Print Ready Files

PrePress Files
Warning with PreFlighting

Making print ready files is a process of preparing your digital files to work with our printing presses. This is the connection between the design process and the print process. At Kelly Commercial Printing we focus on the technical processes involved in your printing success. We go above and beyond when it comes to handling your projects and have everything printed just as it was intended. We want your next brochure, booklet, mailer, and more to look just the way you want it and have it as eye catching on paper as it was on screen.

PrePress Process

Our prepress team is trained to comb through your files to make sure everything is print ready, if something is wrong with the file we offer services to help correct the file from our end or we can give you the output of what went wrong so you can fix it yourself. Sometimes it is an easy fix and other times it might require a full overhaul of the work. Kelly Commercial Printing does offer a quick guide to preflighting your document, this however doesn’t cover everything for every job and is just a quick overview of what to expect. For your own custom quote on prepress services feel free to reach out to us.

Ready to Print?

That is great, to send us your files you can either email us your files if they are small enough, or contact us for files larger than 25mb, and we can set you up with access to our file uploader. If this isn’t something you are comfortable with and are located within the tristate area, we are more than willing to drive to you to pick up your files on a CD or USB Drive.

Configuring Color Management – Part 1

In the past, configuring color management seemed to require a PhD in spectrophotometry. It’s much easier now in general, but especially if you use InDesign as part of the Creative Suite.

Bridge Color Management Sets

We’ve talked about Adobe Bridge a couple of times now primarily in the context of asset manager. It does much more, as I intimated, and Adobe’s intent is that Bridge become the central hub of
your Creative Suite experience—indeed, of your entire workflow. Toward that end, color management across all individual CS3 version applications is managed inside Bridge rather than within InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator, which keeps color display results almost identical between the individual applications.
On the Edit menu in Bridge, you’ll find Creative Suite Color Settings, which opens an extremely simplified interface to apply full sets of ICC profiles and color management options to all CS3 applications simultaneously In the Suite Color Settings dialog, click on one of the four friendly, plain language sets, and then click Apply. Behind the scenes, all applications will then be synchronized to use the following management settings.

  • Monitor Color: Used for onscreen and video projects without CMYK Colors.
  • North America General Purpose 2: Large RGB and CMYK gamut profiles compatible with (but not optimized for) typical print output devices in North America. Will not warm when profiles do not match.
  • North America Prespress 2: Similar to North America General Purpose 2 except that profile mismatches will generate warnings, it uses a very large RGB gamut profile, and CMYK colors in linked assets will be preserved to the exclusion of separate profiles assigned to the assets.
  • North America Web/Internet: Uses a large gamut RGB profile purportedly representative of the color values available to the upper average of all monitors in use to access the web. Any RGB colors will be converted from other profiles to the one defined as this set’s RGB Working Space.

The four sets shown in the Suite Color Settings dialog are the most common for those who can’t or won’t profile their devices to obtain specific ICC profiles. Just remember that there is no generic or one size fits all in color management. There’s no generic language to unite the delegates of the UN Security Council. The only way their discussion or color management works is if interpreters listen to input in native languages and then convert verbatim into the next delegate’s or device’s native language.

If you must have something that is a generic settings in a process that has no definition of the word, then use one of the four sets above – whichever comes closest to describing what you’re doing in InDesign and its brethren. And then hope really hard that the output comes close to the colors you envisioned.

Customizing Color Management

Monitor Color, North America General Purpose 2, North America Prepress 2, North America Web/Internet, and all the other color management sets are just that—sets; each one is a group of
preconfigured options activated all at once. Except for Monitor Color, which picks up your monitor profile from ColorSync or ICM, all the other presets are based on wide gamut profiles that may or may not cause color shifts with specific devices. They don’t take into account the color capture and rendering characteristics of the specific devices that created imagery or those that will put the
imagery on paper. You’ll want to change that fact, personalizing color management to the unique languages and dialects of your equipment.
Although you should be able to customize Creative Suite synchronized color management settings within Bridge, Adobe didn’t get around to building that in. Instead, you have to take a circuitous route. Back in InDesign, go to Edit > Color Settings. You’ll be presented with a rather intimidating dialog , but don’t let it scare you.


