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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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  • Print Separations from InDesign CS5 and Snow Leopard

    May 17th, 2011 by Russell Viers

    DISCLAIMER: By giving this information, I am in no way endorsing this type of behavior and don’t want to be labeled as an “enabler.” If anyone asks where you learned how to do this, just say “This guy I know in Poughkeepsie.”

    The question came up again today, this time from my buddy Jimmy Hines in Houston, TX: “Russell, using InDesign, can I export to PDF and get color separated files? Some of my printers only take color separated PDFS (process and spot), and the latest MAC OS no longer supports printing to PDF.”

    No. Nope. Can’t.

    You can Print and Distill a separated PDF from InDesign, however, and that’s probably what you are really asking since you NEVER could export a separated PDF from InDesign.

    With Snow Leopard and CS5 some of the rules have changed. In short, the Adobe PDF Printer is no longer an option in your apps. If it is, it’s a dirty lying trick and it doesn’t work correctly.

    So what do you do if your printer insists on separated PDFs? Tell them to get with the times by either buying newer equipment or learning how to use what they have correctly. The other option is to switch to a printer who doesn’t drive an AMC Matador to work while listening to 8-track tapes.

    Why am I so harsh? Printers have been able to print separations from Acrobat from version…um…six (don’t quote me on that, but it’s been a long time). Which means you can give them a composite PDF and they can control the color separations on their end. So if they are still asking for separated PDFs, they are either using older versions, didn’t know they could do that or [advance to next paragraph].

    Some printers have workflows where PDFs are simply dropped in a hot folder and it zips through the RIP to output. If this is the case, they must not have an output device that can handle in-RIP separations. Printers in the room, help me on this…name some RIPs that cannot separate as part of the imaging process.

    “Why NOT send a separated PDF, Mr. Smarty Pants?” you might be asking me. Well, you can’t impose it, can’t edit it in Acrobat, it’s been flattened, doesn’t have metadata in the images and other good reasons not to.

    AND NOW FOR A COMMERCIAL BREAK: I just finished a video titled “11 Things Every Newspapers Should Know About PDFs” and you can buy your copy here from Video2Brain.

    All that aside, let’s pretend that you absolutely, positively HAVE to create a separated PDF from InDesign on Snow Leopard…you CAN!

    You need to do a couple of things first.

    Step One: Go get a [insert favorite beverage here, unless it's alcohol and you're driving while reading this on your smart phone]

    Step Two: Download an unzip this PostScript Printer PPD, which you can do right here at this link I’ve cleverly titled: Click here to download the PostScript Printer PPD.

    Step Three: In the Adobe InDesign application folder, in the Presets folder, create a folder named PPDs. Exactly that…not PPD Stuff I need, not My Cute Little PPDs not even PPDelish…just PPDs.

    Step Four: Put the PPD file you just downloaded in that folder.

    Step Five: Restart InDesign.

    AND NOW FOR ANOTHER COMMERCIAL BREAK: I just finished a video titled “11 Things Every Newspapers Should Know About PDFs” and you can buy your copy here from Video2Brain.

    Step Six: When you go to print your document, you can choose the PostScript file as your printer and choose RTI RIP-Kit v3 as your PPD. For the record, you can use any PPD for a postscript device that allows custom page sizes, this is just one I had handy. See dramatic graphic below.

    Step Seven: Now you can go to the Output tab of the Print Window and change Composite CMYK to Separations and then do whatever custom settings your Printer as asked of you.

    Another reason I don’t recommend separated PDFs is because of all the controls the Printer has put in Your hands. Not that you can’t handle it, but it’s YOUR responsibility to know screen angle, line screen, etc. I just think you lose flexibility when working with a printer with multiple presses, various paper types or maybe you want to send a PDF that’s going to be printed in multiple locations. If so, separated is going to be problematic.

    Let me know if this helps. But remember…I’m not encouraging this type of shenanigans.

    AND NOW FOR A FINAL COMMERCIAL BREAK: I just finished a video titled “11 Things Every Newspapers Should Know About PDFs” and you can buy your copy here from Video2Brain.

