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Illustrator CS3 - Print - Output - Wont allow me to select Separations

Aug 26, 2012 6:20 AM

Tags: #illustrator #cs3 #color #print #separations #silkscreen

Hi there

 

I'm silkscreening for the first time.  The prepping process should be really simple right?  Separate colour layers, using Illustrator, then print each layer onto transparency sheets.  Well I'm about to loose my mind.

 

The image is CMYK, its a single spot colour (I think) which is red and the outlines are black.  Printer is a Canon ix6500.

 

I can't seem to separate the colours in Illustrator CS3?!  Why?!  When selecting Print > Output > Mode > it won't allow me to select Colour Separations.

 

I've tried to overcome this by selecting Printer > Adobe Postscript and PPD > Canon ix6500 series.  This allows me to select Colour Separations, but then it won't print, it only saves it as a PDF, and prints it as is.

 

PLEASE HELP!!!  Any advice would be appreciated!!  I'm going out of my mind here!!

 
Replies
  • Currently Being Moderated
    Aug 28, 2012 12:11 AM   in reply to natsraine

    [ moved to Illustrator forum ]

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Aug 28, 2012 7:07 AM   in reply to natsraine

    the options available for the Mode menu in the Output screen of the Print dialog depends on the capabilities of your printer driver. If your printer can't make separations the Mode menu will be grayed out and show Composite printing.

    Using print to PDF should work.

    First, to preview in Illustrator how your artwork will separate, choose Window > Separation Preview. Click the box in front of Overprint Preview, and click in the eye column to turn off/on the preview of any of the CMYK channels (your document must be CMYK).

    When printing to PDF, from Print > Output > Mode, select Separations Host Based, and in the Document Ink Options table click on the printer column to turn off/on the printing of any of the CMYK channels. Then print to save the PDF file. If you open that PDF file in Illustrator you will have all objects with grayscale color which will be the result of your printed transparency. If you printed all channels, the PDF document will be with four pages with the separations for each CMYK channel

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Aug 28, 2012 7:53 AM   in reply to Dave Merchant

    I'm silkscreening for the first time. The prepping process should be really simple right?

    It is. But you're misunderstanding the whole principle of color separation.

     

    Separate colour layers...

    No. Forget Layers. Layers has nothing to do with color separations. Think of Layers as nothing but an organizational tool for the stack of objects in your file. Color separation is the generation of a separate print for each ink that will be printed.

     

    ...then print each layer onto transparency sheets.

    No. The image for each ink is printed on its own sheet.

     

    The image is CMYK...

    For clarity, don't call it an image. That makes it difficult to figure out what you're talking about. This is Illustrator; an object-based layout program. Your design can contain any number and combination of raster images, vector paths, and text objects. The word "image" in the context of a program like Illustrator always suggests a raster image object. If you're referring to a raster image object contained in the file, call it that: a raster image. If you're talking about your whole artwork, call it the design or the document. Don't call it "the image".

     

    ...its a single spot colour (I think)

    That's self-contradictory. Nothing can be CMYK and at the same time a single spot color.

     

    Here's a simple key to understanding color separation: Don't think in terms of "colors." Think entirely in terms of inks. In your immediate context, how many inks are going to be used to print with individual silkscreens?

     

    By definition, a CMYK color is built up by overlaying a combination of up to four specific inks: Process Cyan, Process Magenta, Process Yellow, and Process Black. (Note the word "process" here, refering to "four-color process.")

     

    By definition, a spot color is a Swatch (in Illustrator) which represents a single ink.

     

    So "spot color" and "process color" are antithetical. "CMYK" is germane to process color, not spot color. Although process color can be done by silkscreen printing, spot color is more common, and I'm assuming that's what you are targeting.

     

    So it's simple, when you think like this:

     

    Ask yourself: How many inks are going to be allowed to print this design? (Two: a black ink and a red ink.)

    Therefore, create that many (2) Swatches in Illustrator. Make sure they are defined as Spot Color Swatches. Use only those two Swatches in your entire design.

     

    You can name those two Spot Color Swatches anyway you want. It doesn't matter. There is a common misconception that Spot Color Swatches must be named like (or even selected from) Swatches in the Pantone Swatch Library. Not so. Regardless of how you name them, each color separation is going to print to its own separation "plate" and the actual image on that "plate" (or film, or vellum) is going to be black. This is true in both process and spot color. In spot color work, each Spot Color Swatch--again, regardless of how you name it-- is going to be printed to its own "plate" and the image on that plate will be black. The name of the Spot Color Swatches, therefore, is nothing more than a convention by which to convey to the printing house what inks you intend to be used for each separation "plate."  Obvously, it makes the most sense to name your Spot Color Swatches according to the names of the actual silkscreen inks that will be used (ex: "Nazdar Fire Red"), if you know them. If not, simply naming them "SpotRed" and "SpotBlack" will be fine.

