11 Replies Latest reply on Jun 15, 2012 9:09 AM by tonye63539433

    "Break out" black and pms for prepress?

    Chemol Level 1

      Help please?


      I am working in Illustrator CS4, and finished a 2-sided mailer/postcard for a client in cmyk. After emailing the final PDF to the client, the client responded back to me with their print provider's request for— "native file, with black and PMS broken out". 


      First—the file was set up as CMYK, so I am asuming it was partly a lazy reponse/request? (not realizing it was set up as CMYK).


      Second—I typically I send files to commercial print providers as a PDF (Press Quality or PDF/X:1a)—is this not sufficient for them—and why?


      I appreciate any insight on this for my own edification, and I'd like to know if they asked for this beacuse they don't have certain "break out" capabilities on their end? ...OR if it's because PDF's do not provide them with editability (which I thought they did)?


      Lastly, I would specifically like to know what steps I should take to prepare CMYK colors "broken out".  (Step by step please?)


      Thank you VERY much in advance.


        • 1. Re: "Break out" black and pms for prepress?
          JETalmage Level 6

          How many inks do you (the designer) intend for the piece to print?


          How many inks does the piece separate to when you print it as separations?


          It sounds like the design suggests to the printing house that it should have been set up as a 2 color job: black and a single spot color (a "pms" color, meaning a Pantone spot ink), but it is needlessly set up as four-color process.


          Of course this is just a guess, based on your description. No one can advise you for sure without knowing how you set up the file. Just saying that you saved it as a press-ready PDF in no way ensures that it is set up to color-separate correctly.



          • 2. Re: "Break out" black and pms for prepress?
            Chemol Level 1

            Hi JET, thank you for your response.


            # of inks:

            The postcard contains:

            • a colour photograph,
            • 1 green hue for background colour
            • 1 background black (C50, M40, Y40, K100)
            • black text ink (K100)
            • (white text knocked out as well)



            I have never printed separations before, and would like to know proper procedure for doing this.


            Any thoughts?


            • 3. Re: "Break out" black and pms for prepress?
              JETalmage Level 6

              If you have a PostScript (or emulated PostScript) desktop laser printer: Print. In the Print dialog, go to the Output tab and select Separations (Host based) instead of composite.


              If you don't have a printer, "print" to the Adobe PDF virtual printer to create a color-separated PDF.


              If you have Acrobat Pro, you can use the prepress print preview feature to view separations of the composite PDF you created.


              ALWAYS state what version of Illustrator you are using when posting questions here. If you are using CS4 or later, see online help about separation preview.


              What OS are you on?


              Do you understand the difference between spot color and process printing? Did you use any Pantone Swatches in the design? Is the green hue you mentioned defined as a Pantone swatch?


              I have never printed separations before, and would like to know proper procedure for doing this.

              You are asking someone to write you a veritable book in an online forum. You really need to educate yourself about basic color separation. There are many resouces in your product documentation, on Adobe's site, in bookstores....


              If you post the file somewhere, maybe someone will be interested in downloading it and evaluating it to give you specific advice on your specific file.


              You mentioned a 2-sided postcard. If one side is just black text and you have that text defined as a multi-ink black, that may be part of the printer's complaint. Again, just guessing, not knowing much at all about your file.


              If your file is set up for process color and does not contain any spot colors, it's conceivable that your customer is taking the file to a local (cheap) printing house with very basic capability who is not able to print CMYK process. (Many small mom & pop print shops still exist running just 1- or 2-color offset duplicators. Customers--and corporate purchasing agents--don't always know the difference.)



              • 4. Re: "Break out" black and pms for prepress?
                Wade_Zimmerman Level 6

                It does sound like you sued a pms spot color for the green and I think the printer might think that printing the black text is an issue for instance is it printing over the image or surprinting or ptinting over the green tint then you might want to make it a rich black as you are making the resto fthe black that prints.


                I presonally think making the text 100K instead of a rich black is not a good way to go.


                These are obviously the issues the printer has encountered and they do not want to take the responsibility of printing the job wrong so they are asking you.


                You should quickly educate yourself bgut you might aslo want to communicate directly with the printer and explain what you ar erying to accomplish.

                • 5. Re: "Break out" black and pms for prepress?
                  Chemol Level 1



                  Thanks for your feedback.


                  Given that this "separations request" came from the print sales rep—versus the prepress department, I am inclined to think it was "partly a lazy reponse/request (not realizing it was set up as CMYK)."  ....as I stated in my initial posting. Hence, this whole discussion could be moot.


                  That said, I do have the Adobe Print Publishing Guide, but not much insight on file separations/what to actually look for. Also, the book does not suggest "separations" for print vendor file prep procedure—just save as PDF/X-1 or PDF/x-3.


                  I have tried to research this topic and I am not finding much on "real world" reasoning or situational application—ie: why some print vendors ask for it, while others do not. When is it expected, what is good practice? Are separations for PMS only? Situationally speaking—would a designer actually send a file to a printer broken down/separated by colour—translating a 2 spot colour, 2 sided card (2 pages) into 4 pages—one page per colour? Is that done in the native program ie: illustrator, or is there a SAVE feature that breaks it out for you? questions, questions......


                  • Yes I have Acrobat Pro and have viewed it already via that method, though I am not sure what I am supposed to gain by it, it or look for specifically?


