the printer provided, and select it. It will then appear in the dialog as shown below (here labeled “Platesetter”).

Using Custom 1

The printer will then request that you create an Adobe PDF file using the Adobe PDF preset they requested. We discussed PDF presets here.

For example, if they asked you to choose the PDF/X-1a PDF preset, you would choose it from the Adobe PDF Preset menu in the Export PDF dialog box. On the Advanced panel, you would select the Flattener Preset from the list. If you’ve installed the custom preset, it will appear there as shown below.

Using Custom 2


Understanding Font Types

When creating type in applications designed for print—for example, Adobe InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop—there are three types of fonts that you can use:

PostScript Type 1. This is the font format developed originally by Adobe as a proprietary format but now published. PostScript Type 1 fonts are stored as two files: The scalable outlines are stored in one, and fixed-size bitmaps for the screen and metric information in the other. This format is an older format used by graphics professionals and is available from all font developers. In the illustration below, a font family, Adobe Caslon, has four styles—regular, italic, semibold and semibold italic. The bitmaps are stored in the FFIL file; the outlines are labeled LWFN.

TrueType. This font format is most popular with general computer users and is also available from all font makers. The font outlines and metrics are stored in a single file.

OpenType. This is the newest font format, which overcomes some of the limitations of PostScript and TrueType fonts. Adobe and Microsoft developed this format originally, but OpenType fonts are now being released by virtually all font vendors.

The font family shown below are OpenType fonts (hence, the extension is .otf). In an OpenType font, one font file stores all the information for the font. One of the advantages of the OpenType format is that it can be used cross-platform. That is, the same file works on both Macintosh and Windows computers.

Font Types 2

When fonts are viewed in the Adobe Creative Suite applications designed for print the applications display a font menu which gives the option of previewing the appearance of the font. In Adobe InDesign, you can also see what the font type is. In the illustration below, “O” indicates an OpenType font; “TT” is a TrueType font; and “a” is a PostScript Type 1 font. The sample of the font is shown on the right.

Font Types 3

Missing Fonts in Adobe Applications

We began a discussion of fonts for printing with this blog posting, where we talked about the different kinds of fonts that can be used for printing.

Most experienced creative professionals would probably agree that working with fonts could be one of the most problematic issues in working with graphics applications. There are a couple reasons for this:

• It’s common to have multiple fonts with similar names, which can get mixed up or be open simultaneously. If you choose the wrong font, type can reflow, or an incorrect character can appear.

• Until the advent of OpenType fonts, the file formats and character sets of Macintosh and Windows fonts differed. This would cause problems if you wanted to share your file with someone working on the other platform.

When fonts are discovered to be missing when an Adobe InDesign or Adobe Illustrator is opening, you’ll get a dialog (this is the one from Adobe InDesign).

You are given the opportunity to open the correct font on your computer and the problem will be resolved. If you’re not sure what font is missing, both InDesign and Illustrator have Find Font dialog boxes that give you more information and let you choose a substitute font.

Missing fonts 2

Adobe InDesign gives you the best information. It tells you what type of font is missing. If you click the More Info button (bottom right in the dialog), you can get more information about the font. If you use the Find First, Change, Change All and Change/Find buttons you can either observe the missing font and/or replace it.

InDesign also highlight,ts missing fonts by showing them with a pink background to make it easier to see where they are in your text.

Printing at the Right Size from a PDF File

A common complaint when printing from Adobe Reader or Acrobat is that the page is not the right size. Often you find that when you print your pages to your desktop printer they have gotten smaller.

This is an easy problem to solve. You just need to look closely at the choices in the Print dialog of Adobe Reader or Acrobat.

The dialog boxes will look different depending on what version of Reader or Acrobat you’re using. Here is how the Print dialog (File > Print) looks in the current version of Reader 10.1.3 (as of July 2012). Notice that it defaults to Shrink to Page. You just need to switch to Actual Size.

The dialog looks different in Acrobat or Reader 9. Here you need to choose None (meaning “no scaling”) if you want to print at actual size. It defaults to Shrink to Printable Area.

Keep Your Type Sharp

The power of your printed piece is usually conveyed most strongly through your type. If your type is sharp, it best communicates whatever message you want to send to your audience. Here are a few tips to make sure that your type remains crisp and sharp.

