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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

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.
Claudia McCue

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131 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!


    • Great tip, thanks!

      I had a little trouble figuring this out even with the tip, so for anyone maybe trying to make this work when exporting PDFs, here’s a slightly more detailed explanation:

      1. Follow step 1 from this article.
      2. Go to File > Export to export as an Adobe PDF (Print).
      3. At the top right of the Export dialog box, under Compatibility, choose Acrobat 4 (PDF 1.3).
      4. On the left, go to Output.
      5. Under Color Conversion, choose Convert to Destination.
      6. Under Destination, I chose Working CMYK – but it’s possible there’s a better option (this was the default), I’m not really an expert on colour profiles.
      7. Check Simulate Overprint.
      8. On the left, go to Advanced.
      9. Under Transparency Flattener, pick the preset you created.

      I’m using InDesign CC 2017, but I suspect this will probably work very similarly in earlier versions too.

      • Sarah: You need to be very careful with “Convert to Destination” as it can convert all your colors — so even 100% black text turns into 4-color CMYK text! Usually “Convert to Destination (Preserve Numbers)” is safer.

  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. I’ve found a solution as well that isn’t nearly as complex, and solves the issue. Simply create a transparent .png file with nothing on it and place it over your document. Then adjust for overall color to offset the slight discoloration. Play with it and print until the color matches the original that was intended!

    • Thank you! This also works for geniuses like me who made large print projects on PowerPoint and didn’t want to change them all to Adobe :)

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  6. I tried the article’s suggestion using InDesign CS 5.5. It eliminated the discoloration, but the Adobe PDF still showed a thin line around the boxes where I had used Outer Glow or Feathering. This was a beautiful book cover I would love to use. Any suggestions?

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