InDesign CS3: Wonky Printing
March 17, 2009 9:09 AM   Subscribe

Is there a fool-proof way to consistently print high-quality drafts out of InDesign CS3? (my prints rarely look like the on-screen version)

I am by no means an expert, but I'm occasionally asked to make flyers and brochures for our company. I use InDesign CS3, however, when I go to print out of InDesign, sometimes certain layers don't print or the whole document just looks. . . .off. I've tried exporting to PDF and then printing, and that usually makes it a little better, but it's by no means high quality.

The only way I've found to maintain the on-screen version while printing is to export an EPS and then open that in Photoshop and print out of Photoshop. This is not very convenient when I'm printing multiple drafts for multiple projects throughout the day.

There has to be an easier way, right?
posted by siclik to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So, is this just the images that are looking bad? Where are you getting the images? If they are web images, they are low-resolution (72dpi) and will print poorly.

If they are actual high-resolution images (300dpi min), how are you handling them? Are you inserting them into your document and then scaling them up in size in the document? This is not a good thing, and will, effectively, lower the reproduction quality of the image.

Also, what printer are you using?

There are a lot of variables that will determine the output quality.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:33 AM on March 17, 2009

Your screen and the printer are two different medias, they're never going to look at exactly alike.

Indesign has Print Styles, which enable you to make your setting once, then choose that style to have those exact print settings for future jobs. Look under the File or Edit menu for the option.

Otherwise, could you be more specific as what is different or "off" from the screen and print versions? Perhaps provide a screenshot and PDF of a specific file?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:38 AM on March 17, 2009

What do you mean, "off"? Do you know about PostScript and transparency? Are you sending this to a commercial offset printer, or are you doing them in-house with an inkjet or laser printer? Are your color swatches RGB or CMYK? Are you preflighting? If so, how? There are literally dozens of other questions I could ask here.

If you email me a packaged version of one of the typical .indd files that looks "off" when you print it, as well as indicating exactly how these are printed, I could probably tell you precisely what is going wrong.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:03 AM on March 17, 2009

P.S. Re: The only way I've found to maintain the on-screen version while printing is to export an EPS and then open that in Photoshop and print out of Photoshop. This is not very convenient when I'm printing multiple drafts for multiple projects throughout the day.

If you are setting up your files properly, you will never ever ever have to do this again. InDesign is a nuclear-grade page layout system and there is no need for this if you have done it according to best standands.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:05 AM on March 17, 2009

Response by poster: Here is an example of a brochure as it appears in InDesign CS3.

Here is an example of the same brochure after it's been printed out. Notice the flawed heading (different colors of black). This often happens with other colors as well.

Although it isn't visible in this example, I often run into problems with text not printing (most often when it is on top of a picture or graphic). Again, export to Photoshop always fixes this, but it's a pain.
posted by siclik at 10:22 AM on March 17, 2009

I'd say you are outputting to a non-Postscript printer. Probably mixing RGB and CMYK in the same document, as well.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:37 AM on March 17, 2009

Looks like you have a transparency effect over a spot color or something similar. Where does "GK CHOPPER" come from? Did you Place it in ID or do it natively? Is there a drop shadow (which would be obscured by the dark background anyway) or just the beveling? Can you email me the .indd file? What kind of printer are you printing these on?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:40 AM on March 17, 2009

I'd say you are outputting to a non-Postscript printer.

This could definitely be it; does the driver say anything about "PCL"?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:40 AM on March 17, 2009

Thorzdad sounds right. Do you know the difference between RGB and CMYK? Could you tell up what your preferences are set as for Display of Black (You're on a PC, right? Look under edit>preferences>black display) and post what those settings currently are.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:42 AM on March 17, 2009

Response by poster: The printer does say something about PCL - in fact its name is "HP 5550 PCL 6"

Appearance of Black: On Screen: Display Blacks Accurately, Printing: Output Blacks Accurately

Overprinting of Black: [CHECKED] Overprint Black Swatch at 100%

"GK CHOPPER" is just a text box in InDesign that has text effects (bevel).

@Optimus - I emailed the .indd about twenty minutes ago to your gmail.

