After ten years without an issue, our print shop has lately been having some problems with the separations that we've been sending. The only things that have changed recently are that I've been upgraded from CS5 to CS6 and the print shop installed new RIP software for their offset press. In a nutshell, the problem is that when I export a plate for a single spot color (in this case PMS Black), my guy at the print shop says the file is being read as CMYK. I've double checked that all inks other than the spot color are unchecked in the Ink Manager and then printed to a PDF, but he insists that he's getting four plates and that if he just prints the black plate it prints as a screen.
As part of my investigation into this, I tried an experiment. I created a page in InDesign on which I placed 2 boxes, one filled with a PMS Blue and the other with a process green. I then printed this to a PDF as separations with only the PMS blue ink selected. As expected, this produced a single page PDF showing the box in black with a page title of "Pantone Blue 071".
However, when I look at this PDF in Acrobat, the Ink Manager shows only CMYK channels and no PMS Blue. If I then export separations from Acrobat, it generates a 4 page PDF with 3 blank pages for C, M, and Y. The square which was filled with PMS Blue in the original InDesign file appears on the fourth (K) page. Still, the box appears as solid black and doesn't look like it should print as a screen. However, I don't see anything in the Acrobat properties or print dialog boxes that mentions the PMS Blue at all.
Can someone give me some insight as to exactly what's happening here so I can advise our print shop on a possible solution? As I said, for the last ten years I've simply separated a spot ink by unchecking all other inks in the Ink Manager. I've never had an issue with the resulting PDF, so this is the first time I've had to look this deeply into the process. For what it's worth, the offset press they're using is somewhat old and the new RIP software they instaled is a KODAK product, though I can't remember the name right now. I could find out if it'd be useful. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance for any assistance!
However, when I look at this PDF in Acrobat, the Ink Manager shows only CMYK channels and no PMS Blue.
Is there a reason you can't Export a PDF/X-1a or X-4 from ID which will produce a PDF with a spot separation? Why can't your print shop take the CMYK + spot PDF and print the spot separation on their end?
I don't think there's any reason that I couldn't export to those PDF formats, but when I look at the "Adobe PDF Presets" I don't see the option for "separations" listed in the Output tab the way it's listed in the regular print settings. The Ink Manager also won't let me select which inks to print. On the other hand, if I choose to export the PDF through the regular print menu, I get the options for "Separations" and can selectively turn off the inks, but I don't see any way to specify a specific PDF format. It just lists "Adobe PDF" in the drop down, besides "PDF Creator", "Send to OneNote 2010", "Microsoft XPS Document Writer" and "Fax".
I couldn't tell you why my shop can't pull the separations themselves and I'm not entirely sure what's going on over there. However, this isn't a professional commercial print shop with highly experienced press operators. I work for a State Government agency and our print shop is staffed by whoever managed to pass a state competency exam. To give you some idea what that means, they placed me in an ITS title when they hired me because they didn't have a title for graphic design. In order to be eligible for promotion, I had to test within the ITS series. I have zero professional experience with ITS functions and have never written a single line of code, yet with a little studying I managed to score an 85 on the ITS Programming exam. Not an entrance exam either, but the third level up, which is a supervisory position. It's probable that the press operators and managers at our shop have little professional experience and serious gaps in their working knowledge. Of course, I don't know it all either and I suppose none of us do, so I won't be throwing any stones.
But I digress! In any case, I really appreciate your taking the time to respond. If you have anything else to add after reading this response, I'm all ears!
To be honest Pete, I have no idea, but it's not unusual for me. Even when I worked for private sector design firms or done freelance work on the side, I've always done my own seps. It's not something that was taught to me and I don't know if my method is conventional or not, but I've never had any issues with any files I've sent to any number of printers nationwide. I'd love to know how others prep their files for press and get a window into the process. Really, I started out designing graphics for TV and electronic media, so when I started getting print work I had to feel my way. It's entirely possible that I've picked up bad habits, but I'd never know. As I said, I've never had an issue and I've been doing print for over a decade now.
It's not something that was taught to me and I don't know if my method is conventional or not, but I've never had any issues with any files I've sent to any number of printers nationwide.
A workflow that requires separations as separate pages would be unconventional and ancient.
Ahhh, now we're geting somewhere. I just exported as a PDF/X-4 and now when I examine it in Acrobat I see the channel for the spot color. I'm going to send this down to them to see if this format works for them. I really appreciate you guys taking the time to help me update my brain. This has always been a gray area in my professional knowledge, so I appreciate any insight from guys like you who truly do print for a living. I'll let you know how it goes.
