Blog File Prep Video

VIDEO: Creating Perfect PDF Files for Press

This VIDEO tutorial will show you settings that will ensure print-ready PDF files for faster turnaround times and no output errors in prepress. Compression settings will ensure quick upload times to

This PDF workflow will also eliminate the need to convert any of your images to CMYK. No worries, these PDF settings for press will work just fine with images already converted to CMYK.

Did you find this tip helpful? Please leave a comment below…

[learn_more caption=”Read Transcript of Video” state=”open”]

Hi. This is Rick Rys from

00:04 Today’s tutorial never convert to CMYK is a cool little export option out of indesign CS5 that will eliminate the need to ever convert to CMYK.

00:15 This cool little RGB workflow will eliminate a lot of disk space and save you a lot of time along with a lot of confusion regarding having two files of the same image.

00:27 You can see we have an image here that’s created in indesign CS5 it consists of an RGB bitmap image, you can see the color space is RGB, and it is tagged with the Adobe RGB color profile.

00:42 We also have a CMYK Adobe Illustrator image which is a vector graphic.

00:50 It’s important to note that the image is created with different values of gray. This is important because these color values of gray are built with black only and we want to make sure we do not re-separate this into a four color gray.

1:06 We also have a series of color swatches that are placed as pantone colors. Also, take note that we are using the LAB values of these colors.

1:21 So, once we are ready to go to press, we’re going to do a simple
export option out of indesign CS5.

1:30 We’re going to utilize the Adobe PDF X-4 standard. Once we select PDF X-4, we’re going to save our file and we’ll go into the export Adobe PDF presets and select X-4; change the compatibility to PDF 1.7 standard; select our page and then go through the individual tabs here.

2:00 Under compression, we want to keep these values the same. Where we’re going to downsample to 300 pixels per inch when our image is greater than 450 pixels per inch. This will allow for a much faster upload to the color server at

2:18 Under marks and bleeds, two things – select our crop marks and change our bleed to .125″ top and bottom, inside and outside

2:29 The output tab is the most critical. This is where color conversion is going to take place and convert our images from RGB to CMYK.

2:39 We want to focus on the color conversion pull-down menu. We want to select “convert to destination” and “preserve numbers”. The preserve numbers will maintain any native CMYK data within the document.

2:53 This is important for our placed Adobe Illustrator image where we want to maintain our gray values with just black ink only. Select preserve numbers and our destination this is where we’re going to convert to CMYK.

3:08 We want to make sure that we select coated GRAcOL 2006 color profile. The GRAcOL profile is the largest CMYK color gamut for sheetfed printing.

3:21 Under profile inclusion policy we want to make sure we include the destination profile in case we have to repurpose this or convert this to another press.

3:33 Under ink manager you’ll notice that we have our CMYK information here and also all of our placed Pantone color swatches. What we want to do to make sure is that we check the all spots to process. You’ll notice that it converted these into CMYK and more importantly, make sure that we select the use standard LAB values for spots.

4:00 This is important because this will use the LAB color data value for each
of those pantone colors for a much more accurate conversion into CMYK.

4:13 Once we select OK, then we simply export the file. Once we export our file, we’re going to open it up into Acrobat and you’ll notice that our file is here and we’re going to do a quick little preflight. We’re going to go into the advanced tab, print production and select output preview.

4:40 You’ll notice a little output preview window will open up. Notice that all are images have now been converted to CMYK! So we could simply go through the process and deselect our individual color and build our document: black, yellow, magenta, cyan for our CMYK values.

4:59 As we mouse over, you’ll notice that we are now in the CMYK color space and so have all of our pantone colors been converted to CMYK. More importantly, when we get down to our placed illustrator graphic, you’ll notice here that the gray is made up of black ink only. You’ll notice that up here, once I thumbed over the sixty percent screen of black, this was maintained by using the preserve numbers value for the convert to destination. This did not re-separate it into four colors.

5:33 The important part about this it saves a lot of time as far as balancing color on press and also eliminating any registration issues on press having to line up four colors for just one color gray.

5:47 Well, I hope you enjoyed this tutorial look back for more tutorials in the future

Have a good day!


Blog Design File Prep Printing

Printing Screen Captures on Press

Here is a simple little trick that will create the best looking screen captures.

Printing screen captures can be a very tedious process for a pressman. The process can be made much, much easier if the screen capture file is converted to CMYK using a maximum GCR (gray component replacement) setting. This Max GCR process will remove all the cyan, magenta and yellow from the image in the neutral tone areas resulting in the type being composed of just black ink. Other colored areas will still separate and print, but with much less total area coverage (TAC). Total area coverage may sound familiar because most printers prefer CMYK images with less than 300% ink coverage (adding the percent values for all four process colors).

screen grab
Imagine the press operator trying to line up/register 4 point type in all four colors. Max GCR eliminates register concerns by producing black type with black ink.

The most important part is the importance of registration on press.

The type within the screen capture will only print in black ink and no registration issues in aligning tiny little letters.

Blog Color Management Design File Prep Marketing Photography Printing Profiles

Secrets To Printing Chocolate

Printing chocolate can be very demanding.

The problem is a rich, appealing image of chocolate contains all four process colors and depending what profile is used, or converted to, there is a greater chance of not getting the results you’re looking for.

