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    Russell Viers is a Transition Expert in the publishing world. Since 1997 he has helped newspapers and magazines adapt to changes in the industry. Read more...

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  • Avoid output surprises…use the Separations Preview palette

    November 29th, 2006 by Russell Viers

    I remember the days when we would output a file as separated to the laser printer to see if anything was going to show up on an extra plate if the job was CMYK. While the job spooled, we would watch the progress bar and if it mentioned a fifth (or often more) color, we would either stop the printing or let it continue and look at the printout to see where the extra color was.
    We would also use this trick to check for CMYK blacks like type that had been colored as “register” instead of black, etc. or grayscale images that were really RGB or CMYK.
    A lot of innocent trees gave their lives for the pursuit of perfect film output.
    We no longer need to rely on luck or laser printers for precise output. Using InDesign’s Separations Palette will give you a good headstart in resolving output issues, like the ones listed above or others, like proper overprinting and knockouts.
    Keep in mind that some of the overprint issues may be resolved based on your RIP (Raster Image Processor) settings, but it never hurts to see what’s going on in a file before letting it go, either as a PDF or native file.
    Let’s give it a go…
    Open up a document in InDesign and go to Window> Output> Separations Preview (CS2) or Window> Output Preview> Separations (CS1). I wanted to be clear on the two versions since they are SOOO different, and I don’t want you confused.
    After this palette launches, select Separations from the drop down menu and you will see a list of all colors used in the document.
    To the left of the colors is an eyeball, which you can toggle off and on again to see where that color is…or isn’t.
    I often toggle off the Black to make sure that what’s black disappears. If it doesn’t, I know there is an unexpected CMYK black. In which case I go to that image or text and change it to meet my output requirements. Simple.
    I also toggle off and on varnish plates to make sure they are overprinting as they should. This also works with foil, opaque inks, spot UV or any other special application that is to overprint the image below.
    Just remember that the Separations Preview activates the Overprint Preview mode which hides your guides and frame edges. If after you’re done using it you wonder where all your guides have gone, just go to View> Overprint Preview and you’ll be back where you started.
    If you want to watch a video that gives you an overview of the Separations Preview Palette, we’ve created one and aptly named it Separations Preview Palette.

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