First, make sure you’re using the Type tool in whatever program you’re working in. If you are sending your applications files to your printer, use the Package feature (InDesign) or Collect for Output feature (QuarkXPress) if it’s available, to send your original fonts.

Don’t inadvertently rasterize (turn into pixels) the type. This softens the type, and it loses its crispness. The stair-stepping on the left letter indicates it has been rasterized.

If want to place type you’ve created in Photoshop into a program like InDesign, save it as a Photoshop PDF file. Unlike Photoshop PSD format, this keeps the sharp edges.

If you’re creating a PDF file, be sure to embed your fonts. If you’re using an Adobe application, or using a Macintosh, this usually happens automatically. If you’re using an older version of Microsoft products, you may need to look for the option to embed fonts.

If the fonts are not embedded, they may be substituted. The original font, Stone Sans, is shown above, and the substituted font, Adobe Serif MM, is shown below.

Troubleshooting Adobe Applications

A common problem in Adobe applications used for production (InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop) is when the program starts to behave strangely (for example, when panels disappear or don’t work correctly). There is a simple troubleshooting method that often solves the problem. It either involves holding down computer keys as you’re launching the program or deleting a file or folder.

Warning: You must be quick holding down the keys, and you will lose some application customizations you have made.

Here are some instructions for using this technique with each of these applications:


Quit the application. Launch InDesign and IMMEDIATELY hold down Ctrl + Alt + Shift (Windows) or Command + Ctrl + Option + Shift (Macintosh). You’ll receive the prompt below. Choose Yes.

Alternatively, quit the program and search for and delete the “InDesign Defaults” and “InDesign Saved Data” files.


Quit the application. Launch Illustrator and IMMEDIATELY hold down Ctrl + Alt + Shift (Windows) or Command + Option + Shift (Macintosh). You’ll receive no prompt, and the program will open as usual.

Alternatively, quit the program and search for the “Adobe Illustrator [version] Settings” folder and delete it. Insert the version (for example, CS5) in the search string.


Quit the application. Launch Photoshop and IMMEDIATELY hold down Ctrl + Alt + Shift (Windows) or Command + Option + Shift (Macintosh). You’ll receive the prompt below. Choose Yes.

Alternatively, quit the program and search for and delete the “Adobe Photoshop [version] Settings folder. Insert the version (for example, CS5) in the search string.


Fixing Corrupt InDesign Files

Sometimes you find an InDesign file that seems to cause problems. It could crash unexpectedly. It may be acting bizarre. Or it may just have something like a “phantom font” or a spot color that appears even though it’s really not there.
A good troubleshooting technique is to export an IDML file (in InDesign CS4, CS5 or CS5.5) or an INX file (in InDesign CS2 or CS3). These are XML files that contain all the information in the file (but not the graphics). Saving them is sort of like giving your file a deep cleaning.
In InDesign CS4, 5 or 5.5, choose File > Export. In the Format menu select InDesign Markup (IDML). Save the file.

In InDesign CS2 or CS4, choose File > Export. In the Format menu select InDesign [Version] Interchange (INX). Save the file. (The version will be the number of the previous version.)
Then re-open the file in InDesign, and see if it fixes the problem.
These formats were designed to save backward to the previous version of InDesign. But sometimes they can also get rid of hidden corruption.

Remember that these files don’t contain the graphics so to reopen them you still have to have access to the linked graphics referenced in the file.

Turn on Overprint Preview Before Printing

Adobe printing applications (InDesign and Illustrator) let you turn on a feature called Overprint Preview that can solve a number of printing problems.

Overprinting is pretty simple. When you overlay two colors like the left example below, by default the cyan circle knocks out (covers up) the yellow rectangle. If you want the colors to mix, you could select the Overprint Fill attribute on the Attributes panel and apply it to the cyan object.

Overprint Preview Example

Normally, you couldn’t view this effect on screen but if you choose View > Overprint Preview in Adobe InDesign or Adobe Illustrator, you can see the color mixing.

Overprint Preview Solves Printing Problems

Turning on Overprint Preview also solves several printing problems:

• If you are mixing transparency effects with spot colors, it will correctly preview the effect for printing

• Choosing Overprint Preview correctly previews the effect of mixing transparency blending modes with spot-color objects

• In Illustrator, it’s possible to accidentally set white to overprint. (This could happen if you changed the color of a black overprinting object to white; the overprint attribute remains.) White in illustration and layout applications mean, “There is no ink here.” Turning on overprinting shows off this problem.