GCR Neutral Density Curves 320 TAC
Neutral Density Curves of GRACoL color profile. Notice when the image gets darker, the more Black ink is used. The gray gradient line from left is neutral gray from white to black.

An ICC color profile with a high percentage of GCR (gray component replacement) will produce the best results. Using GCR will lower the contaminate color (in the case of chocolate – cyan) and replace with a percentage of black ink.

For instance, using Photoshop’s default North American General Purpose settings, a nice brown/chocolate color will produce CMYK values of 40 cyan, 75 magenta, 100 yellow and 40 black. uses an enhanced CMYK gamut and that same color would separate/convert as 15 cyan, 65 magenta, 95 yellow and 60 black.

By just using the correct profile, a more controllable/predictable color would be obtained on press. Also, overall ink consumption would be reduced by nearly 10%. This is a result of adding the four process color percentages (255 versus 235), also know as Total Area Coverage (TAC).


Blog Design File Prep Photography

Two Simple Steps to Improving Your Digital Photos for Press

We’ve all been there before – “The client wants to run this image”.

Who knows where it came from, but it looks like hell.

The easiest correction to any digital image is to establish a highlight and shadow setting for the image.

A highlight area is the lightest portion of the image you wish to maintain detail. A “specular” highlight would refer to a reflection and have no detail (255,255,255).
The shadow area is the darkest portion of the image you wish to maintain detail.

Correct highlight and shadow values accomplish two things:

  1. establish contrast to the image
  2. remove any color cast to the image

A great starting point for a highlight is an RGB value of 250,250,250.

A starting point for shadow value is an RGB value of 10,10,10.

Equal amounts of RGB are neutral.

In theory, an absolute RGB black value is 0,0,0. However, do not go this dark due to shadow dots plugging up on press. Again, this is a starting point and you can venture into darker RGB values with experience.

Look for future post on color correction basics.

Blog Design File Prep Marketing

Number One Reason for Delays in Print Turnaround Time

The number one reason your print order can be delayed is do to errors in producing print-ready files.

All commercial printers are searching for the holy grail of PDF files; PDF X-3 , PDF X-4.

A PDF X file is ready to RIP (raster image processing). The RIP is the computer/software that reads, interprets and renders your images onto printing plates. If there are issues with submitted files, the RIP will error out and the print job will be stopped. That’s when you receive the “phone call”. will be installing an AutoRIP feature online shortly. This will be a FREE, simple way to preflight your files before placing an order with us.

Any errors will be noted so they can be repaired before you incur any charges for sending new files.

Blog Color Management Design File Prep Photography Profiles

What to do with Embedded Color Profiles when Opening an Image in Photoshop?

When opening an image in Photoshop, you may be asked whether to keep an embedded profile, convert profile or ignore profile. The reason there is an embedded profile is because a photographer/designer had an intended appearance of what that image should look like.

These embedded profiles should be honored. Another safe option would be to convert to your ‘working’ color space when opening an image to maintain consistency. Either option will produce the best possible color match.

In order for the intended color to be converted to CMYK, the source profile must be known to get the most accurate color conversion. By keeping the embedded profile, the origin of the file’s color intent will be accurately reproduced.

Blog Color Management Design File Prep Photography Profiles

When to Convert to Profile and When to Assign a Profile

Never take these two functions for granted. They are entirely different processes and will break your chain of Color Management.

A successful Color Management workflow will always consist of a Source and Destination profile. These profiles will “link” devices and maintain the most accurate translation of color from device to device. The profile connection between Source and Destination is the LAB color space.

When you Assign an RGB profile, the numbers within the file will stay the same, however, the color will be DIFFERENT. The difference in color stems from the size of the gamut for the particular color space you are working in. Don’t forget that sRGB has a smaller color gamut than Adobe RGB and the color will be different.

Always convert to CMYK, never use “mode” change. Convert to Profile is a best practice to produce the most accurate color.

If your printer can not provide you with a custom CMYK profile, run! There is no scientific method they are using that will provide you with an acceptable color match on press.

Always communicate your color objectives from the very beginning.

Does this clear things up? Please leave a comment below…


Blog Design File Prep Photography Profiles

When RGB is not RGB

Many creatives may not realize that assigning a color profile can have a major impact on the quality of color reproduction.

sRGB is a “virtual” color space designed for web publishing. Adobe RGB is another “virtual” color space intended for high-end color reproduction. The term “virtual” refers to a generalization of where a prospective monitor will display color. Some monitors will claim they can reproduce the whole Adobe RGB color gamut, while sRGB is known as the common denominator for monitors displaying websites.

It is interesting to know that all web browsers display RGB values in the sRGB color space and HDTV is displayed in sRBG. This is the reason why rich colored images appear flat once they’ve been uploaded to a website. They are most likely tagged with an Adobe RGB profile.

Look for continued posts on the differences, and impacts, of sRGB and Adobe RGB.

Blog Design File Prep

Vector Magic Bitmap Conversion Service

Every once in awhile, a unique product/service will come along that just blows you away. Vector Magic is eerily good.

How many times have you asked for a logo from your client and they provide a bitmap image (jpeg, png)?

Vector Magic is a vector tracing service that will convert bitmap images into very clean vector graphics for printing on press. The resulting paths are incredibly clean and free of unnecessary anchor points that won’t cause concerns during prepress processing.

Of course since they’re vector graphics, enlarging is no longer an issue.

Try it out,