Thanks for coming to, the world's #1 resource for all things InDesign!

Eliminating YDB (Yucky Discolored Box) Syndrome

Steve Werner has posted an excellent solution to the Dreaded White Box (DWB) syndrome, wherein you see white boxes around shadows and other transparency effects interacting with spot color content. The answer, as Steve points out, is for your print service provider to turn on PostScript Overprint at the RIP. (And, for correct viewing in Acrobat, turn on Overprint Preview.)

Dreaded White Box

But there's something similar to the DWB syndrome that occurs on many digital printers, from our in-house laser printers up to the big boys like the Xerox iGen3. This is YDB: Yucky Discolored Box syndrome, wherein, well, yucky discolored boxes appear under shadows when printed.

Yucky Discolored Box Syndrome

The discoloration is due to the printer's RIP not correctly exercising overprint. Even a gen-u-wine PostScript Level 3 printer such as my beloved Xerox 8400 can't pull this off.
I've tried converting all my inks to process, and turning on Simulate Overprint, and I still get the YDB syndrome. Previously, I'd been resorting to using Acrobat's "Print as Image" as a solution, but Adobe engineer Matt Phillips opened my eyes to an easier method during the Seattle Master Class, right there in InDesign. Thanks, Matt! I have to say "Duh! Why didn't I think of this"? The answer is to have InDesign act as a RIP.

Create a Transparency Flattener Preset that completely rasterizes everything:

  1. Edit > Transparency Flattener Presets, click on High as a starting point, and then click New.
    In the ensuing dialog box, yank the raster/vector slider all the way to the left. Set the linework resolution to the printer's res (say, 600), and set the gradient/mesh resolution to, oh, 150. (I think you'll find shadow appearance satisfactory at 150. If not, go to 300.)
    Save as a new Flattener Preset.
  2. File > Print, and under Output, choose Composite CMYK, and CHECK the Simulate Overprint checkbox. Under Advanced, select your all-raster flattener.

InDesign creates a conglomerate sheet pixels vector and text will be rasterized at the linework resolution, and shadows and feathered edges are generated at the gradient/mesh resolution. There's good news and bad news, of course. The good news is that your output will look correct -- no YDB syndrome. The bad news is that an exceedingly complex page could take some time to process, and could generate a big honking print file to clog up your printer.

Claudia McCue
Claudia McCue incorporates more than 20 years of traditional and digital prepress production experience in her current incarnation as a consultant, trainer, and author devoted to the graphic arts industry. Claudia's company, Practicalia LLC, provides custom onsite training for a national client base of design firms, printing companies and marketing professionals. She is the author of Real World Print Production With Adobe Creative Cloud (Peachpit Press, 2013), and a frequent presenter at industry conferences. She is also the presenter for several titles, including "Acrobat X: Creating Forms," "Print Production Fundamentals," and "Up & Running With Acrobat XI Pro." When not chained to the computer, she can be found riding her motorcycle on country roads. She swears it’s the cure for writer’s block.
Related Articles

111 Comments on “Eliminating YDB (Yucky Discolored Box) Syndrome

  1. @Chris: Yes, of course you are correct in a perfect world. However, this is for digital printers, such as proofing inkjets, and only for when there is no other solution. As for background and education, you’re not going to find anyone with a better prepress background than Claudia. ;)

  2. I’ve self tought InDesign as i reall needed to in order to reduce our bills, as our business more or less depends on leafl;ets and brochures therefore we always design different ones, so they are not boring. I had this problem so many times and found it very annoying, will definatelly have to try this out and see if it works, thanks ever so much for a great post, we need more of those especially for those like me who are having to learm Indesign themselves.

    many thanks again
    dash t


    THX A 1000.000 times!!!



  4. Kind of an old thread, but hopefully I’ll get some response…

    Situation: Exporting a pdf from InDesign. Has process and spot colors with some drop shadows on a few elements. None of the drop shadows overlap spot colors. I’m getting YBD on every one of the drop shadowed elements. I need the spot colors to stay in the file, as they are company colors and have to match their collateral.