Turning on overprint all the time will may slow down your computer performance because it will turn on a high-resolution display. But it’s a good practice to use Overprint Preview as a diagnostic technique before sending a job for printing.

Learn more about correctly preparing your press ready files for printing.

Need more help with your print project? We have a ton of info on everything from design tips to marketing ideas that will help you get your project from your computer to paper. Check out PFL’s knowledge center!

Choose the Best PDF Preset for Printing

Most printers understand the value of having their customers send PDF file for printing. Correctly created, a PDF is a digital master that contains all the graphics, type, and fonts that make up a document for printing. The key is in the settings you choose when you make your PDF file.

If you’re using the print-oriented Adobe Creative Suite applications, things are made much easier because there is an Export Adobe PDF dialog box available in InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. It provides PDF presets for many print workflows, and you get the most control over the kind of PDF file the printer needs. (While it’s still possible to make a PDF by creating a PostScript file, and processing it though Acrobat Distiller, this older, more tedious process usually provides few advantages.)


In Adobe InDesign, choose File > Export > Adobe PDF or Adobe PDF (Print), depending on the version. In Adobe Illustrator, choose File > Save As > Adobe PDF (pdf). In Adobe Photoshop, choose File > Save As > Photoshop PDF.

The most important question is which of the PDF presets to choose. The best choice is typically the one that your print provider gives you. However, if they don’t specify their own choice, use one of the three PDF/X options: PDF/X-1a, PDF/X-3, or PDF/X-4. A PDF/X file must include certain elements essential for printing, and it may prohibit certain things.

If your printer has a PostScript RIP, the best choice is usually PDF/X-1a (shown above). When you choose this preset all colors (e.g., RGB images) are converted to CMYK using the output intent defined on the Output pane (the default is US Web Coated SWOP). Fonts are all embedded. This choice also flattens all transparency. Your printer can tell you if this workflow will work for their printing process.


Creating PostScript in Mac OX Using InDesign

As I’ve described in another blog Export Adobe PDF, if you’re using the print-oriented Adobe Creative Suite applications, you’ll probably use the Export Adobe PDF dialog box available in InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. However, people use many different workflows for print, and some of them require using older RIPs or using InDesign’s Print Booklet feature. These workflows can require creating PostScript files for various paper sizes. Using the old Adobe PDF printer when creating a PostScript file allowed you to create a page of any size. Subsequently, you could use the Adobe Distiller application, still available with all Acrobat Pro versions, to turn the PostScript file into a PDF file.

However, in newer versions of Adobe Acrobat 9 and Acrobat X when using Mac OS X, the Adobe PDF printer has been removed, along with its PostScript Printer Description (PPD) file. Adobe says that this is because newer versions of Mac OS X (10.6 and later) have security requirements that make installing this impossible.

Here is a workaround for installing the Acrobat 9 PPD file in InDesign so you can use it to create a PostScript file:

  • Quit InDesign.
  • Navigate to /Applications/Adobe InDesign [version number]/Presets/
  • Within the Presets folder, create a folder called PPDs (the folder name is case sensitive).
  • Control-click the following link and choose Save Link As to download the Acrobat 9 PPD:

Acrobat 9 PPD

  • Place a copy of the downloaded PPD into the folder you created
  • Restart Adobe InDesign
  • Choose the printer as “Postscript file” and then PPD as “Adobe PDF 9.0” and make the Postscript file.


Check Out Your Color Files with Separation Preview

In the early days of digital printing (what was then sometimes called “desktop publishing”) it was difficult for a print service provider to be...

Fixing Corrupt InDesign Files

Sometimes you find an InDesign file that seems to cause problems. It could crash unexpectedly. It may be acting bizarre. Or it may just...

Troubleshooting Adobe Applications

A common problem in Adobe applications used for production (InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop) is when the program starts to behave strangely (for example, when...

Ten Business Card Commandments

When it comes to business cards, it’s all about selecting options that set you apart from your competition. If you’re having trouble getting your...

Examine Your PDFs with Acrobat’s Output Preview

In a previous posting, we talked about the value of Adobe InDesign’s Separation Preview tool to view the color plates that would print out...