images for print (indesign)...

Evie's picture

Hello everyone,

i'm hoping for some help as i'm still learning to work properly in Indesign. Hope i'm not sounding to stupid but I'm making a litl 10 page booklet and i'm having some trouble with making a perfect pdf for print.

a few questions:

- I took all the pictures myself and they are all jpeg format(150dpi), do i import them into Indesign as an RGB or CMYK for print, and how do i actually convert them correctly is it simply opening the image in photoshop, image / mode / RGB or CMYK and save it?

- for importing the images in indesign i do the following: i use the rectangle frame tool to draw a box, go to "file / place and then select the image. if for example my image is bigger than the frame i just use the direct selection tool (white arrow), select the picture and just scale it down. is this the trick or does this mess up the quality of the eventual printed document.

Reason why i'm asking these questions is because lots of times my pictures don't look sharp after printing them, sometimes pixeled.

here's how i make the printable pdf: when the document is finished i got to "file / adobe pdf presets" and choose "high quality print" basically that's it.

most of the time i end up with poor quality prints for the images and i don't know what i'm doing wrong so i would really appreciate it loads if you could help a beginner out.

thank you so much in advance


Boros's picture

Hello, Evie!

First of all, you have to decide in your InDesign layout how big your image has to be (width/height of the image box in mm or in).

After that you open your image in Photoshop and select the crop tool (shortcut: C). In the upper horizontal bar you will see some fields for setting the crop tool. You set up there the width and height of the picture box from InDesign and, in the last field, set the resolution to 300 dpi (not 150). This makes the crop tool to constrain proportionally to these settings. After you crop it how you see fit, you convertit to CMYK (Image>Mode>CMYK) and then save it as a tif file.

Now you have an image with the metric dimensions as it will appear on the printed brochure at 300 dpi (standard for print). If at 100% zoom setting in Photoshop this image appears of low quality, then you need an initial larger image to work with - otherwise it will print poorly. If it's OK, you simply place it in InDesign, as you described.

When you export your PDF for print from InDesign, you go to File>Export>PDF. A panel will appear with settings categorized in the left column. Somewhere there you will find settings for dealing with raster files. You select from the drop-down menu "no compression" and "do not downsample" CMYK files. This should export you a PDF ready for print.

riccard0's picture

Also, you could select the "pre-press" or "press ready" (don't remember the exact English phrasing) setting exporting option for the PDFs.

Kristians Sics's picture

First of all you have to decide where, how and on what type of paper you will print it. The resolution of your photo depends of the raster the typography will use to print your document. The size of raster depends from the paper. On the glossy paper you can use 175 lpi or even denser raster, so accordingly you need your pictures 300 - 340 dpi. If you use the offset paper (for example Arctic Paper design range like Munken Lynx) you have to increase the dot size to 133 - 150 lpi otherwise the fibres of paper will stick to the press form and the result will look like mud. Then the picture of 240 dpi will do. Just when you convert RGB to CMYK use the correct profile or ask the printers if they have any preferences. Usually for the glossy paper I convert everything to Euroscale version2, but by the method of trial and error fine lingerie photos I submit in Euroscale v.1. Offset paper manufacturers usually have their profiles for each paper for download in their webpages. And for the best results do the final sharpening when you have resized your picture to 100% in the needed resolution just before converting to CMYK.

Evie's picture

wow, thank you SO much for explaining and taking your time to help me out here, trying it as we speak, only one more small question just to make sure i'm doing it ok.

"Somewhere there you will find settings for dealing with raster files. You select from the drop-down menu "no compression" and "do not downsample" CMYK files."

i'm asuming this is under the "compression" tab?...there i have different possibility's to choose "no compression" and "do not downsample" under: colour images, grayscale images or monochrome images. in this case i'm using black and white pictures as well as colour pictures in the booklet, so i just do this with both "colour images and grayscale images wright?

and do i save black & white pictures also best as .tif file?

again thank you so much for all your help, really helped me out a great deal!!

Boros's picture

Now that's expert advice ^ !

Evie's picture

hey Kristians,

to be honost with you i don't think i'm there yet to know what resolutions to use for what particular kind of paper. non the less very useful to know!

most of the time i will be printing on pretty regular, the not so expensive book paper but i need to get some more education about paper types and stuff

exactly where/how do i chose the profile when converting to CMYK ?

Boros's picture

Ha, we cross-posted. Kristians Sics describes some really advanced methods.

Anyway, Evie, the answer is yes. Save both the grayscale and CMYK files as tif files. The simple fact that they look black-and-white doesn't mean anything. They could be either RGB, CMYK or grayscale. To be sure, convert the BW images to grayscale (if your BW images do not contain hues of gray and depict only hard black shapes, you could try to use a rich black in CMYK mode - that is assigning percentages of cyan, magenta and yellow to the 100% Black or K - just be sure not to go above 240% total ink coverage).

