Design Tips and Tricks

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Choose the Best PDF Preset for Printing


Most printers understand the value of having their customers send PDF file for printing. Correctly created, a PDF is a digital master that contains all the graphics, type, and fonts that make up a document for printing. The key is in the settings you choose when you make your PDF file.

If you’re using the print-oriented Adobe Creative Suite applications, things are made much easier because there is an Export Adobe PDF dialog box available in InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. It provides PDF presets for many print workflows, and you get the most control over the kind of PDF file the printer needs. (While it’s still possible to make a PDF by creating a PostScript file, and processing it though Acrobat Distiller, this older, more tedious process usually provides few advantages.)


In Adobe InDesign, choose File > Export > Adobe PDF or Adobe PDF (Print), depending on the version. In Adobe Illustrator, choose File > Save As > Adobe PDF (pdf). In Adobe Photoshop, choose File > Save As > Photoshop PDF.

The most important question is which of the PDF presets to choose. The best choice is typically the one that your print provider gives you. However, if they don’t specify their own choice, use one of the three PDF/X options: PDF/X-1a, PDF/X-3, or PDF/X-4. A PDF/X file must include certain elements essential for printing, and it may prohibit certain things.

If your printer has a PostScript RIP, the best choice is usually PDF/X-1a (shown above). When you choose this preset all colors (e.g., RGB images) are converted to CMYK using the output intent defined on the Output pane (the default is US Web Coated SWOP). Fonts are all embedded. This choice also flattens all transparency. Your printer can tell you if this workflow will work for their printing process.


Creating PostScript in Mac OX Using InDesign


As I’ve described in another blog Export Adobe PDF, if you’re using the print-oriented Adobe Creative Suite applications, you’ll probably use the Export Adobe PDF dialog box available in InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. However, people use many different workflows for print, and some of them require using older RIPs or using InDesign’s Print Booklet feature. These workflows can require creating PostScript files for various paper sizes. Using the old Adobe PDF printer when creating a PostScript file allowed you to create a page of any size. Subsequently, you could use the Adobe Distiller application, still available with all Acrobat Pro versions, to turn the PostScript file into a PDF file.

However, in newer versions of Adobe Acrobat 9 and Acrobat X when using Mac OS X, the Adobe PDF printer has been removed, along with its PostScript Printer Description (PPD) file. Adobe says that this is because newer versions of Mac OS X (10.6 and later) have security requirements that make installing this impossible.

Here is a workaround for installing the Acrobat 9 PPD file in InDesign so you can use it to create a PostScript file:

  • Quit InDesign.
  • Navigate to /Applications/Adobe InDesign [version number]/Presets/
  • Within the Presets folder, create a folder called PPDs (the folder name is case sensitive).
  • Control-click the following link and choose Save Link As to download the Acrobat 9 PPD:

Acrobat 9 PPD

  • Place a copy of the downloaded PPD into the folder you created
  • Restart Adobe InDesign
  • Choose the printer as “Postscript file” and then PPD as “Adobe PDF 9.0” and make the Postscript file.

Use the Correct PDF Viewer Application


It’s important to use the correct settings to create a PDF file when it’s intended for commercial printing. It’s also critical to select the best PDF viewer application in which to look at your PDF. There are many choices of PDF readers, and not all of them are created equally. Many of them may work for everyday use but cannot display attributes that are important for printing.

Shown below is an example. When a customer creates a document for print, they turn on the overprinting attribute on some type. They switch the color of the type to white and when they create a PDF file, it looks like this:

But when the printer looks at the file in Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader, which are designed to accurately preview PDF files for print, they see the way the file will really print:

When the VIGC, the Flemish Innovation Center for Graphic Communication, tested PDF readers like Apple Preview or Foxit Reader, they found that they couldn’t display critical features like transparency, overprinting, color accuracy or interactive PDF elements.­­

The most reliable PDF readers are Adobe Reader (free from the Adobe website) and Adobe Acrobat, and they are what you should use to preview your PDF files.

Outlining Fonts Isn’t Usually Necessary


Sometimes a person writes that they have been asked to outline fonts by a printer. Or they think that if the person they’re sending a file to doesn’t have the fonts used in a PDF document, that other fonts will be substituted.

If you create a PDF file from your document, all the Adobe Creative Suite applications (and most other applications) will embed all the fonts. Outlining in almost all cases is not necessary.