This is the list of saved color settings. The defaults examined above appear on this list, as do the expanded list installed with Creative Suite or a CS3 application and any settings you’ve configured and saved. On the right of the dialog is a Save button. If you manually configure any of the options discussed below, save a set for easy access later. Saving a set also writes the settings to a file on your hard drive so it can be backed up and even shared with other users or clients. If you’ve received a set of color settings from someone else and it doesn’t appear in the list, use the Load button to browse for it.

Advanced Mode

Check the Advanced Mode check box to toggle display of the Conversion Options section at the bottom of the dialog.

Working Spaces

Between Working Spaces and rendering Intent is the crux of color management and, assuming your profiles are well made, the real determination of the quality of your color output. A working space is the color profile used to define the document. In a new document, with natively drawn objects, the working space becomes the source profile as a scanner’s ICC becomes the source profile for scanned imagery. Any object in the profile not carrying its own separate profile will be considered created within the working space profile and thus within that color gamut or range of possible colors.

When a document is converted from RGB to CMYK, all the colors that fall in the black beyond U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2 have to be mapped to values that lie within it. Naturally, you lose many shades of color—pure blue, for one, pure red and green for others. How those colors go from outside to in is determined by the rendering intent, which we’ll discuss below. In general, you want to work within the largest RGB color gamut possible. The larger the gamut, the more shades and hues of color you have in your panel. While CMYK is a comparatively tiny gamut, and all printed output will be converted to CMYK (except spot colors, of course), you want to create using the most colors possible so that, when conversion does occur, the CMS can work to give you the smoothest possible tonal conversions. AdobeRGB (1998) is (almost) the largest RGB, so it’s a great working space to choose. ProPhoto RGB is the largest possible gamut, with so many colors that the human eye can’t interpret them all. Use ProPhoto RGB in individual image files for long-term archival, but it’s too large to work with in InDesign. In general, stick with AdobeRGB (1998) for your RGB working space. If you’re designing solely for digital distribution via Web or PDF, though, use sRGB, which limits colors to those Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard determined as the high
average capability of monitors surfing the Web.

Your CMYK working space should be the profile generated for the output device you’ll use, and on the substrate you intend to use. If you don’t have access to that or haven’t determined the output device or paper for your job—or you’re just designing something your client will arrange to be printed—use U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2. As CMYK gamuts go, it’s roomy and yet still close to the actual output gamut of many web presses. If you know this job is going to a sheetfed press, use the U.S. Sheetfed Coated v2 or U.S. Sheetfed Uncoated v2 profile for coated or uncoated paper stock, respectively. In Figure 10.4 you can see the gamuts of all three.

  • The filename of the ICC profile in Finder or Explorer is not necessarily the name that appears inside an application’s profile list. Instead, there’s a value inside the ICC file called Internal Name. Look through the Working Spaces list for something similar to the file name, or open the ICC/ICM file in a plain text editor and look for its name near the top.
  • Could the file have been corrupted? If it was emailed, ask the sender to mail it again, but this time inside a ZIP archive.

Color Management Policies

Policies are decisions you make, and directions you give to InDesign, about what to do in two situations: first, when opening InDesign documents created without embedded working space profiles such as when color management was turned off, and second, when placing images with and without their own profiles. Placed images can have their own profiles, which may differ from the working space profiles, and InDesign needs to know what you’d like done when this happens. You can specify different actions to take for RGB and CMYK and tell InDesign to prompt you with a dialog box about mismatches—checking either or both of the Profile Mismatches options—or to handle differences between image profile and document profile automatically according to your policy options by leaving the Profile Mismatches boxes unchecked. If an image doesn’t have a profile at all, the Missing Profiles option tells InDesign to ask you about it or not. Policy options include the following:

Preserve Embedded Profiles Honor profiles embedded in placed images (and InDesign documents). InDesign will manage the rest of the document and other images according to the
working spaces, but it will not alter the appearance of colors or profiles in images carrying their own profiles even if it must alter the CMYK numbers in order to preserve appearance. PDF,
being CMS and ICC aware, will also preserve embedded profiles when created via PDF export from InDesign. With this option selected, color conversion will be left to somewhere down the production line—usually the RIP. Because this option values appearance over CMYK numbers, it can sometimes turn pure black into rich black. Check your separations in Separations Preview (see later in this chapter) or by printing seps.
Convert to Working Space Colors in the placed image will convert into the working space defined above (either RGB or CMYK), using CMS to translate with the best possible fidelity as determined by the rendering intent chosen in Conversion Options. This will force all colors to use the working space profile.
Preserve Numbers (Ignore Linked Profiles) A CMYK only option, assigned profiles in the placed image will be ignored in favor of using the CMYK numbers. Such images will then be managed onscreen by the current CMYK working space profile but printed using only their CMYK numbers. Why would you choose Preserve Numbers (Ignore Linked Profiles)? If you have a reasonable certainty that all placed images came from the same CMYK profile—for instance, you did all the conversions from RGB in Photoshop, or they were scanned into CMYK by the same drum scanner, you’d choose Preserve Numbers. You might also want to use this if you have bad results with Preserve Embedded Profile.

