Psychics in the Print Shop

I know I’m good at my job. But I think some people rely on me to be a mind reader. I’m not.

For instance, if a job is spec’d to print with Reflex Blue, is it wrong to set the color up as PMS 300?

From my point of view, yes. I’m looking at the file, getting ready to order ink and paper, and I see the designer has assigned the color in the file as PMS 300.

I go to verify with the job ticket that came in from the print broker, and it’s Reflex Blue.


I don’t like to make assumptions, so I call and ask the print broker to verify the color. (The clock is ticking. This adds time to my setup before I can get it on the press.)

I also wonder if the proof was sent to the customer with PMS 300 instead of Reflex Blue.

Does this mean the customer is expecting to see something closer to PMS 300?

As long as the ink is set up consistently, on correct plates, I can have the pressman assign the correct color on the press.

Yes, PMS 300 and Reflex Blue are in the same ball park for color, but they are different.

There was a time, all one color layouts were set up as black, and the colored ink was assigned on the press. Some people would rather set up their files that way.

I’m a little more advanced. I feel that when you specify the correct color in the file before printing, it helps the pre-press technician do their job more efficiently. The pre-press technician is more likely to think the sun shines off your head, and will look forward to getting files from you.

But today’s file confused me.

The designer had one color listed in the file. But the purchase order had a different color. And as I said. I’m not a mind reader.

It has been an interesting challenge to get the ink ordered. It is a good thing I try to make no assumptions. A pre-press technician develops a feel for the files he can and can not trust to come in without corrections.

I like the files that come in without needing correction.

What are your thoughts?

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Wednesday’s Word: Kodachrome

As you may have heard, the Kodak company has decided to stop manufacturing Kodachrome film. This film has always been the gold standard for high-quality color images.

But here’s something you may not have known. Unlike other films which have their color dyes built into the film itself, Kodachrome film has just a single, black-and-white emulsion. The color for the film is added during the processing.

This not only gives the film exceptional color range, but it meant that unlike other color films, Kodachrome could be stored for very long periods of time. This also meant that when you dropped Kodachrome film off at the local photography store, they almost always had to ship it off to a central processing center. It was also why I never learned how to develop Kodachrome negatives in my high school photography classes.


They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day

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Preflight Profiles for InDesign CS4

I don’t ordinarily post items about a specific feature in a specific application. But I heard something the other day about using the new Live Preflight feature in InDesign CS4.

If you are using ID CS4, you should check out the Live Preflight panel. What this panel does is give you the ability to automatically check for problems in your document as you work. For instance, if you take an image and scale it up, Live Preflight will alert you if you’ve scaled it up too much so that it is no longer high resolution.

Now, rather than me trying to write out all the steps for working with Live Preflight, I thought it would be great for you to watch the InDesign Product Manager, Mike Ninness, explain it for you.

In addition, I created two special preflight profiles which I like to use for 4-color and BW jobs. Click the link to download and then uncompress the zip file.

To install these two profiles, follow these steps.

To load (import) a Preflight profile

  1. Choose Define Profiles from the Preflight panel menu.This opens the Preflight dialog box. Click the Preflight Menu icon (shown below) and choose Load Profile.
  2. Select the *.idpp file or document containing an embedded profile you want to use.
  3. Click Open. The profile is now stored in your version of InDesign.
  4. Repeat these steps for any additional profiles.

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A Pre-Work Check

The following article was original written for on April 5, 2008. The original link is: Since InDesign CS4 now has Live Preflight, I thought I’d update the article for those who use that feature. Updated comments in red.

Performing a Pre-Work Check

I had the opportunity the other day to open a file sent to me by someone I don’t know. I realized that I went through a few ingrained procedures that I usually do when I open a strange file.

I also realized that this is a good list of things to go through for anyone who needs to work on someone else’s file. I call this a Pre-Work Check.

(Note: These steps don’t have to be followed in the exact same order although some steps will necessarily follow the others.)

  • Ignore any notice that pop up before you open the file that fonts are missing, especially if you’re not going to edit any text. In my case I was looking just at the swatches and separations for the document. I didn’t really need to worry about missing fonts.
  • If you do need to handle missing fonts it is better to wait till the document is open and then handle things through Find Font. (Also looking through for any pink higlights for missing fonts.) My reason for this is it is easier to handle missing fonts once you have scouted through the pages and masters for the document.
  • Ignore any notice that images are missing or modified. Once again it is a better to wait until you’ve had a chance to look at the images as well as their status in the Links panel.
  • Look in the Links panel for missing or modified links. I like to use the Go to Link command to see exactly what the link is and to watch what happens if I do update the link.
  • Open the Pages panel and look through the document. Check out how many pages are in the file. Is this what you expected? Or is a 100-page book missing 99 pages? You might not be working on the right file and can call your client (or co-worker) to find out what’s going on.
  • Take a quick look to see if there are any overset symbols. This could be a problem later on although it is not that vital if you do have missing fonts. Or use the overset text alert in the Live Preflight to find them quickly.
  • Look at the Swatches panel. Do you see any colors in addition to the default swatches? Do you see colors on the pages that are not in the default swatches. This is a hint that you need to choose the Add Unnamed Colors command to clean up those missing swatches. Interestingly there doesn’t seem to be a setting in Live Preflight to find these.
  • Look at the Paragraph Styles panel. Are there styles defined? Look through them and try to get a handle on the style names. If necessary, click into each type of paragraph element and see if you understand the naming convention.
  • Do the same with the Character Styles panel.
  • And finally do the same with the Object Styles.
  • Check out the master pages for the document. See which masters are applied to what pages. See if some masters are based on others.
  • Zoom out from the document and scroll quickly through the pasteboard. Find out what objects are scattered around the pasteboard.
  • Look at the Layers panel. If there are multiple layers click them on and off to understand what objects are supposed to go on what layers.

Advanced steps: If this is a document that you need to work with check out the following Preferences to make sure you are comfortable with the preferences:

  • Check to see if the apply leading to paragraphs is chosen. I like it off, but would be confused if it were turned on.
  • Check to see if the text wrap works downward only option is chosen. I hate that setting but others might turn it on.

I welcome any additional steps from you all!

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How many colors? Spot or Process?

If you want a great introduction to color printing, go to the supermarket and buy some packaged foods or boxes of household products.

Recently I looked at the bottom of a package of Tostitos corn chips and tried to identify and count the number of colors on the package.

It wasn’t easy. The package itself is a clear plastic substrate, so I knew that there had to be white ink on the package to print the other colors over.

But after that I got confused.

Here are some screen shots. See if you can figure it out.

There are two sets of color “circles” (not color bars) at the bottom of the package. At first I thought these were solid colors of all the inks on the package.


But as the blowup shows, these are actually combinations of solid and tints of the color on the package. (Click the images below to see a high-resolution version of these images.)




At the bottom of the bag there is another set of color circles. These are the tints for three colors.


These seem to be three spot inks, one orange, one light blue, and one dark blue. They are used to create the special logo colors for the company’s name and logo branding.


Now, I do know there are four process colors on the package as is shown by the image of the salsa jar.


So, how many colors?

I count 4 process colors: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black.

I also count 1 spot for the white background.

Another 1 spot for the orange.

Another 1 spot for the dark blue.

I’m unsure if the light blue in the color tints is a spot or process color

So that’s either 7 or 8 colors.

So why is this important for a designer?

Because as a designer you need to understand how to work with combinations of spot and process colors to create special colors.

You need to understand that you may get a much better green using a tint of that dark spot blue with a solid yellow instead of cyan.

You should understand how the solid orange interacts with solid magenta to make a more vibrant red.

And you need to realize that without the white ink on the substrate, things are going to look very strange on the clear plastic.

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