Well, I'd be the first to admit that I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to those printer-specific details. I understand what trapping is, but I generally use the default settings for things like trapping, dot angle, etc. Ideally, I just want to be responsible for the design and composition, trusting that the printer will let me know what specs he needs to get it on paper. I guess the upside is that by helping my shop sort out these problems I've been learning quite a bit about the press side of things.
Sent my test file. I hope to hear back shortly whether or not this fixes things. By the way, this forum rocks - as usual. I rarely leave here without an answer and I truly appreciate everyone's help. You guys are great.
The KODAK rip is Prinergy Evo, the imposition software is PREPS. That is my workflow. We export to PDF/X1 or X4 if there is transparency, rip, trap, impo and then just select the colors to plate based on the job needs. As Rob stated, pre-separated pdf's are a thing of the way back past. Composite pdf's are needed for trapping.
Eureka! I think I'm onto the problem, partially my fault and partially the shops fault.
In the past, I'd been asked to do my own seps before sending jobs to the shop, so I'd output each spot color to it's own PDF. This would put all the color info into the black channel of the PDF, leaving the C, M, & Y channels empty. At that point, they'd assign each PDF to a different print head and run them whole, like any other office document. Their press only has two, so they can't run 4-color process jobs and we're only talking about two PDFs. After reading your responses, this is clearly Neanderthal, but it's worked for as long as I've been here.
Since then, the shop has a new manager and it appears he's been trying to separate my separations. Since he kept telling me I was sending 4-color files I'm not sure why it didn't ocurr to me sooner. Since all PDFs have CMYK channels, he's been seeing that and thinking they are four color jobs, even though all the color info is on one plate. My solution so far is to upgrade my export format to PDF/X-4 and have him do his own separations. I sent a test file and he said he "was able to make it work", though he still complained about the CMYK channels. I've explained to him that all PDFs will have CMYK channels and that a two-color job will separate as four empty CMYK plates plus two plates for the spot colors.
Does this sound about right, or am I still missing some part of the picture? I feel like Buck Rogers waking up in the 23rd Century. Where the hell have I been all this time? Oh, yeah - civil service. Gotta get outta this place!
Glad to be right about something! Just to be sure I'm not making a jerk of myself, those CMYK channels will always be there, right? Is it possible to make a PDF that only shows channels for the spots? I think if I can nail down that last question, I can put this issue to bed and move on with my life!
They'll always be there if you export to PDF, and they won't be blank if you include automatic marks of any sort. This is NOT a big deal, though. The printer can simply not bother to output them. It should be pretty obvious when a plate is supposed to be blank and ignored.
YOU GUYS ARE THE BOMB!!!! I feel like I have what I need to work all this out with my shop and this forum continues to be one of my best resources. Thanks so much to all of you for your time and input. Greatly appreciated.
Have an awesome week, folks. I'll be back when I'm stumped again!
I would like to emphasize Mike's point about setting your screen angles for each ink. Black default is 45 degrees, and all spot colors also default to 45 degrees. So if you want to print black and one spot color, you need to change the screen angle for one of them.
Black default is 45 degrees, and all spot colors also default to 45 degrees.
If you Export you don't need to worry about angles, frequency, trapping, etc. All of those settings are press specific and should be set at output not export.
I know, but I just wanted to cover off Mike's case where he was advocating File > Print to PDF rather than Export.
Lukabrazzi has indicated that he's trapped in a shaky workflow and is not confident in his pressman.
Yes, my screen shot shows 75 deg for the ptone.
And yes, export is the proper way to go and the press people can just choose not to send the other plates.
However, there are instances I will still do the above. I have a little shop I send two- and three-color jobs to. Trust me, the family who runs it produce really nice film but simply will not accept an exported PDF. I have worked with them for nearly 25 years and I am not about to force them to change nor look for another printer for these jobs.
Should be in the PS file:
(PANTONE 2002 C) /spot Adobe_AGM_OnHost_Seps /plate_setup gx
175 75 getspotfunction setscreen
/Black /k Adobe_AGM_OnHost_Seps /plate_setup gx
175 45 getspotfunction setscreen
Maybe in the ps file but where is the angle saved in the distilled PDF pages? If I inspect the page items on the separation pages they are grayscale objects. I can print as composite grayscale or I can print the CMYK black plate—in both cases the default is 45.