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Choosing a Transparency Blend Space

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Managing color and transparency requires different approaches in Adobe Illustrator and Adobe InDesign.

While InDesign allows you to use both RGB and CMYK images and artwork in the same document, Illustrator requires you to choose a single color model (CMYK or RGB) in its documents, and you’ll choose one from the very start, in the New Document dialog when setting up a new Illustrator file.

 

For implementing transparency in Illustrator, it doesn’t matter whether your document is set to CMYK or RGB; the most recent versions of Illustrator already support transparency, so the only issue you may encounter is a request from your printer to flatten transparency — and usually only if they’re using a very outdated version of Illustrator and/or need a different type of file (like an .EPS).

InDesign, on the other hand, will let you combine page objects and artwork with grayscale, CMYK, RGB, or LAB on the same page; it allows both CMYK and RGB profile assignments to handle the management and display of CMYK and RGB colors on the same page. Grayscale artwork and images default to using the CMYK profile (the black plate). Any new swatch you create within the document can have its own color mode, and any placed object with an embedded color profile will, by default, be managed by that color profile. A placed image or object without an embedded color profile will use the document’s assigned color profile; otherwise, the document color working space will be applied.

InDesign may seem more flexible color-wise, but this also means paying attention to more technicalities. Setting the Transparency Blend Space may be considered an obscure feature , and it’s definitely highly technical; in fact, most InDesign users don’t even know about it!

Maybe you’ve even gotten the following error message dialog: “The document’s Transparency Blend Space doesn’t match the destination color space specified in the Export Adobe PDF settings. To avoid color appearance changes in the PDF, click Cancel and change either the document’s transparency blend space, or the destination color space. Or click OK to continue with the current settings.”

If you have or even if you haven’t, you might want to get familiar with the Transparency Blend Space so you can troubleshoot.

For implementing transparency in Illustrator, it doesn’t matter whether your document is set to CMYK or RGB; the most recent versions of Illustrator already support transparency, so the only issue you may encounter is a request from your printer to flatten transparency — and usually only if they’re using a very outdated version of Illustrator and/or need a different type of file (like an .EPS).

InDesign, on the other hand, will let you combine page objects and artwork with grayscale, CMYK, RGB, or LAB on the same page; it allows both CMYK and RGB profile assignments to handle the management and display of CMYK and RGB colors on the same page. Grayscale artwork and images default to using the CMYK profile (the black plate). Any new swatch you create within the document can have its own color mode, and any placed object with an embedded color profile will, by default, be managed by that color profile. A placed image or object without an embedded color profile will use the document’s assigned color profile; otherwise, the document color working space will be applied.

InDesign may seem more flexible color-wise, but this also means paying attention to more technicalities. Setting the Transparency Blend Space may be considered an obscure feature , and it’s definitely highly technical; in fact, most InDesign users don’t even know about it!

Maybe you’ve even gotten the following error message dialog: “The document’s Transparency Blend Space doesn’t match the destination color space specified in the Export Adobe PDF settings. To avoid color appearance changes in the PDF, click Cancel and change either the document’s transparency blend space, or the destination color space. Or click OK to continue with the current settings.”

If you have or even if you haven’t, you might want to get familiar with the Transparency Blend Space so you can troubleshoot.

So, What Does the Transparency Blend Space Do?

You’re aware that you can combine RGB and CMYK images and artwork in the same document in InDesign. Great.

But as soon as you introduce ANY transparency into the document (for example, using an effect like a drop shadow, or placing an image with a transparent background), InDesign needs to convert everything in the document to EITHER RGB or CMYK. (This is why you may often see a number of colors or grayscale images suddenly change their appearance on the page when you switch the transparency blend space setting).

You can test this right now (assuming you have both RGB and CMYK artwork in your document) by selecting an image or an object on your page, and then clicking the drop shadow icon in the toolbar.

If you’re using both RGB and CMYK elements within your document, you’ll notice an immediate shift in the display on your screen when you click the toolbar icon. This effect is a result of the Transparency Blend Space kicking in.

The Transparency Blend Space only affects InDesign document spreads that include transparent objects (or effects requiring some level of transparency to display). If a spread contains any such object or effect, the entire spread will display in the chosen blend space, but won’t actually be converted.

Where Do I Find the Transparency Blend Space?

In Indesign, the transparency blend space setting lives at the bottom of the edit menu.