                  • Yes, I also have a colour laser printer—I printed the separations (Host Based) instead of Composite—all 4 sheets came out in various degrees of black (similar to viewing an image via individual Channels in Photoshop). Again, not sure what I need to look for here, beyond the cool effect of an infrared appearance. ??


                  • Yes, I stated in my original message that I was using Ilustrator CS4.


                  2-sided postcard:

                  I know not to use a "multicolour black" for text, and as I mentioned in my first response to you colour question:

                  • 1 background black (C50, M40, Y40, K100)
                  • black text ink (K100)


                  There are no spot colours, and the commerical printer is a highly reputable large printing company.


                  Good suggestion about uploading it for evaluation, and perhaps I will look for a site like that.



                  • 6. Re: "Break out" black and pms for prepress?
                    Chemol Level 1

                    Thanks Wade,


                    I did not use any spot colours in the file.


                    I have always been advisd by print providers to only use 100%K for text. I guess everyone has their own idea of best practice? Rich BLACK also seems to vary (some say C50, M40, Y40, K100, others say C60, M40, Y20, K100).


                    Yes I always communicate with the printers—just wanted to get some insight from this forum regarding colour separations & proper procedures before I dive into this with them tomorrow.


                    • 7. Re: "Break out" black and pms for prepress?
                      Wade_Zimmerman Level 6

                      If the green is not a pms swatch then it looks like someone is giving you a hard time or  mis understood something about the job.


                      I print post cards with Modern Postcards and often drop 10 pt text out of a rich balck and I believe my text on the four color side is always rich black it certainly always looks hat way,


                      But perhaps the printer salesman does not understand you waant te black to be rich black but the text to be 100K.


                      So they are either not understanding or perhaps want to you to make this a more expensive job since it is simply a four color with process run.


                      I would tell them they have it all wrong and either explain it to them or tell them to get it togehter or move it to another printer that understands the job.

                      • 8. Re: "Break out" black and pms for prepress?
                        [scott] Level 6

                        In my experience, when a print provider asks for a color "broken out" there merely want you to provide the numbers you want to match. For example, if there is a Pantone color, they want you to state what that color number is. That way they can match the number based on the stock used. Of course, if there's no Pantone, you wouldn't "break out" the Pantone colors. They could also want to run the job as a 5 color job and want you to specify the Pantone color you'd like to use as the 5th color (presumably the green).


                        The black they may simply want you to state what black you used... so they can verify any rich blacks will meet their needs. Or that there are even rich black present.


                        As for the native file... they may want to alter colors to better output on their end - color correct photos to meet their environment, etc. IS there personalization on the piece? You know "Dear <FIRSTNAME>" ? If there is this could easily account for the need of native files, especially if the personalization is in any way mixed, overprinted, or trapped to other colors.


                        Truth is... it's all guessing without direct communication with the printer. PDF/X-1a should be sufficient.. but there may be very valid reasons why the printer is requesting what they are, especially if they are well known, large scale, print house.


                        I never hesitate to provide a print house with their requests.... I will hesitate to provide any client with native files though.

                        • 9. Re: "Break out" black and pms for prepress?
                          Chemol Level 1

                          Thank you Scott!


                          Your explanation about what it means to break out colours/ when to separate, situations etc is exactly what I was looking for—answering why, when, and how to do it.


                          Greatly appreciated!

                          • 10. Re: "Break out" black and pms for prepress?
                            [scott] Level 6

                            Glad to help Chemol.


                            Just remember, I'm guessing based on my experience in direct mail. Without communication with the print provider or previous experience with that provider, I wouldn't know for certain how they use the term "break out". This is just how it's been used here in the past.


                            And from my experience 100k type is always preferred if possible so it can be overprinted. If the print provider uses a build for small type, they would rather have a 100% plate there and then adjust to fit their needs. Most print providers I know detest full 4 color builds of small text.

                            • 11. Re: "Break out" black and pms for prepress?


                              There are a few important Illustrator concepts that have not been mentioned yet.


                              When you create an Illus file, you get the choice of CMYK or RGB. Of course for print, you must use CMYK - RGB is for on-screen items only, like web pages or presentations...


                              Illus handles colors 2 ways - either spot or process. Process means that the color is composed of CMYK values, although a process color can still be spec’d as a spot color in the file...


                              The best way to tell if your color is spot or process is in the color pallette in Illus. For example, create a new Illus doc with the color mode set to cmyk. In the color pallette, note the symbol next to the color’s name. If it is a little crosshair (like the registration color) then the color is a spot color. If the symbol is a little square made up of 4 colored triangles, the color will separate as cmyk.


                              You can change each color from process to spot and back by double-clicking on the color name in the color pallette and setting the options that tell it how to separate. If your green is shown as a spot color, your job is now 5 colors. In that case, you will need to spec a pms number for the printer to match for the 5th color. Any respectable printer will not accept a spot color made up of cmyk values as they have nothing to match and make sure the color is accurate.


                              It sounds to me like your printer is very forgiving about the way your file is set up and is doing his best to help. Maybe one in a billion printers is actually out to steal your artwork or your customer. Other than that, we are all on the same side; and your (VERY patient) printer is simply trying to make sure that YOUR customer gets a finished piece that looks like you intended - and looks like what they are paying you for. With the level of prepress education you’ve shown, I would also ask you for your native files if I was your printer. Again, this would be a sincere effort to make your client happy with the results. Without happy clients we will all starve!


                              I think some prepress training is in your future! I also know that the best way to learn all of this stuff is by using it as much as possible (trial & error). Best Luck! And have a great weekend. PEACE!!