InDesign/PDF expertise?

dtw's picture

I know someone'll say "where's the type?", but please indulge me, I'm sure there are plenty of InDy users here on these forums.

I receive PDFs of adverts that others have created in InDesign, for inclusion in black-and-white publications. I have the full version of Acrobat, so I can run some preflight checks before sending the files on, but I don't have any other Creative Suite apps so I can't do heavy-duty editing of the PDFs, nor can I work on the source files.

Two necessary features of what the PDFs should be, are (a) pure greyscale - so no CMYK-format objects floating around even if they are nominally black, and (b) all trnasparencies flattened.

My problem is, some of our designers don't seem to be able to fulfil BOTH these criteria. Often we'll get a file that's suitably greyscale (so it passes the preflight checks for "List non B/W objects" and "Document generates more than one plate" etc) but with un-flattened transparencies. But if I run Acrobat's transparency flattener, or get the designers to flatten the transparencies at source, things mysteriously change colour space, and we'll end up with CMYK drop shadows and so on.

Remember, I don't have/use InDesign. What I'm after is a (simple!) description that I can pass on to the designers, to say "you need to do this" so that the PDFs they output will be right.

Out of frustration, they're resorting to outputting as tiffs instead of PDFs, which works, but makes the files much bigger than they need to be, so I don't want to encourage that.

Can anyone help?

oldnick's picture

Out of frustration, they're resorting to outputting as tiffs instead of PDFs, which works, but makes the files much bigger than they need to be, so I don't want to encourage that.

This may be a dumb question, but what's keeping you from converting the PDFs to TIFFs, thereby allowing you to control the color space?

dtw's picture

Nothing, but again that'd bloat the file size.

...and part of the reason we're trying to keep the file size down is that often we're putting two or three of these ads into a set of PDF revises for a publication that is otherwise mostly text (and therefore a relatively small file) and email them out to external editors for checking. It's just adding extra levels of procedures, that I think we should be able to do without if we can get the files output suitably in the first place. (Plus I have six colleauges who are doing the same job as me, but who don't even have the full version of Acrobat, so any re-saving has to keep coming through me!) :^/

JamesM's picture

There is an Acrobat command to convert to grayscale...

Advanced > Print Production > Preflight > PDF Fixups > Convert to Grayscale

In that same PDF Fixups menu is a Flatten Overprints command. Perhaps it would do the flattening you need; I'm not sure.

dtw's picture

Which version of Acrobat is that, James? I'm using 7.0 Professional, and there's no "Print Production" section under the "Advanced" menus. There is under the "Tools" menu, but the "Preflight" window that I can launch from there only enables you to make various checks, not actual changes.

DTY's picture

Maybe you could try exporting it as a grayscale EPS from Acrobat? That would make it black-only and do the flattening at the same time. This ought to work if EPS is compatible with your workflow and the files don't contain anything else that EPS doesn't support.

JamesM's picture

> Which version of Acrobat is that, James?

I'm using Acrobat 9.4 Pro for Mac. I'm thinking these options have been available for several versions (perhaps under a different menu), but I'm not sure. There's a Profiles tab that's selected by default in that window; you might want to see if there is a Profiles menu item somewhere.

JamesM's picture

After doing a quick Google on the subject it looks like the later versions of Acrobat are better at this than the earlier ones. This page has some discussion about it:

dtw's picture

From these replies, I think I need to ask our IT department if they have newer versions they could upgrade me to (and if I'm allowed!) ... in an ideal world I'd get the whole Creative Suite so I could edit elements of PDFs out in Photoshop and then place them back, but I think that might be pushing my luck.

In the meantime, I'll look into the procedures suggested by the users on that Adobe forum, and also David's (archaica) suggestion and see if those get me anywhere. That Adobe discussion does seem to support the case for upgrading!

ETA: Pretty sure my version 7.0 doesn't have anything resembling that 'Profiles' panel, James.


Anyhoo, these are still post-hoc fixes to the PDF from my end. Back to the original question - does anyone know if the designers could be doing anything differently in InDesign for the PDFs to output with all the required attributes in the first place?

riccard0's picture

A good tutorial on flattening PDFs in InDesign here:

Oink's picture

I do the Acrobat "convert to grayscale" quite a bit. Not straight forward but some clients insist on creating everything in Microsoft office. I much prefer to handle PDF than DOC

Also if you want more control over the tonal reduction, you can open the PDF in Illustrator and do "Recolor Art". A very slow process, though.

I haven't tried this but converting the profile to a dot-gain (grayscale) one might also do the trick. I have been meaning to try that next.

dtw's picture

Today's update: in my version, the "Convert colors" procedure (or the nearest equivalent - as this version doesn't seem to have the "blending modes" option) works, in the sense of making a pure greyscale file that'd pass the preflight tests, but mangles some logos on the page.

I have a workaround that involves just re-printing the PDF to a new PDF withan output setting of "Compsite gray", which also works but tends to lighten some blacks to grey. As a short-term stopgap, this I can live with.

My manager has asked our IT dept about chances of getting my Acrobat upgraded to v8 or 9. We'll see what happens.

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