    InDesign CS4
    Acrobat 6 Pro
    Fiery RIP (ver. 1.1 of Fiery X3eTY2 65_55C-KM)
    Konica Minolta BizHub c6500

    I don’t know if it helps, but I applied a special test color profile to the file that drops the cyan and yellow out and boosts the magenta and black. Everything converted, except for the YDB areas. They stuck to the same colors they output with any profile selected. So, it looks like the YDB areas are simply ignoring ALL color management. I wish I could just flatten and rasterize the whole thing. :(

    Any ideas?

    • I’ve had success hitting Expert Settings under the Color tab, then setting the Gray & Black Processing section to effectively off: RGB : Off, CMYK : Off, Black : Normal.

      Particularly with grey-dominated background colours, and/or spots, the Fiery loses its mind – bypassing these colour settings helps it print as I would expect.

  5. Here’s a painful (but possibly helpful) thought: I don’t have Acrobat 6 any more, so I can’t look up the dialog box, but in the Print dialog, if you click the Advanced button, you should see the “Print as image” button. This does rasterize everything on the way out (in effect, letting the computer be the RIP). It’s slow, but it may be the answer to your problem. However, this is a sticky setting, so you’ll have to remember to turn it OFF the next time you print.

    Let me know if this helps…

  6. @Claudia: Wow! I wasn’t expecting a response that quick! :)

    Well…it kind of worked. It eliminated the YDB, but everything got pretty pixelated and rough around the edges. Also, it eliminates the spot colors, so I can’t get those to match up with the color books without altering the rest of the image.

    It’s looking more and more like this is a RIP issue, though…especially since outputting to our Xerox Docucolor 12 or the office laser printer looks fine. I think I need to call in the techs and hope they can do something.

    Thanks for the quick response, and hopefully I can come back with some good news later. :)

  7. Well, we finally got the Fiery RIP updated, and lo and behold, no more YDB. I had a feeling there was a Postscript translation problem going on. Thanks again for the quick reply, and I’m glad to know that I wasn’t just going crazy. ;)

  8. I’ve gotten this fixed before by changing the line screen to rotated cluster dot under Image in the Fiery settings. This was for a Xerox260, printing from PDF.
    It’s another trick in the bag to use on this problem, if nothing else.

  9. ? Spool as CMYK only.


    ? Disable Spot Colour Matching.


    ? Enable Composite Overprint.

    Ugh. This is a simple and very common problem, for those of you who are sending jobs to commercial printers that don’t know how to work around transparency and spot colours – find a new print shop.

    For printing in-house, always send just cmyk and you’ll avoid the hassle (All spot to process in ink manager).

  10. It’s great to have access to these forums and discussions.

    I understand some of the gripes from the gurus here, but really this is what these places are for – and let’s be honest the production managers of old are few and far between these days so everyone needs all the help they can get.

    Anyway the reason I’ve posted is not to carry on the banter but rather note that I discovered (with the help of all the posts here) how to dismiss the issue discussed. My ID file when PDF’d had a problem printing a text drop shadow over a transparent background leaving that dreaded grey box. Simply by switching the CMYK colour correction in the ‘colour options’ print dialogue to ‘no correction’ on our offices Xerox Docu-centre IV the grey box disappeared on my following print out. Only explanation might be that the printer is over compensating – as always trying to be too clever for it’s own good.

    Hope this helps someone.

    PS No spot colours in my job – only CMYK all the way.

  11. This trick does work and i don’t have to use step 2 as pointed out above, the only downside is that the vector elements are now raster so they get affected by the output profile in the rip. I have the RIP set up so the vector elements are not touched by the output profile and this is why the YDB syndrome appears. The way we get around that is to convert the raster files with the output profile and RIP the postscript files without a profile.

  12. Using a Canon C1 Imagepress. None of the suggestions worked for me. I don’t think it’s got anything to do with colour management – well, not for me anyway. What DID work, finally, was, in the print dialogue box in InDesign, clicking “Printer”. clicking the drop-down to “Fiery features”, clicking the “Full properties” button, selecting the “Colour” tab, and checking the “Composite overprint” check box. Fortunately this problem doesn’t occur often! Adding a second colour to the background colour fixes the problem about 95%.

  13. HELP!!
    I’m trying to export a full page advert created in ID CS5 to a high quality pdf to send to a magazine publisher.
    They have requested a pdf of 300 – 350 dpi including bleed & Trim.