You’ll notice two options in the flyout submenu: Document RGB and Document CMYK. Most of the time, you’ll see this set to CMYK. That’s perfect IF you’re going to be printing your document on a printing press (such as sending it to a commercial printer).

There are two times, however, when you’ll want to check and perhaps edit transparency blend space and make sure it’s set to RGB.

  1. Are you working on an interactive document or something that will most often be read on a screen? Something like an annual report that will live on a site like Issuu.com or otherwise isn’t going to print, or maybe a product information sheet that will be downloadable from your website? In this case, set the transparency blend space to Document RGB.
  2. Will you be printing a file, but the final printing will take place on a desktop printer (inkjet, color laser, etc) versus through a commercial printer? If so, you’ll want to set your document to the Document RGB transparency blend space. This may not make sense because those machines use CMYK ink and toner cartridges, but unless it’s an incredibly high end desktop printer, it’s most likely designed to function like an RGB device.

What’s Next in InDesign

After setting your transparency blend space (which adjusts the display and your expectations), you’ll still want to avoid color issues to make sure your document prints correctly. CMYK and RGB are color models; each also requires a specific color space (Adobe RGB, sRGB, SWOP 2, etc) to be set for printing.

You’ll need to match the transparency blend space and document color spaces, and also match the destination color space to ensure accuracy in your final printed piece.

You can check and/or change the color settings of an InDesign document in a couple of ways:

Assign Profile

This will manage the color space of the document itself, but won’t change any existing color values in your InDesign document. You may notice a change in the appearance of the colors on your screen.

  • Go to Edit → Assign Profile

  • You can choose a preset under the “Settings” dropdown, and/or customize.

  • You can also change the working color space.

Convert to Profile

This both changes the color space of the document and tried to change any existing color values in your file to keep the current display of your colors. (There is still a chance this may change the appearance of colors on your screen.)

  • Go to Edit → Convert to Profile

  • Choose your destination color space and any relevant conversion options.

What’s Next in Illustrator

You won’t have the same transparency blend space settings as in InDesign, but still need to make sure that the document color space and export destination color spaces match up. There are a couple of places to check.

Color Settings

  • Go to Edit → Color Setting

  • Under the “Settings” dropdown, you can select a preset to start with (and customize further).

  • You can set the working spaces, as well (image: workingspaces.png)

Assign Profile

  • Go to Edit → Assign Profile

Here, you can choose Working CMYK or another profile.

Printing for Less (PFL) has been an industry leader and provider of high-quality, unique printing services since 1996. Though we are a large company with customers across the globe, we treat our customers with the attention and care you’d expect from a luxury printing boutique. From business cards and banners to letterhead, flyers, and beyond — PFL knows printing like no other. Let’s talk about your project! Our print consultants are available 7am-7pm MT Monday through Friday at (800) 930-7978.

The Latest InDesign Postscript Advice for Mac OS X

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If you’re creating an Adobe Acrobat PDF to send to your printer from Adobe InDesign, it’s now best to avoid Acrobat Distiller. These days, there is no reason a printer should be asking you do use it. And frankly, if they’re making such a request, you may want to find an updated printer.

When you’re ready to send your InDesign document to print, there are three main ways you can deliver your file: delivering the file in its native InDesign format, delivering the file as a print-ready PDF, or delivering a Postscript file.

Regardless of the file you choose to deliver, always make sure that you’ve double checked everything in your document before saving the final version. Once the document goes to the printer, it’ll be much more difficult (and expensive) to make changes.

If you decide to send the InDesign file, be careful. It’s impossible to know what version of InDesign your printer is running (even though InDesign boasts backward compatibility, a perfect translation between versions isn’t guaranteed). Will your provider set up the registration marks correctly? Do they have the same versions of the fonts you’ve used? At the very least, your text may change if your file is opened in a version other than the version in which you created your document.

Instead of creating a Postscript file and then distilling it, you can simply export a PDF from InDesign (specifically “Export” — don’t use the PDF printer driver). Most printers these days actually prefer not to receive Postscript files, and request PDFs instead.

Many printers won’t accept Postscript files at all because there’s too much room for error. It’s too easy for clients to make errors when creating Postscript files. Plus, changes are more difficult to make once the document is written as Postscript, so PDF seems to be the way to go.

Creating Postscript in Mac OS X Using InDesign

There used to be a different process to use Adobe InDesign for creating a Postscript file (.ps file) on a Mac, but with recent updates in technology and software technology, it’s a much simpler process.  Also, PDF files are generally preferred these days. But if you have to create a Postscript file, the Print Dialog box will be your best friend.