     

    Which brings me to a point of common confusion with which I think you are struggling: Exactly parallel to the matter of merely naming your Spot Color Swatches is the matter of merely coloring your Spot Color Swatches for on-screen display. There is a common misconception that Spot Color Swatches must be selected from some pre-existing Swatch Library (ex: Panone). Again, not so. So long as you define a Swatch as Spot Color, you can use any "color mixer" to specify any color you want for how it is displayed on-screen. You can color your Spot Color Swatch using either the RGB color sliders, or the CMYK sliders. Again, it does not matter one whit. Using the CMYK sliders to color your Spot Color Swatches does not make it "a CMYK color" (i.e.; a process color). So long as the Swatch is designated a Spot Color Swatch it's still defining a spot color (a single ink) and will print to only one separation "plate". Obviously, it makes the most sense to try to color your Spot Color Swatches to approximate how the actual corresponding ink will look in print. But the truth is, it doesn't matter. You could, for example, use CMYK sliders to color your Spot Color Swatch named "Nazdar Fire Red" so that it looks lime green on screen. If you did, the separation plate would still be labeled "Nazdar Fire Red", and it would still have a black image on it, and the color in the final printed result would simply be a matter of what physical ink the printer loaded his silkscreen with.

     

    Again, to summarize that: Using CMYK sliders to color a Spot Color Swatch does not make it "a CMYK color" in terms of color separation. That is, it does not make it a process color. As long as the Swatch is defined as a Spot Color Swatch, it will print to only one color separation plate.

     

    Finally, Layers: Don't worry at all about which Swatch is used on which Layer. You can have a thousand red fills and/or strokes, and a thousand black fills and/or strokes applied to a kazillion different objects, and those objects can be arranged in any stacking order on any number of Layers, or all on one Layer. It doesn't matter. If you've only defined two Spot Color Swatches, and you've only used those two Swatches in your design, then when you print the design to color separations, you will still only get two separations: one for SpotRed, one for SpotBlack (or whatever you named your Spot Color Swatches).

     

    Printer is a Canon ix6500.

    The question regarding your desktop printer is always: Is it a PostScript printer? That is, does it contain a (firmware) PostScript interpreter, or does its driver contain a (software) PostScript interpreter? If not, it can't print color separations. If this is your problem, there is a workaround, and a particularly popular one in screen printing, sign making, and other industries: You can "print" to a PDF "virtual printer" (i.e.; software which pretends to be a printer). If you have Acrobat (that's Acrobat, not Reader) installed, and if you are on Windows, you probably have a virtual printer named Adobe PDF installed. If so, you can select that as your "printer" and "print" color separations to it. If you've built your design correctly the resulting PDF will have one page for each ink. (The image on each page will be black.) You can then print those PDF pages to your non-PostScript printer. (This workflow is quite common in small screen printing shops.)

     

    JET

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Aug 28, 2012 9:16 AM   in reply to JETalmage

    As always, nice post Jet!

    Just wanted to say though, since it is a two colors job to print pdf separations to a composite inkjet printer apparently at home, it really doesn't matter if spot colors are made or two of the CMYK channels are used, for example black and magenta. The only benefit from adding spot colors in this case will be the representation on screen. At the end the PDF separations and the transparency sheets will be black or grayscale if tins of the two colors are used.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Aug 28, 2012 5:49 PM   in reply to emil emil

    Yes, yes. And there is a world of other caveats and clever workarounds one could write a veritable book on in an online forum post.

     

    But there is no reason to further confuse a complete beginner needing to understand basic color separation with such esoterica as the old workaround of substituting spot inks on press for process seps. You'd further need to emphasize being careful to use 100% tints of the CMYK components, else get into the whole issue of appropriate halftoning for silkscreen, when in all liklihood the screen shop in question may not even be capable of holding halftone or tint dots.

     

    My point was simply to explain the bare basics of color separation and the difference between process color and spot color in the context of an assumed simple line art design.

     

    JET

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Aug 29, 2012 8:43 AM   in reply to natsraine

    natsraine wrote:

     

    ... I've tried to overcome this by selecting Printer > Adobe Postscript and PPD > Canon ix6500 series.  This allows me to select Colour Separations, but then it won't print, it only saves it as a PDF, and prints it as is...

    natsraine, this is all you have said about your problem, and it is not clear at all what you are saying.

    Printing "as is" implies that you printed what you see in the PDF file. Can you please, post a screenshot of what your PDF file looks like or at least describe better?

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Aug 29, 2012 9:40 AM   in reply to natsraine

    Nats,

    Someone else will have to give you specific steps for printing to a color-separated PDF on MacOS. I stopped using MacOS years ago.

     

    JET

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Aug 29, 2012 1:04 PM   in reply to natsraine

    natsraine wrote:

     

    ... As the PDF printer (which I downloaded) did not want to print, it only saved it as a PPD.  Hope this makes sense??...

    Yes, this is what it's supposed to do - save a PDF file, if this is what you mean by PPD. Then you have to open this file in a program and print it by choosing File > Print. You can open it with Illustrator - one pdf page at a time, examine the separation, and print it. If the lack of PostScript for your printer doesn't print the page as you see it on screen, you can always export it as a raster file from Illustrator and print as such.

     

    I also don't use Macs anymore although there are a few old macs hanging in my place but with very old software - anyway for now you seem to be stuck with something that is not Mac specific.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Dec 3, 2012 12:23 PM   in reply to natsraine

    This one popped up last week — took me 1/2 a day to figure out what was going on (or at least enough to work around), and dealing with a lot of frustration trying to clarify my issue to technical support.

     

    It's a potentially huge problem for shops that are producing a lot of Print Production PDFs that need to be reviewed by different individuals on different platforms and proofs being generated on different printers.

     

    I suspect that it has to do with LAB, seeing as convert to destination fixes the issue.

     

    Adobe — please address this, it scares the @#(*$&@# out of me!

     
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