I do know the difference between RGB and CMYK - but I'm no expert at any of this.
posted by siclik at 10:58 AM on March 17, 2009

We shall wait to hear from OC, once he examines the file.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:03 AM on March 17, 2009

Problems with the file:

1) You have many of your blacks set to [Registration], not black, which is probably conflicting with what your intent is re: overprinting the black swatch but I'm not certain.

2) You are printing to a HP 5550 (which believe it or not is the exact same laser printer in my office) with the PCL driver; HP should have a PS driver available.

Change your registration swatches to black, save it, install the PS driver from HP's website, and try it out. I would test it for you but my workday just got ridiculously busy and I gotta scram.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:23 AM on March 17, 2009

Response by poster: Optimus: I just did exactly as you suggested. The print-out looked exactly the same as before (flawed heading), but this time, using the new HP ps driver, it took nearly a full minute to send the job to the printer. Longer wait time with, at present, no added benefits.

Any other suggestions? Maybe you can try it with your printer if you get time.
posted by siclik at 11:57 AM on March 17, 2009

I will probably be in the office until late so I'll check it out.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:04 PM on March 17, 2009

If I recall, HP does not use actual Postscript. Instead, they emulate Postscript. So, there could be issues, especially with advanced or transparency effects.

Back when I worked in an office, I seem to recall that PS had to be specifically enabled in the Windows print server, otherwise everything got pushed as PCL, regardless. I seem to recall the IT guys bitching about having to enable a special PS gateway (or something) for the Mac guy. I know siclik isn't on a Mac, but he might still have an issue with trying to shove PS down the network print server that isn't expecting PS.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:28 PM on March 17, 2009

As Optimus Chyme points out, Registration and Black are not the same color; Registration is 100% of ALL inks, whereas Black is just black ink. I see that a lot.

Is the header created/styled in InDesign, Photoshop, or Illustrator? My guess, based on your flicker links, is you're having rendering issues issues arising from transparency or effects. I see that a lot too. Adobe, in their infinite wisdom, built all sorts of wonderful special effects, like transparency, drop shadows, feathered edges & the like, into the Creative suite. However, they bundled these wonders before building support for them into the PostScript. Adobe used to include a caveat saying, in effect, "don't use these effects if you plan on printing this document," but they've buried it under a couple of layers of weasel words.

If you've styled the header in InDesign, try turning off all the effects, setting the transparency to 100%, and printing. If that black box around the masthead goes away, bingo, there's your culprit.

I'd be happy to take a look at the files too. MeMail me and I'll send you my gmail address.
posted by lekvar at 1:24 PM on March 17, 2009

Response by poster: Bingo. It was the text effects.

That doesn't explain why sometimes text on top of pictures doesn't print (I don't use text effects very often), but at least we figured this one out.

Is the only way to work around that to build the fancy text in illustrator or photoshop?

I guess I kinda knew that InDesign was buggy when printing, which is why I asked the question, is there anyway to flatten and print everything so I'll end up with prints as pretty as when I export to EPS->Import to Photoshop->Print?

Oh - and regarding the black/registration issue - I fully understand that and it was updated in the document (but didn't make a difference during printing).
posted by siclik at 1:43 PM on March 17, 2009

Yeah, Illustrator is your best bet for creating fancy styling; the .eps file format supports clipping paths, so you can plop your illustration on top of a colored background without having to play with the InDesign transparency settings. Also, you can flatten the artwork and/or rasterize the effects so they don't confuse your printer. Photoshop is, in my opinion, a distant second.

InDesign isn't buggy, per se. The problem is Adobe. They created the Postscript printing engine and the Creative Suite, but they forgot to make sure the two play nice together. Sadly, in ID, there are no "flattening" controls outside of the Print dialogue (Print->Advanced->Transparency Flattener) and even that one is on-again-off-again.

Really, your best bet is to create all the styled stuff in PS or AI and place them in ID. ID's great for setting type and creating layouts, but anything fancier than that is best left to the programs that were created to serve those functions.
posted by lekvar at 5:55 PM on March 17, 2009

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