Constructing a Bullet-Proof Digital File with InDesign

9 Oct

The InDesign workspace is a bit trickier to manage for consistent color than Illustrator. Unlike Illustrator, InDesign was created for the purpose of managing large multi-page documents such as magazines, newsletters, and books. As a digital layout program, it is obviously not limited to multi-page design. Several graphic designers use InDesign for business cards, brochures, posters, large format display, and web content.

When creating a new document, you should pick the color settings that best match the method of reproduction. For offset printing, pick CMYK; for photographic reproduction (Durst, LightJet, and Lambda) or web/internet, pick RGB. To access or change the color settings for your document, go to the top of the window in InDesign and select Edit > Transparency Blend Space. Then pick Document RGB or Document CMYK.

Next, set the appropriate Transparency Flattener Preset (Edit > Transparency Flattener Presets…). There are only three options: low, medium, and high resolution. (See TF_Presets screenshot.) The low preset is intended for web and silkscreen printing, medium is intended for large format reproduction, and high is intended for high quality offset printing.

Finally, check the Color Settings of your document (Edit > Color Settings). (See Color Settings screenshot.) Most of the work BPI receives is designed for offset printing, so we use the default North America Prepress 2 settings. Notice the field CMYK: Preserve Numbers (Ignore Linked Profiles) setting in the Color Management Profiles field. By employing this setting, InDesign is prevented from performing a color transformation on art opened on this workstation or pasted into this document. Otherwise, art that has a different CMYK profile would have the CMYK values shifted to fit within the ICC model for US Web Coated (SWOP) 2. If you’re new to this blog, just trust us–an uncontrolled color transformation is a bad gamble.

Note the check boxes underneath Color Management Policies. When InDesign detects a missing or mismatched ICC profile, the Profile or Policy Mismatch dialog box will open. By default, the “Leave the document as is” option is selected. This is the option BPI recommends. Remember, unmanaged color transformation = bad gambling.

Now, let’s take a minute to review some of the tips from previous blog posts for successful color management:

  1. Complete all your image work first.
  2. Make sure all of your images are in the appropriate color family for your end product (RGB for web and photo or CMYK for offset printing and large format work reproduction).
  3. All images should be in the same profile. (Examples are: sRGB IEC1966-2.1 for web; Adobe RGB 1998 for photo and Durst/Lambda or LightJet; US Web Coated (SWOP) v2 or Coated Gracol 2006 for most North American offset printing; etc…)
  4. Conserve your assets! Make sure you still have (or have access to) unaltered client originals and your multi-layer Photoshop files.

Before you construct your art, you should consider a couple of additional warnings. First, objects with transperancy effects interact with each other. Be sure you’re fully aware of the capabilities of your service provider before you stack drop shadows, glows or other effects on top of each other. Of course, if you’re using BPI, you don’t have to worry about that. Second, when designing for offset printing, avoid overlaying transparent effects or objects on top of spot colors. Technically, a spot color is supposed to print separate from the normal 4 colors. When RIPS attempt to create a flattened file for color seperation, they create image-blocks (sometimes called slices) of raster objects which will vary in color value and appearance from the objects that have a solid spot color value.

Finally, let’s talk about some of the export options for PDF in InDesign. When you elect to export as PDF, the first thing you get is the Export Adobe PDF dialog box. (See Export PDF screenshot.) BPI generally recommends the High Quality Print preset as a starting point. For enhanced transparency support, we suggest a using a compatibility setting of Acrobat 6. (See Export PDF Modified screenshot.) Also, we suggest employing ZIP compression (see Export Compression screenshot), setting the Output Color options to “No Color Conversion,” and setting the Profile Inclusion Poilicy to Include Tagged Source Profiles. Remember, if all your image work has been converted to the appropriate color space and ICC profile, you don’t need InDesign to perform color conversion. We recommend ZIP compression to avoid piling jpeg compression on top of jpeg compression, which can result in an unattractive image appearance. Also, including the tagged source profiles lets your print provider know what image environment the art is intended for and doesn’t change the color values of your file at all.

PS: Perhaps some of this seems a bit confusing. If you’ve never visited this blog before, visit some of our previous postings: “Why What you See Is Not Always What You Get!,” “Basketballs, Meatloafs and Frisbees, Oh My!,” and “Those Pesky Profiles.”

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