    When I create a pdf I get the YDB, i’ve tried ‘Eric’s’ formula above which has eliminated YDB but has now given a feint white outline box where the YDB was before.
    If I produce an interactive pdf the problem totally disappears but I can’t include the bleed or trim on this.
    I’ve tried the total rastering also.

    Please help, the artwork deadline is fast approaching!!

  14. Edd,

    The white lines do not print; they are a display artifact in Acrobat. If they bother you, go to the Page Display preferences in Acrobat, and turn OFF Smooth Line Art.

    The lines are indications that transparent objects have been flattened during PDF creation. This happens when you create a PDF with version 4 compatibility (for example, PDF/X-1a). To get rid of the white box (or missing shadows), turn on Overprint preview in Acrobat (launching Output Preview in the Print Production tools will do this). You’ll only see this if you have spot colors in the file. Make sure you do not have spot components that are intended to print as CMYK (since you’re sending to a mag pub, I suspect everything should be CMYK, but that’s not always the case).

    Short story: if your file is built correctly, ignore the lines and any white boxes or absent shadows, if they appear correctly when you turn on Overprint Preview.

  15. Edd,
    I forgot to add — the reason you don’t see the lines and other artifacts in the Interactive PDF is that it’s a later-version PDF (v. 5 or above). Thus, transparency is not flattened, and you don’t see the “seams.”

  16. Claudia, Thank-you.
    That is a big relief!

    The requirement is for CMYK for the ad. I’ve made sure all the colours in ‘swatches’ are CMYK but how do I know if there are any spot’s on the page? Sorry if this is outside of this thread parameters.

  17. Edd,
    To determine if you have unwanted spot colors on the page, go the the Swatches panel menu and choose “Select all Unused.” Delete the selected swatches.

    Now to determine if spot colors are used: Go to Window > Output > Separations Preview. If you see any spots listed, turn off the eyeballs by CMYK to see the remaining objects: those are the spot objects.

    To fix any unwanted spots, either apply another (CMYK) swatch, or convert the spot color to CMYK.

    Hope this helps! (And let me know if you find spots)

  18. Again you’re a star!
    I didn’t have any spots [phew!]
    And the seams or thin white lines that appear on the .pdf display do not print.

    I’ve advised the Mag of the situation and asked them to trial it before publication but the proof will be in the pudding as it were come November when the mag is published!

    Many thanks for all your help and for helping me and countless others with this pig of a problem!

  19. As a designer who only does artwork to send to various printers, I seem to be encountering this issue a lot lately. What is the best method for eliminating the box when I am not handling the production end? Is it to simply turn convert the spot colors to CMYK? I need to be able to create a PDF that I can be relatively sure won’t have any issues, as I have to send them to printers around the south.

  20. Kim,

    If the inks are not intended to print as spot colors, then, by all means, convert them to CMYK. Sounds like you’re sending jobs to a digital printing workflow (as opposed to offset printing). If that’s the case, they can’t print spot anyway, so nothing lost.

    Does this help?

    • I have the problem whether or not it’s spot or CMYK. It happens even with pngs with no drop shadow. The only thing that fixes it is opening it up in Photoshop and exporting it as a Photoshop PDF. This however makes it a much bigger file. There has to be a better solution.

  21. @Claudia – Thanks for the quick response! If converting to CMYK fixes the issue, then that is what I will do. And yes, I am sending jobs to be printed digitally. In the past I have worked with a machine (small IKON) that could handle spot colors, so I wasn’t sure what would give me the best result. I’d much rather have minute color differences than weird boxes around things! Thanks again, and I will pass this along to my design team.

