Adobe Acrobat has many built in features to view, fix, and control prepress issues — including spot and process colors, printer marks, preflighting, and fonts. These various tools can take much of the guesswork out of files when preparing PDFs for commercial printing.

The Output Preview dialog box for example is a terrific tool that allows you to inspect individual color plates in a process or spot color print job, as well as simulating how your PDF will look in different printing conditions.

Note: That’s a PDF of our Mac Maintenance Checklist used to demo this tip.

Output Preview: Previewing color separations.

Acrobat-OutputPreviewDialog.pngTo access the Output Preview dialog box in Acrobat 8, choose:

Advanced > Print Production > Output Preview

To view or hide a separation, select or deselect the color name in the Separations list. This list allows you to turn on and off the visibility of the colors used in the PDF. You can turn them on
and off individually or turn on and off all the spot plates. This is one of the easiest ways to see how a file will separate without having to print each plate out.

Simulation Profile: Acrobat uses simulation profiles to approximate output devices and printing mediums when you preview color separations. There are two additional checkboxes below this setting:

  • Simulate Black Ink – Simulates the dark gray you get instead of a pure black when printing on many printers. This is according to the proof profile. Not all color profiles support this option.
  • Simulate Paper White – Likewise, this option simulates the dingy white of real paper (as opposed to a bright digital monitor), according to the proof profile. Not all profiles support this option.

Total Ink Coverage: Many print shops have a limit to the amount of ink they can print onto a sheet of paper. The general limit is 280% ink out of a possible 400% (100% flood of each of the inks in a CMYK image). Check this box to highlight the areas on your PDF that exceeds this limit.

Source: This tip inspired by Jason Hoppe’s June 18th workshop Acrobat: Prepress With PDFs. If you are a designer in the Seattle area, join us this Wednesday morning or afternoon for an in-depth look at how to use PDFs in today’s modern graphic design prepress workflow. [See other upcoming workshops.]