Printing problems with Illustrator...
July 30, 2005 1:48 AM   Subscribe

Formatting hell with Adobe Illustrator - anyone know why my images are coming out way too light?

Lots of images, for my thesis, taken at 500 dpi and dropped into .ai files, CMYK working space. The pics themselves are grayscale, and the final .ai files look fine when I print them on my office printer (low-res, but OK contrast). When I print them in high-quality mode, on glossy paper, they get lighter and fairly pixelated. All text and raster comes out fine, and I can't figure out for the life of me why the images are getting messed up like this. The only thing I can think of at this point is either a color profile mismatch between Illustrator and the printer, or something to do with the transparency settings (might it be flattening these in the printer rather than in Illustrator? They take forever to print...)

If I didn't need to add page numbers and captions into these, I would probably not be saving them as .ai files - but my color images look fine, it's just the grayscale ones that are coming out looking like crap.

I turn my dissertation in on Monday, (what I have is good enough for my committee, for now) and will only have about a week to fix these before submitting the damn thing. I've been struggling with this for the last 10 hours or so, so any help at all would be appreciated.
posted by caution live frogs to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
Best answer: First things first: you are placing the images, and not just copy-and-pasting, right?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:04 AM on July 30, 2005

Sorry, thought you were using InDesign. Please disregard.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:04 AM on July 30, 2005

Best answer: On second thought: most printers are set up to use RGB, not CMYK--have you tried converting the images to RGB before printing?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:06 AM on July 30, 2005

All text and raster comes out fine, and I can't figure out for the life of me why the images are getting messed up like this.

So the images that you dropped into Illustrator (that are giving you trouble) are not raster images? If they're vector images, why are you concerned about the DPI? I son't understand part of what you're geting at, so here's a possible generic solution:

Save the file as an EPS, and place the EPS in quarkXpress or InDesign. If that doesn't work, save it as a PDF (either as a native format or print it to PDF) and place that. Print it that way.

Lastly, if that doesn't work, export the Illustrator file as a 300 DPI .tif and print that. Or place it in quark or InDesign if it needs repositioning to print correctly. That should work.

Lastly, resolve never to use Adobe Illustrator as a layout tool again. Because this kind of stuff always happens to people who do that.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:43 AM on July 30, 2005

The suggestions of Mayor Curley are worth trying. Also you don't mention if you have a recent version of Photoshop, but if all you're doing is adding page numbers and captions to an image, then try adding them in Photoshop and printing. You say that the images are looking "pixelated" is it possible these images were scanned from a magazine or another book? This could be a moiré pattern.

There's likely some good explanation for whats happening, but it will be hard for others to diagnose (What version of Illustrator, what printer, do you have the correct printer driver, how were the images scanned?)
posted by jeremias at 5:11 AM on July 30, 2005

Check your document raster effect setting and make sure it's not set to 72 ppi. Push it up to 300 ppi.

Under: Effect > Document Raster Effects Settings

This is in CS1 or 2, not sure which version you are using.
posted by bittennails at 7:42 AM on July 30, 2005

500 dpi is overkill for the image resolution, and probably has a lot to do with why printing takes so long. 300 dpi is all that's necessary for actual offset printing; if you're using a consumer-grade laser or inkjet printer, you can get by with even less.
posted by Dean King at 10:20 AM on July 30, 2005

yeah. i fix pictures for a magazine. nothing is more than 300 ppi, Ever.

one thing about illustrator and indesign, there are all sorts of ways that you can put an image or other file into your layout. This doesn't mean that they all work all the time.

I agree, you need to Place the images, don't cut or copy and paste them in from photoshop or someplace else.

Also, do not make the images bigger using the scale function in illustrator. Make them the exact size you want it to be when placed, at 300 ppi, save them as uncompressed TIFF files from photoshop. Place them and Do Not resize or rotate the images.

let us know how it goes, and good luck.
posted by th3ph17 at 2:14 PM on July 30, 2005

oh, and make sure the grayscale images are a true grayscale and not a monotone or duotone image. I saw that happen on a print job last week. The "grayscale" image was actually a monotone image using a black pantone ink. Not the same thing--it printed totally washed out.
posted by th3ph17 at 2:19 PM on July 30, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback.

Basically, (a) I'm using CS1 (all programs), (b) raster settings are 300 dpi, and (c) rather than placing images, I'm resizing the graphics in Photoshop, and then saving before opening the grayscale .psd files directly in Illustrator and then adding them into a new document.

I've got micrographs, images taken at 10x to 100x magnification, on a really expensive microscope setup. All the images have the standard little scale bars, arrows, labels etc. added in to point out which parts are what. Rather than rasterize the scale bars and arrows and dumping the thing as a flattened image, I have been exporting everything for publication as vector graphics with the background image at 300 to 500 dpi. I've been doing it this way for quite some time, and have had several papers published with no problems - images come out fine.

I didn't build the entire images in Photoshop because the file size gets too large - talking 100 megs or so after adding in the reqisite white space and text to get the margins exactly where they need to be to pass review from the grad school. My plan was to build them, export as PDF, then print - which worked for everything except the grayscale images.

I'll try placing the images rather than opening directly - one issue though: does this simply link the files, as in InDesign? If so I'll need to move everything into one directory before building the images.

Good news at this point is (a) my advisor is pretty happy with things, even with the washed-out images, and (b) all I'd need to do is re-insert the image underneath the existing text.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:21 AM on July 31, 2005

Response by poster: Oops - forgot to add - most of the images were CMYK because that was the color space recommended by the graphics department for the last couple publishers I submitted articles to. The convserion settings I used to build the images were again publisher-recommended. I wanted to end up with all images as both photoshop originals and .pdf files (with the extra text labels) so that my advisor could open them after I leave - she's great, but couldn't tell a raster from a vector to save her life, and Photoshop is largely a mystery to her (for six years she's just been handing things to me and trusting that I'll fix it). Nobody else in the lab even has Illustrator or InDesign.

Mayor Curley writes "So the images that you dropped into Illustrator (that are giving you trouble) are not raster images?"

No, the pure line drawings are coming out fine. In the other images, I have a background photo with accompanying text. The color ones are fine, in all of them the added raster arrows & text in the micrographs are fine, it's just the background image in the grayscale photos that I'm having issues with.

For now I'm going to try placing the images and see what happens...
posted by caution live frogs at 10:33 AM on July 31, 2005

Are the background B&W images in grayscale? You should convert them to CMYK as well (if the rest of the images are in CMYK). See if it changes the output.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:49 AM on July 31, 2005

Response by poster: C_D - the background images were converted to CMYK in Photoshop, after the grayscale conversion, and before importing into Illustrator.

So far it looks like (a) placing images made a small difference in quality, but (b) using a different printer did more. No longer getting the washed-out look after placing images, but the detail is much better when using a non-laserjet to print things, and this printer handles grayscale natively.

Thanks all for the help on this!
posted by caution live frogs at 6:26 AM on August 1, 2005

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