To Kristians: does it make any difference if you sharpen the image after resizing while in RGB or CMYK mode?

Kristians Sics's picture

1) Books (I mean literature) usually are printed on offset paper SO BE CAREFUL!!! Picture books are printed on glossy paper so there is nothing to worry. Euroscale will be ok.
2) "do not downsample" mean in pdf the resolution will not change. If you prepare pictures at 100% may it not worry you.
3) "no compression" means the tiff will be ziped (so you'll get a big file size) I always make with JPG with quality "Maximum". Your linked file will remain tiff if you want to work with it but in pdf a high quality jpg will be embedded - it is ok for printing.
4) about sharpening - I try to edit my photos in Adobe RGB mode not to loose any of colour information. I just made it to me a habit. To get perfect cmyk conversions so I can be sure than there are no excessive ink coverage. But I may be wrong. There are other designers retouching already cmyked pictures and getting good results.

Boros's picture

Also, to change the color settings in Photoshop, you go to "Edit>Color Settings" and select "Euroscale coated v2" from the dropdown menu of CMYK if you can't find it, just click on the "More Options" button on the right. You also do this in InDesign.

oldnick's picture

Re: the proper color profile. If you're having the booklet printed, it's best to check with your printer about what works best for them. For instance, at the last printing company I worked for, they used a 200 lpi screen setting for all their jobs, which required ratcheting down the magenta about 20% and implementing GCR (Gray Component Removal), per recommendations from a GATF technician.

Evie's picture

hey thnx for all the help everyone. much appreciated

klickverbot's picture

I am just a DTP layman being curious: On the few publication that went through my hands, I have always embedded the original full-size RGB images (with embedded profiles, mostly Adobe RGB and ProPhoto RGB) and let InDesign take care of converting them to the target color space on exporting the PDF. What are the downsides to this approach?

Boros's picture

What are the downsides to this approach?

Erratic results.

Evie's picture

heyhey i'm trying everything out, when i save as a .tiff file i get to choose the tiff image compression options (CS3, do i just choose "jpeg" here? or "none". when choosing non in the tiff options i get like a 49mb image :D so i guess i choose jpeg wright?

riccard0's picture

i get to choose the tiff image compression options

Use LZW.

klickverbot's picture

Sorry for hijacking this thread again, but what exactly can cause »erratic results«?
I am just trying to understand which possible mistakes I could make this way (so far, my approach has worked well enough, but I am not very proficient when it comes to professional printing).

Evie's picture


whats actually the big difference between LZW and JPEG or reason as to why take LZW. When choosing LZW, do i select "interleaved (rgbrgb)" or "per channel (rrggbb).

there's lots to know on how to make a good pdf for print.

riccard0's picture

LZW is lossless.
Use the default.

Boros's picture

Ah, and another thing: is your brochure spiral-bounded? Because if not, you will have to have pages in a multiple of 4. Therefore you cannot have 10 pages, but 8 or 12. The reason is simple: if you make let's say - an A5 brochure, you will have series of A4 printed sheets which will be folded in half. Such an A4 sheet will contain 4 pages.

Boros's picture

klickverbot (about the erratic results): CMYK has a lower range of colors than RGB mode. If, for example, you have a picture with sea water in very bright blue hues in RGB mode, when converting it to CMYK you may find that a lot of the details (such as water ripples) are lost. So you have to color balance and tweak the curves/levels of the image to get some of the detail back. Therefore, it's better to convert it yourself to CMYK and see more or less how it will look on the printed page and make final adjustments, rather than letting InDesign deal with the conversion.

klickverbot's picture

@Boros: Ah, okay. I just used the soft proof feature of Photoshop/InDesign for that. The photo guys (most of my DTP work was related to school projects) could work in their familiar RGB space – most of them didn't know what a color space is in the first place, but that's an entirely different story –, and I just had to »Update Link« instead of converting modified images again (I guess most student papers are vastly different from professional publications workflow-wise).

And because most of the pictures were in large-gamut 16bit RGB (at least all of the critical, i.e. very saturated, ones), there weren't any color clipping problems either.

JamesM's picture

> lots of times my pictures don't look sharp

Evie, lots of good advice has been given, but I just want to emphasize that if you're making a high-quality PDF and yet the pictures still look fuzzy or pixelated, then you probably need to start with higher-quality original photos, or else print them in smaller sizes.

As a simple test, take a photo that's been looking pixelated and try printing it in several different sizes, and you'll probably see it looks sharper when smaller.

Other factors (like paper, PDF settings, etc. ) will obvious affect results too, but even if those are optimal there are still limits to how big you can make a particular photo before it starts looking fuzzy.