There are some good reasons not to outline fonts:

• The outlining of text will degrade the typographic quality of the text. The glyphs are turned into ordinary graphics that lack the intelligence fonts have (called hinting) to look good on different kinds of printers. Look at the word “blanket” below after it has been outlined. Outlined type will look thicker.

• Certain attributes will be lost because they are not part of the font itself. The underscore in the URL below below was lost, and the words in the bulleted list were outlined but the bullets were not.







So the best advice is: Keep type in its native format. Resist outlining if possible.

Check Out Your Color Files with Separation Preview


In the early days of digital printing (what was then sometimes called “desktop publishing”) it was difficult for a print service provider to be able to know how a file that was submitted by a customer would print as color separations.

You could see the colors on-screen, but you couldn’t easily tell if they had specified additional ink colors that would print out on extra printing plates. So we would painfully print out separations on the laser printer in the shop.

These days, if you’re using Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, or Adobe Acrobat Pro, it’s much easier. You can use a feature usually called Separation Preview. In InDesign, choose Window > Output > Separation Preview. In Illustrator, choose Window > Separations Preview. In Acrobat X Pro, choose Tools > Print Production > Output Preview and look at the Separations pane.

You’ll see the color plates of your document as they would print out. If you move your cursor over the page, you can see the color value of the current location.

It’s particularly helpful to discover if you have more than one color specified that should be on the same color plate. In the illustration below the PANTONE 187 should be on one plate but shows up on two because the names of the plates are different.








It can save a lot of time and money to discover these problems ahead of time, before they slow things down on the printing press.


Examine Your PDFs with Acrobat’s Output Preview


In a previous posting, we talked about the value of Adobe InDesign’s Separation Preview tool to view the color plates that would print out from your file. Acrobat Pro has an even more powerful tool called Output Preview which you can use to preview your PDF files.

To open it in Acrobat 9 Pro, choose Advanced > Print Production > Output Preview. In Acrobat 10 Pro, choose Tools > Print Production > Output Preview. The first panel you view in the Preview menu by default is Separations. It provides similar information to InDesign about the color plates that would print out. An Ink Manager button takes you to the controls for which plates to print. In addition, you can see the effects of overprinting and view the total amount of ink at a given location. 










Clicking on Object Inspector in the Preview menu can access a second display. Here you can click over any part of the page and view the objects at that point. You could tell, for example, what the resolution of an image is, or what color space it’s in.  










Examining the PDF you send to your printer gives you more control over your job, and assures you that it will print the way you expect.

Seeing White Lines in a PDF File


You may have seen fine white lines appear when you print out a PDF proof of a page, and you may be afraid that they will appear in your job when your commercial printer prints it. There is an example below. Notice the fine white lines on the right side of the man on the purple background.

A white Lines  2

These are screen artifacts that are called stitching. Even though you can see them on-screen, they should not be a problem when printed at high resolution. They are caused because your artwork contains transparency. In the picture above you see that an outer glow has been applied to the image, which is a form of transparency. If you choose a method of creating a PDF file which requires transparency to be flattened these artifacts will appear because the flattening process breaks artwork into sections. This could happen if you created a PostScript file and then used Adobe Acrobat Distiller to create the PDF, or if you had chosen Acrobat 4 compatibility when you export to PDF. Both of these methods require transparency be flattened. You can avoid flattening transparency and artifacts if you export PDF directly from your application and if you choose Acrobat 5 compatibility or higher in your export settings. Check with your commercial printer about the proper PDF presets to use for their production process. But, in any case, even though you see the artifacts, they should not print.


Don’t Try to Edit PDFs in Adobe Illustrator


Adobe Illustrator is an illustration program that comes with the Adobe Creative Suite. It also has the capability of opening and saving PDF files. In fact, when you save an Illustrator file as a PDF, it automatically turns on the Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities so you can open it in Illustrator again to do editing.

Because Illustrator allows you to open PDF files, some people try to use it as a general PDF editor. This is not generally a good idea. You run the risk of ruining your PDF file, especially if it is created by a non-Adobe application. Often you’ll get a warning about this as you’re opening a file.

I created a PDF in Microsoft Word using PostScript Type 1 Bauer Bodoni. This is what it looks like when the PDF is viewed in Adobe Acrobat.