  22. Ok, hey everyone! Firstly thanks for posting on here, i’ve been reading all of the posts and now I am officially confused, but more informed. Please can you help me?!!!!
    My indesign file is all cmyk, the border around the edge has a little woman doing a wheelie in black, and her background is supposed to be clear, which it is in photoshop and indesign (5.5) and then when i pdf it off, I don’t get the seams as described by some poor souls above, i get this lighter shade of orange or whatever colour is behind the woman. i wondered if it is something i am doing when i export it to pdf? i am exporting to pdf print with printer marks and bleeds.
    As this catalogue is being litho printed, please please tell me that i dont have to spend my weekend opening up each page of the 108 page book and changing the woman etc etc and that it only happens on digital printers like my little laser one here (how i discovered the problem and had a small heart attack!)
    Many thanks and good luck to you all, i very much appreciate posters,

  23. @Charmy: There is a chance that it is only on your desktop printer. If you’re going to send this to press, use Acrobat’s Output Preview feature to check the plates themselves. Or talk with your printer and ask them if you’re going to have a real problem.

  24. I have worked as a graphic designer for years, using mostly Illustrator and Photoshop. Just now am I starting to work with a beginner who is using InDesign, and this article, and everyone’s helpful comments were the key I needed to solve the YDB problems I was being asked about by the beginner. THANKS EVERYBODY!!!
    Always take a look using the Overprint Preview in the View menu!

  25. I’m so glad I found this page as I have just started using InDesign after years of using Quark and I am having this problem with some posters I have created for a client.

    I have supplied the posters in PDF format where they have looked perfect but when the client prints them on their RICOH copier/printer the bounding boxes of objects with transparency have been a discoloured version of the background colour.

    One work-around I have seen for this is to create a transparent photoshop file the same size as the whole document and place it just above the background colour layer. This seems to have worked but I’m guessing (as I have only seen a fairly poor quality scan of the printout) that this is merely making the whole document printout with the incorrect background colour?

    Is there any other way to get round this problem when creating pdfs?

    Any help would be very very much appreciated!

  26. I followed the instructions, then fiddled with my printer settings to disable any “color corrections” it was making. I am shocked by the result! The colors are so much better! I wish I had known that my printer was messing with my colors all these years!

  27. So after searching in the endless void of cyberspace, I finally got to this article which solved my issues exactly. Easy fix and the flyer icons and logo don’t have that ridiculous box around them where the transparency is.

  28. Thank you for this article! My files have been printing with a YDB behind them and I could not figure out why and how to make it stop (wound up jury rigging it by creating a file in PSD to use as my header. It was a pain to do.) Thank you!!

  29. This solution of Transparency Flattener Presets doesn’t work for me because the file I’m working with is too large and it makes my PDF print huge and very slow to print! Does anyone have an alternative solution?

  30. This is a bad idea. Most RIP-software and large-format printers have an option to add more than 256 shades of colors in a gradient to avoid banding. This ‘fix’ renders all gradients in 256 steps. So large-format printing a gradient will get ugly banding issues. Adobe just should fix this bug. Some FieryRIP software already have a special fix to avoid these bugs. This has nothing to do that the printer handles bitmaps different than vector graphics. It’s just bad coding by Adobe.

    Flattening your artwork brings back your gradients to 8 bit colourspacing.

    Postscript Level 3 supports Smooth shading, extra grays and masked images. Using this workaround renders all these functions useless and your print is not as good as it should be by Adobe’s own Postscript Level 3 specs.

    • @slof
      while adobe fixes the problem what are the work arounds? I usually see this problem when i used some effects in illustrator with a background other than white > imported the file in InDesign > then print on our in house xerox.

      Always the same gig : discolored box.

      How should i go about to fix this if the idea evoked in the article is not good (while you are indeed right about large files and gradients) ?

      • @Ugo
        Instead of saving as PDF in Illustrator you can print as a Postscript file.

        Go to Print and select Adobe Postscript® File as your printer and Device Independent as your PPD. Now set the Color Handling to: Let Postscript® printer determine colors. Click save button. Copy the .ps file to your RIP-software. It is the only way to bypass Adobe’s own Color Management system and the discolored boxes are gone.

  31. What do I do if I cannot choose CMYK from the output dropdown? It is greyed out!

    YDB is driving me mad…

  32. The company I work for insists on having a specific spot color (Pantone 199C) for their logo and company text. Is there a solution for me?