Quincunx's picture

You are pretty safe when you always make your images 300dpi. When you have an image open in Photoshop, set to 300dpi, you can see what the printing size is by going to Image -> Image size -> Document size - the values you see there is the size it will be.

If you increase the resolution from 72dpi/150dpi to 300dpi via Image -> Image size -> Resolution, make sure 'Resample Image' is unticked before pressing ok. This will keep the pixel dimensions unchanged, and only adjust the printing size.

After that, when you place the image in InDesign, you can see its effective resolution by opening the Info Palette and selecting the photo. There you will see 'Actual ppi', which will be 300dpi, and 'Effective ppi', which will also be 300dpi if you do not resize the image. If you make the image larger in InDesign, the Effective ppi will show a lower value, if you make it smaller the value will rise. With a good image, you can usually safely increase in size until the Effective ppi rises to about 240ppi. Sizing up until its 150ppi is the max, after that the image will very noticeably degrade in quality.

To make a good printable PDF, you go to File -> Export -> and choose pdf and give it a name -> there you can choose an Adobe PDF Preset from the drop down menu, for example 'Press Quality'. If you want easy results, you can then pick 'PDF/X-1a:2001' from the Standard drop down menu. Of course, you can also set everything manually (for example if you want crop-marks and such).

However, you'll also want to set the color management options to both InDesign and Photoshop to the same settings. You can do this manually, or with Bridge. RGB to Adobe RGB (1998), and CMYK to whatever default CMYK profile is generally used in your area/country. Choosing 'PDF/X-a1:2001' as PDF preset, no color profile will be included. If you want one to be included, change it manually in the PDF export settings.

microspective's picture

Couldn't help but notice that you said you're working on a "10-page booklet." If you're making a booklet (unless it will be perfect bound or ring-bound), it needs to have pages divisible by four. Why? Usually a booklet is made of multiple nested folded sheets of paper. Take a piece of paper, fold it in half, count your panels: four.

Hope this alleviates any printer headaches!

Good luck with your project.

Boros's picture

My point exaclty ^

Stickley's picture

A related question I've had for a while: I understand printers are also moving over to RIPs that take RGB source files and print them CMYK. The whole file is set up as RGB, all parts. They won't take CMYK files.

This leaves me baffled as to how are blacks handled (or 100% C, M, or Y). 100% K doesn't exist in RGB accurately when converted to CMYK.

100K is 35R 31G 32B; input 35 31 32 as your RGB values and you get 70C 68M 64Y 74K (in Photoshop, 70C 70M 64Y 78K in InDesign for example).

How does the RIP know what % K to use? 70C 68M 64Y 74K is heavier than a rich-black, wouldn't that pose a problem for making a mess on the press with too much ink, or registration issues? Or if you just want 100K black text? I think the RIP is supposed to know what to do with text as a font, but what if your text isn't embedded as a font, just an outline? Or you want a 100K black box?


Quincunx's picture

Where did you hear that printers are moving to RIPs that take RGB? I think that is very unlikely, as a color-calibrated workflow would become impossible.

Stickley's picture

It sounds like heresy/lunacy to me too - I don't understand how the conversion process works either, the numbers just don't match in my tests, so clearly I'm missing some information.

There is a local printer (of photography and books) whose uses an HP Indigo Digital Press that takes only RGB sources to print CMYK; also, my wife works in publishing and some of her printers are talking about asking for sources to be delivered this way, so I've been left wondering what is happening to get the numbers/colors to match correctly on the fly at printing time.

Anyone have any other info about this?

Theunis de Jong's picture

The RIP might have an internal conversion table, and thus produce the highest possible quality conversion, given that they know what paper it's being print on, with what dot density, and how much *exactly* their ink (toner?) deviates from ideally colored Cs, Ms, Ys, and Ks. That combination is hard to beat by general conversion profiles.

Quincunx's picture

Working in RGB is still going to be problematic, even if the RIP makes the highest possible quality conversion, as the CMYK color range remains much smaller than RGB. So you will have this funky orange in a RGB file, which will then come out like a murky brown orange regardless of the conversion quality.

I'd say a color-calibrated workflow is still a much better way to obtain optimal CMYK reproduction. Especially since it will be wysiwyg, as you're working in the limited color range all the time.

tmac's picture

The final output from sending RGB to your average printer would be terrible.

However, it is good if you can get print profiles from your printer, along with some idea of how much sharpening works best with their press and paper.

To the original poster:
I have found this book quite handy for questions about production:
Mastering InDesign CS3 for Print Design and Production

It's for CS3, but everything still applies. It also has good notes if you are in the unfortunate situation of having to use inCopy with a remote editor.

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