When I try to open this PDF on another computer where Bauer Bodoni is not installed to edit it, I get the message that the PDF will be reinterpreted with a substitute font. This is the way it opens up.






If the PDF has very simple content, say a vector logo, it may work. But often subtle changes will occur to the file, and it won’t print correctly. It’s better to use an application that’s intended for PDF editing, like Enfocus Pitstop to edit PDF files.











Examining the PDF you send to your printer gives you more control over your job, and assures you that it will print the way you expect.

Lettering Our World…Now That’s a Job!


You have probably not heard the name Gerard Huerta, but you have definitely seen his work. This designer’s resume reads like a World’s Most Recognized list of iconic logos. His career was launched at CBS Records in New York, after graduating from Art Center College of Design. While with CBS Records his work focused on letter forms and logos. He completed work for Boston, The Charlie Daniel’s Band, Blue Oyster Cult, and Bob Dylan to name a few. Entirely too cool! This designer is the real deal!

As his career progressed he designed album covers for AC/DC, Foreigner, Firefall, and The Outlaws. While I was rocking out at the concerts, Gerard was somewhat more productive,  helping develop their iconic images. But don’t get the idea he is the “geek behind the image”! Gerard is a guitar player in his own right, playing in several bands over the years.

His unique style and creative renderings have opened doors for him across all industries. Gerard has designed logos for Swiss Army Brands, HBO, Pepsi, Spelling Entertainment, Nabisco, Calvin Klein’s Eternity, and Arista Records. But this isn’t even digging into the meat of his work. He has also designed mastheads for People Magazine, Time Magazine, Money Magazine, PC Magazine, Architectural Digest, and Conde Nast, to, yet again, name only a few.custom logo design online

Most designers search for that perfect font to compliment a client’s design. However, Gerard creates those original fonts with an eye for subtlety that has become an artistic signature on all his work. In fact, his letter work is a far cry from your average font work. Letter work is his specialty, making Gerard a bit of a designer’s designer. Elevating the alphabet to an art form, he is currently a part of the “Letter as Image” exhibition that has traveled from coast to coast. He is a self-described “old-School” designer who still starts much of his work on paper before moving to the computer.

“When you are stuck, walk away from the computer and draw. It will teach you how to see.”       Gerard Huerta

When you need artistic lettering and a traditional “font” won’t do, we suggest you contact Gerard.  His talent can help you get a truly original logo and the look you are envisioning.

We appreciate your business Gerard and wish you continued success in your career!

Avoid the No-Go on the Logo: Logo Design Tips


So, you’re launching a new business. You have a well-articulated business plan and projections for your rate of growth. Now comes the fun part, branding your company.

The company logo; we’ve all seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Before you can order business cards and company promotional materials, you must choose a logo that provides strong visual branding.

Here are a few pointers before you commit to a design that will be a permanent representation of your brand.

  • Take Your Time: The busyness of getting your business launched is going to put some major time constraints on you. Don’t rush into a logo commitment that you will regret months or even weeks later. Slow down. Avoid letting excitement about promoting your new venture rush you into the wrong choice.
  • Get Feedback: We all have blind spots. Show your logo options to numerous people you trust both in and outside of your industry. You don’t have to be swayed by every opinion, but extra eyes may see a failing you missed, saving you time and money in the long-run.
  • Consider Hiring a Professional: When the budget is tight, you may be tempted to skimp on logo design. However, consider that your logo will have long-term impact on your company image. It is worth the investment. One cost friendly option is to hire a design student and pay them in trade, or food. No matter who you use, make sure you get both black and white and full color versions in vector and other file formats.
  • Avoid Boring or Common Concepts: A logo should brand your company. Meaning, it should differentiate you from the market place. Ideally, it will reflect upon your company personality or compliment the product or service you offer. Generic logos litter the commercial space and do little to make you memorable. This blog about overdone logo concepts provides samples of what to avoid.
  • Keep it Clean and Simple: Logo’s need to be quickly recognizable. Simple lines that allow for clean reproduction in every medium are important. For example, a detailed logo that incorporates tree branches might look great in print, but when you need to embroider it, you’re in trouble.

The logo collage below should help spark your thinker! When you are ready to make your logo official, contact one of our friendly print experts who will help you get the professional printed products your business needs. We can get you started with business cards, stationery, brochures and promotional pieces.logo design



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