    • this problem affects digitally printed jobs.
      Your pantone is useful only if printed on offset machines. Otherwise you can use a cmyk version of the pantone and use the tricks described above ^^

  33. I get these but not when printing directly from InDesign – rather when I export to a PDF which I have to do so others without InDesign can read and print the file. The hints above therefore do NOT fix the problem – the ugly boxes cannot be seen when the document is viewed on screen, but do print when sent to our Sharp MX2600 Printer. Basically I have a photo in a circle frame that lays over a shaded gray box. There will be a discoloured box around the circle that looks really bad, and as I said this tip doesn’t fix that. However, if I change the gray box to another colour, like teal – it doesn’t happen! Weird!

  34. Oh, man, it is soooo great to have some solid information about this after so much fruitless searching. Claudia’s method fixed my YDB drop shadow problem, at least on the document at hand. And the suggestion to turn on “composite overprint” in the Fiery dialog also worked! (YDB has been a really common thorny problem on our Canon IRV C5240.) Thank you so much!

  35. Hi, great to find this webpage!

    I’m having this problem at the moment as well. I export to PDF, and it all looks perfect on screen – I don’t even get the dreaded white lines. But then when I print on a laser printer I get the boxes around all my graphics.

    So is it just digital printers that will have this problem? When I send it to the commercial printer, they will be able to print without the boxes?

    I’ve tried the advice above and it hasn’t fixed the problem.

    The problem is that I am sending it to the client who are obviously concerned when they print out on their office printer!


  36. THANK YOU!! This YDB problem appeared a few months ago on the same printer I’ve been using for years, a HP3800dn color laser. My ID and PDF files would look fine but print out with YDB on the HP (but not on an Epson StylusPro 3880). It’s been driving me nuts with many fruitless searches everywhere. No doubt I updated a driver or something and screwed things up, but Edd’s fix of creating a new transparency flattener preset did the trick.

  37. Amazing! Thank you very much for this. Been struggling with transparency boxes for years. Now they are gone. Hooray!

  38. Hey guys, I am a printer at a small print shop and self taught graphic artist (primarily fixing clients non vector logos that looked great on their PC screen but print like they were spraypainted thru a stencil held way to far from the page). I am having this issue with a PDF I received from a client (right before he went on vacation for 2 weeks) and I don’t and wont have access to his INDD file until he returns. Composite overprint setting in the Fiery turns the DWB into a YDB but doesn’t fully get rid of it. and while I could use Acrobat to just cut out all of the drop shadows and he probably wouldn’t even notice, I don’t really feel right about that. Is there anything that can be done from this end or am I stuck until I can get my hands on his INDD file? I am using Adobe CC including Acrobat XI Pro and the printer is a Lanier (Ricoh) Pro C751ex, if that helps.

    • Shane, hit your Advanced colour settings in the RIP; in the middle tab, where you’ve got Greyscale and CMYK settings – turn them all to Off or Normal where Off is not available (sorry, not in front of the RIP right now, trying to remember).

      I’ve noticed this setting especially affects things when a drop shadow/transparent PSD is placed over a background colour, particularly bad if it’s a grey-based spot (like PMS 877 silver – the RIP loses its mind).

      In a couple of setups with Fiery RIPs (connected to KM devices) that’s fixed the problem for me.

      You might also try doing a Fixup in Acrobat to flatten the file.

  39. I got to the CMYK part and it wouldn’t allow me to choose this as an option… Not sure why.

    Also I usually print as PDF from Adobe – is there a way to get around this issue printing through Adobe?

  40. Luci, i had the same issue. Export as a print PDF and then navigate to the output tab.
    Under compatibility select acrobat 4, this will allow the simulate overprint option to be checked. Now under the advanced tab go to the transparency flattener option and select the above created setting that claudia showed us. Now when you save the PDF and print there are no more light boxes!

  41. hey Gucci,

    intead of replying to a random post to get informations on something unrelated, how about you contact the site admin directly ? Notice the “get in touch” box bottom page right ?

    Use that to contact the admin. This way you might get an answer.

    As for your interrogation, my thoughts on the subject are that is you dont want it copied dont put it on the web.
    This said, maybe you should put some note, a sort of incentive, stating that your content can be republished as long as credits and a link back to source follow the used content.

  42. Ugo: Thanks for jumping in to help; that was a good suggestion. However, you were replying to a spam comment, not a real human. They try to make their emails look like real questions, but because they’re not about InDesign and they’re subtly trying to sell things, we just delete them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *