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

Ink Manager: Never Forget This Step Before Exporting a PDF

Talk to any printer and they’ll tell you: Designers are forever sending them PDF and InDesign files with spot colors when they really want process colors. Please: do yourself and your printer and everyone around you a favor and learn two things:

  • How to work with spot colors properly;
  • And even more important: Open the Ink Manager each and every time you export a PDF or send a file to a print provider!

You can tell how important the Ink Manager is by the fact that you can open it from five different places: the Swatches panel menu, the Separations Preview panel menu, the Export PDF dialog box, the Export EPS dialog box, and the Print dialog box. It doesn’t matter where you choose it from; they all go to the same place.

InDesign Ink Manager

Ink Manager lets you do all kinds of things, including aliasing one spot color to another and managing trapping sequence. It’s very rare you’d need to worry about the trapping stuff, but it’s very common that you need to think about something else here: converting spots to process colors.

The first thing you should do when you open the Ink Manager is to scroll through the list of inks at the top. This shows you all the different inks in your document — not the swatches, or colors, but specifically inks. That is, if you print color separations, how many plates will probably come out. The four process colors are always there, at the top, followed by spot colors.

If you didn’t expect any spot colors at all, this list may come as a shock! But as I said earlier, printers often open people’s documents and find not just a couple but a dozen or more! That’s bad.

Converting Spot to Process

So what do you do if you have spot colors in this list and you don’t want them? You can convert a single spot color to a process color by clicking in the column to the left of its name — the small spot color icon changes to process color. Note that this does not change the color swatch; it just signals to InDesign that this color should be converted to process when you print or export to a CMYK format.

Alternatively, you can convert all your spot colors to process by selecting the (surprise!) All Spots to Process checkbox.

There is another checkbox in there: Use Standard Lab Values for Spots. This appears to be “the appendix of InDesign’s color system.” That is, is used to have some use, but doesn’t appear to do much now. (Once upon a time, the Pantone colors were defined with CMYK values behind the scenes, so turning this checkbox usually resulted in a better output. However, in recent versions of InDesign, these spot colors have been defined as Lab already. That said, if you open old documents in which you saved and used spot colors, it’s possible that this checkbox would have an effect.)

Check It!

By the time you’re ready to print or export a PDF, I know you’re tired and you think you know your document well enough. But as I said: it’s always a good idea to check Ink Manager. It just takes a moment to look it over, and it can save you (and your printer) a lot of time and headache.

Tags
Related Articles
Comments

13 Comments on “Ink Manager: Never Forget This Step Before Exporting a PDF

  1. Good point David. Luckily, these things can be checked for with Preflight Profiles, which we should all be using. Unfortunately, what can’t be checked for using Preflight, and which has been tripping me up lately, is Ink Limit. The FR has been filed…let’s hope it gets picked up in CC Next!

  2. That’s a very good point that I think a lot of people miss. I constantly get adverts sent to us with spot colours inside them. I don’t really mind as I can convert them on export with the entire magazine, but I don’t want that responsibility of something going wrong.

    Here’s the kicker – any time I ask designers to resend the artwork without spot colours (as per our very specific specifications) – I usually get f’d and blinded on the phone, or by email about it.

    I don’t understand why people react this way.

    However, I think this post misses a very crucial part of the process – always always always contact your printers and ask what they want to receive.

    Some printers will accept PDFx4 and some PDFx1a – and some want all RGB, some want all CMYK, some want a mix of RGB, Spot, CMYK.

    It’s crucial to be in touch with your printers before proceeding with design. If the design is colour critical then you should get colour layout samples to the printers as soon as possible, and get colour proofs of those pages/spreads back as soon as you can to make sure it’s ok before proceeding.

    • I believe they react the way you described because they are not willing to accept the color difference that is introduced when their Pantone they spent hours picking and sold a client on….. and that’s on them and should remain their responsibility. Some think it will just somehow magically be OK in the end.

      So many in our industry lack fundamental education regarding this very thing. They think they know, but they have no idea.

      • I don’t agree with that. I think they are not willing to accept that they lack the knowledge. Akin to a bad driver f’ing and blinding people on the road. I don’t think they understand the repercussions of their actions.

        I think a bit more needs to be done to let a designer needs to know that if they are contacted by the printing company it’s something that needs to be fixed so that the output for both parties is good.

        At the end of the day, it’s the client that benefits, so making sure that colour is right, it benefits everyone.

  3. I think I’ve said this before – InDesign should give the option in the Document setup to have a limit on the number of spot colours, I think it should be part of the Document Setup. CMYK, RGB, Spot colours could be an option, then you get only those sort of swatches.

    You could say at the File>New Document

    Spot Colours 2 – then it asks which 2 spot colours you want to use, and it gives those in the swatches panel from the start.

    Or if it’s a full colour job with no spot colours, then say it’s CMYK + 0 spots, then all your swatches are converted to CMYK if they are imported.

    It’s very easy to forget the ink manager step during a busy period, but then again, there are preflight profiles there, and there is the option of Preflight Checks in Acrobat – essentially there’s no excuse for a job going out wrong.

    But I think Adobe could make it better by asking what Colour Mode and if it’s to have spot colours and how many.

    Warnings could then pop up if more colours are being attempted to be imported that are not allowed.

  4. There are a number of ways design files can be checked. In my company, we supply both packaged indesign files and press pdfs to a manufacturing department for archiving and printing. So, the native files get prefighted which flags up the number of colors, then we preflight the press pdf in acrobat, then our manufacturing department runs each job through pitstop to triple check before the pdf ever gets sent to the printer. I think the real problem is that most places don’t seem to have a production team any longer and designers are never properly trained on good production practices. I hear from friends in production all the time about the defensive attitude they get when they have to reject an ad or design because the clearly required specifications weren’t followed. I have designers I work with that regularly design using spot colors and leave them in the files, and then complain about the color shift when it has to get converted to CMYK.

  5. I think there is a large knowledge gap, effectively what was referred to in college as becoming a “Mac Jockey” – and I’ve seen it happen so many times. A new person is trained on system that was set up for preflighting material back in the 1990s. And the preflight settings have never been changed since then – giving outdated instructions and flagging inappropriate things.

    For instance, a printer nearly refused to print a job I sent because the artwork was not 300 ppi, it was 275 ppi – when I asked him what LPI his RIP was running and he did not know. When he got back to me he said it was running at 150 LPI, and insisted that the ppi should be double.

    But I sent him a very long detailed description with diagrams of how DPI is calculated for litho printing.

    He printed the file – and you know what – it looked perfect.

  6. Your column and dialogue is a great start for me. I have been using InDesign since Cs was introduced and have gotten each and every upgrade. I am, however, not a designer. Never studied design.

    But, I have made a hobby of it. I have NO education about the various types of ‘colors’. So, my question is: Where can I find a “tutorial” on SPOT , PROCESS and things of this sort?

    All my newsletter groups will thank you! Me, too! -Mary Quick

  7. It was always surprising to me how many graphic artists missed this step. As a proofreader for our newspaper’s ad production department, it had to be routine for me to check this step. Our artists worked constantly under newspaper deadline pressure, very often overburdened with quick turnarounds, and from time to time, nearly every day, one or the other of them would miss the check to automatically convert spots to process. There were some who never missed this step, but we proofreaders could never be sure, so it was our order of business to make sure colors were correct. Proofreading is a lot more than spell-checking. But that’s another story.

Leave a Reply

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

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>