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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.
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121 Comments on “Eliminating YDB (Yucky Discolored Box) Syndrome

  1. Hi there, I am trying to eliminate some YDB on an .ai file that I need to save to upload to’s print website. I have tried saving as a flattened pdf and the boxes still appear. I noticed that the above solution is for when you are directly printing something yourself. Is there a way to save the file with these settings so that when I upload to Moo’s site I will no longer get the YDB? Thanks

  2. Wow, this was so helpful! I have been stuck getting the YDB on my designs whenever I used a gradient feather. Thanks for the help!


  3. Thanks for discussing this topic. I, too, have created a “beautiful” logo with a drop shadow in InDesign. And we need to have a transparent background. Aside from print usage, we need to be able to use the logo in Word and PowerPoint files. We are able to export to a high-definition .png to place into Word/PP, and it looks fine–until we save the Microsoft file to a PDF and then the logo doesn’t render properly. The shadow looks fine, but there are some other funky artifacts. Do you have any tips for working across these platforms?

    • Dori,

      Does the PNG look OK in Word? How are you generating the PDF? File > Save As, or File > Save As Adobe PDF? What are the other funky artifacts you mention?

      As an aside, two suggestions: Create your logo in Illustrator, not InDesign. And avoid shadows, glows, effects, and gradients or patterns in logos; that can complicate their rendering. Think of all the ways you might use a logo—print, web, embroidery, silk screen… keep it simple, and it will work reliably across multiple platforms.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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