    15 Responses to “Print Separations from InDesign CS5 and Snow Leopard”

    1. Jimmy Says:

      thanks for the quick reply…
      part of my job of coordinating offset printing entails working with old school thermographers who, unfortunately, drive AMC Matadors :) and use Corel and CS2. They love separated files with no fonts or anything complicated…

      What about exporting PDFs AND controlling overprint previews? That is asked by my coworker and partner in offset crime Miss Clare.

      thanks Russ, you rock!
      PS: typo in the disclaimer “I am in now way”

    2. Russell Viers Says:

      Okay, Jimmy…now you want an article about overprinting? When will it ever end?
      Okay…I’ll get on that.

    3. Angie DeAngelo Says:

      Never would I have imagined when I read this article a few weeks ago that I would have to apply what you have written to my workplace’s own experience with such a printer?

      I ran out your article, applied what was in the screenshots – really REALLY fighting the urge to name my PPDs folder ‘My Cute Little PPDs’ – restarted InDesign, and once Command-P was hit I saw the settings identical to your screenshots, settings that freed up hours for me to solve other graphic design mysteries instead of pulling my hair out deciphering how to take care of this issue.

      Thank you so much Russell for this article. It was a God-send today and let’s face it some days you really need that salvation!

    4. Russell Viers Says:

      Thanks for the kind words Angie…people are going to think this was a paid endorsement!
      Glad it helped.

    5. Gavin Anderson Says:

      Your article says: “You can Print and Distill a separated PDF from InDesign, however, and that’s probably what you are really asking since you NEVER could export a separated PDF from InDesign.”

      You could however PRINT a separated PDF out of InDesign, all the way up until Snow Leopard.

    6. admin Says:

      Thanks Gavin…um…but that’s the point of the whole article. How do print a separated PDF out of Snow Leopard since they changed the rules on us.

    7. Kip Thomas Says:

      At our company, we work with foil stamping, letterpress printing, emboss/deboss, die cutting and offset. One of the most convenient ways to create dies is generating separated files via this method. All art is composite in InDesign for all operations, but we can separate out ONLY THE ART NEEDED to generate copper plates, polymer plates, cutting dies, etc., Companies that make dies can become confused with complex composite files that have other print methods as part of the file. After opening through Distiller, our prepress employees can delete the offset portions (or any other portion) to forward on/email only the needed sep for a brass emboss plate, for example.

    8. admin Says:

      Kip, thanks for the example of needing separated PDFs…
      However, you can do the same thing with properly created PDFs in Acrobat. using the Output Preview, you can inspect the plates, and in the Print menu, under Advanced, you can choose which plates to print, or not. You can even use Ink Manager to alias various spot plates to another or convert all Spots to Process.
      The exception would be if you are printing to a non-postscript device, then pre-separated PDFs would be of benefit.

    9. Agustin Moran Says:

      As a ‘disaster recovery’ exercise we are trying to get separated TIFFs into the system. Though these files are ‘separated’, the output is a single PS. Any idea’s, besides opening the file up in PS, on how to output separated TIFFs?

    10. admin Says:

      Can you email me directly, and get me some sample files to play with? russell@russellviers.com.
      Thanks.

    11. Gail Says:

      Thank you kindly, sir! So many changes in Lion and so little time to figure them out. Now I can print to print thumbnails…. very helpful when creating in-house hardcopy proofs of magazines and books.

    12. Laurent Says:

      This was of great help for us! Thanks a lot.
      An I even have an argument why to use this. We are new into screen printing. We often need to adapt visuals after separation…
      Is there a possibility to use this in Illustrator? Or even better from Acrobat?

    13. Tom Says:

      I am working with printers who still use, yes, camera-ready art in a darkroom. If all of my printing providers were in Europe, North America and most of Asia this is fine but not everyone can afford digital output options in the 3rd world — but they do have offset presses which require separations.

      Thanks for the help.

    14. Mark Says:

      Can I just say… YOU ROCK!!!!!!!

      I worked in the printing industry for years, and using the Acrobat PDF driver to print separations used to be crucial (showing my age). I’ve been doing web design the last few years, but gained a client with a T-shirt screen printer that had antiquated RIPs that couldn’t process the composite PDFs I sent using complex transparencies and spot colors. This tip was a life saver. THANK YOU!!!

    15. Amy Says:

      Awesome — thanks for the step-by-step; it did the trick!

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