InDesign Print Dialog Settings

It’s always better to set printer driver settings from within the Print Dialog box, as opposed to modifying the driver (oftentimes, the same settings are duplicated in both places, and it’s best to avoid possible override confusion and conflicts. InDesign is able to accurately print to other printers, but prefers Postscript 3 and the PDF print engine. They’re Adobe’s printing technologies, after all, so it makes sense!

When making your printer selection from the Print Dialog box, InDesign will look at the PPD for any printer you choose, which it will display in the PPD popup menu.  If you want to create/save a Postscript file instead of printing directly to a physical printer, you’ll choose “Postscript file” from the Printer popup menu. You’ll then need to choose a PPD file that describes your output device (assuming you know it), or choose “Device Independent.”

What Does “Device-Independent PostScript” Mean?

  • You’ll get a “100% DSC-compliant” file, which means that your file will be able to support any required functions (like trapping or imposition) post-processing
  • You’ll have a file that will print to just about any output device, because all dependencies on specific devices or drivers have been stripped. (That said, if you need to take advantage of any special printer features like different media sizes or screen frequencies, you won’t be able to choose Device Independent Postscript.)
  • The file will need color separations created in post-processing software (or at the RIP, with in-RIP separations), because the color output includes spot colors AND composite CMYK.
  • Any trapping you want will have to happen at the RIP or through post-processing software. InDesign won’t allow trapping in a Device-Independent Postscript file.
  • InDesign can only print a Device-Independent Postscript to a file. This file format can’t be used if you’re going directly to another device or application.
  • If trapping and separations will happen later in the production process (like during imposition, trapping, or at the RIP), Device-independent PostScript file is a solid choice.

Steps to Create Your Postscript File on a Mac with InDesign

  • If you don’t already have your file open in Adobe InDesign, now’s the time to open it.
  • If you’re ready to create your Postscript file, open the Print Dialog box (Cmd + P) or File → Print

  • In the “Printer” dropdown, choose “Postscript file”.

  • A “PPD” dropdown will appear right under the “Printer” dropdown. Select “Device Independent” unless you have another PPD you’ve been told to use.

  • Navigate to the “”Graphics” tab in the left hand menu and choose either Level 2 or Level 3 (if you don’t need to use level 2, just keep it set to Level 3).

  • Click the “Save” button at the bottom right of the Print Dialog box, and you’ll then be prompted to choose where to save your Postscript file. Be sure to change the file extension to “.ps” even though it defaults to “.indd”.  

  • If you forget to change the file extension, don’t worry; InDesign will prompt you with the following error popup:

 

Using a PPD from Your Printer

If you‘re being required to create a Postscript printer file,  your chosen printer may have actually given you a specific PPD to use for file setup. If you’ve already installed a specific PPD on your Mac and don’t see it as an option in the PPD popup menu, you may need to first decompress it (using an application such as Stuffit Expander).

Okay, So What About Encapsulated Postscript?

Encapsulated Postscript (EPS) is still widely used, but it’s quite an outdated file format. EPS is no longer evolving, and because Adobe Creative Cloud and Creative Suite software has become the industry standard, it makes more sense to use Adobe’s native formats instead. Adobe has made it seamless and simple to place files from one of its applications into the next and the Adobe file size tends to be both smaller and editable.

Continuing to use EPS as an intermediate file format just doesn’t make practical sense. It may be easier to use EPS files with non-Adobe applications, but most up-to-date printers have Adobe on hand.

That said, if you have folders and folders of old EPS files on hand, you don’t have to trash them. Adobe’s Dov Isaacs promised (via the PrintPlanet website) that Adobe will support EPS as a legacy graphics format, even though using EPS format isn’t recommended.

Printing for Less (PFL) has been an industry leader and provider of high-quality, unique printing services since 1996. Though we are a large company with customers across the globe, we treat our customers with the attention and care you’d expect from a luxury printing boutique. From business cards and banners to letterhead, flyers, and beyond — PFL knows printing like no other. Let’s talk about your project! Our print consultants are available 7am-7pm MT Monday through Friday at (800) 930-7978.

Using Custom Flattener Presets

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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

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Understanding Font Types

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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:

InDesign:

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.

Illustrator:

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.

Photoshop:

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

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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

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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!

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