How can I get spot colors to accurately export to PDF from Indesign?
September 14, 2006 1:51 AM   Subscribe

InDesign, Acrobat and spot colors to PDF?!

I'm working on an InDesign CS2 document which is to be printed with 2 pantone spot colors. When I export to PDF using the default "Press" output, the spots (which are being used for large sections of the page) change to lighter, brighter, unsubtle versions of themselves.

From this, it appears that the spots are getting converted to CYMK badly, but the same thing happens when I export with the setting "Color: Leave unchanged" (also this puts giant white spaces in my spot-separated tiffs)

So my questions are:
1. Is this happening because spots are being converted to CMYK?
2. If spots are being converted, how can I export without converting them?
3. If the spots are not being converted, which program most accurately represents what the spot color will look like (Indesign or Acrobat)?

I have no pantone book, and don't think I shall have access to one in a useful timeframe. The spots are 1545M and 291M.
posted by beerbajay to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My best suggestion is for you to speak directly to your printer. They can guide you to set-up your files in the best way possible.

The difference in the color swatches between InDesign and Acrobat are probably due to a color management problem (although, converting a Pantone spot to CMYK can certainly produce the effect you describe). You don't say if you are Windows or Mac based.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:36 AM on September 14, 2006

Windows based. Sorry.

I'm in Sweden, the printer is in the UK so chatting with them might be a pain. Gnar.
posted by beerbajay at 8:05 AM on September 14, 2006

Hrm. I exported out to PDF, then I imported the PDF back into InDesign and the colors looked okay. I'll blame Acrobat for now and see what comes back from the printer...
posted by beerbajay at 9:04 AM on September 14, 2006

Could it be that one of your programs (either InDesign or Acrobat) hasn't been updated in a while? Pantone colors are not set in stone—the definitions change regularly, and a version of a program that hasn't been updated may have out-of-date Pantone definitions. Thus it may not be "converting" them, per se—each program may believe that it has the correct 1545M and 291M, but then it turns out that the two programs have different versions of those colors.

It seems unlikely that would be your problem, but I just wanted to throw it out there.
posted by limeonaire at 9:51 AM on September 14, 2006

Double-check that the color management settings in InDesign match the settings in Acrobat. The same RGB profile, the same CMYK profile, etc.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:05 AM on September 14, 2006

two things:

- If you're not using a Pantone Swatchbook and are only proofing your colors on-screen, you could be in for a surprise when you see the actual inks. Some of the PMS inks are not accurately reproduceable in RGB and/or CMYK color systems. (Which is often why we use spot colors in the first place.) Be sure the color you're specifyingng is actually the color you're expecting to see.

- If you are using transparency with spot colors, the Adobe print engine cannot always print this properly. You either need to convert to CMYK or just deal with the weird halos and stuff it might print on a CMYK proofing device. (A printer's color-key style proof is still very useful for this type of thing.) In my experience, any issue with printing often becomes an issue with PDFs too.

hope that helps.
posted by Cranialtorque at 10:14 AM on September 14, 2006

Thanks for the comments. I didn't end up resolving this before it bounced off to the printers.

I am aware that the colors won't be reproduced exactly, but the specifications were for spot colors and I'm not a professional designer with access to a swatchbook, so there we go. No big deal to me or the "client."

I saw the problems with exporting transparency so I just ended up compositing the things that might have used it as spots channels in photoshop, and that seemed to export cleanly.
posted by beerbajay at 6:22 AM on September 20, 2006

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