You would not choose Preserve Numbers (Ignore Linked Profiles) if your CMYK images came to you from a variety of sources and they have embedded profiles. In that case, who knows where the CMYK numbers are? They could be completely off from where they should be and held in correct gamut solely by their embedded profiles.
Off InDesign will not color manage the placed image—in other words: all bets are off


ICC Profiles

ICC profiles describe the possible range and unique color characteristics of a given device (hardware or software). For instance, if your digital camera oversaturates yellows by 6% (thus, undersaturating the opposite of yellow, blue, by the same amount), the ICC profile will state that defect. With that knowledge, the CMS can then pass on to other devices further down the line the instruction to swing the yellow-blue pendulum back 6% into the blue area. Thus, even though your very first step is flawed at creation time, the CMS compensates for the flaw (without actually altering the image content) to produce onscreen and printed color free of the defect and true to the color of the subject of the photo.

Even while you work on a flawed image, the CMS will be actively compensating, adjusting the results of your manual editing to account for the actual yellow oversaturation—an oversaturation that you won’t see because the CMS, running Photoshop and your monitor, have compensated for it to display for you corrected colors. In the plainest English, a CMS does all the hard math for us.

Where do these Rosetta stones come from?

Each and every color-handling device renders color slightly differently—even two of the same model. At this moment, for example, I’m using dual monitors. I ordered them from the manufacturer simultaneously, and they both carry the same lot number and date of manufacturer stamped on the back. From this information it’s reasonable to infer that they were made if not one right
after the other, then at most only a few units apart. Despite that, they render colors differently. The one to my right shifts grays a shade or two onto the warm side. It also does a better job with midrange cyans and greens than the monitor on my left. I know because I’ve calibrated and profiled them.

Calibrating is the process of getting something as close as possible to its full color potential. To calibrate your monitor(s) on Mac, use ColorSync in Control Panels. On Windows, it’s Microsoft’s feature-poorer Image Color Management (ICM) user interface. The way to get to and configure ICM has a tendency to change over versions of Windows, so rather than walk you through four or
five different methods, the fastest way is to press WIN+F1 on your keyboard and search for the phrase “color management.”

Once your monitor is calibrated, you should create an ICC profile for it (or them), which is the last step in both ColorSync and ICM. InDesign and other Creative Suite software will then pick up
and use the monitor profile from ColorSync or ICM, compensating for the unique characteristics of your monitor as you work.

Both ColorSync and ICM rely on your eyes to determine color, gamma, and white and black points, but your eyes aren’t reliable color gauges. They can be influenced by ambient conditions like
other lights in the vicinity, how long your monitor has been switched on, monitor light reflected off other surfaces, and the unique physical aspects of your eyes themselves. The configuration of rods and cones in our eyes are as unique as our retinal patterns. For instance, 10% of men and 1% of women have some form of color blindness, profound or subtle, and many never even notice it. Calibrations by eye—and the profiles created thereby—should be considered approximations, not accurate determinations of unique monitor color rendering. To get an accurate description of how the monitor interprets color, you need to take the subjective human out of the equation.

A software-backed hardware device that attaches to monitor screens is the best way to profile a monitor (and often calibrate in the same process). That device is a colorimeter. Note that device
color characteristics change over time and should be profiled again often (monthly if not weekly). To measure the color characteristics of a printer—anything from desktop to proof printer to digital press—use a spectrophotometer. This hardware device examines printed output, determining color fidelity on the printed page. If you go to your local Home Depot, you’ll find a spectrophotometer behind the counter in the paint department. Although they often only know it as the “paint matching scanner thing,” the folks at Home Depot use it to extract eight-color tint formulas from paper and other physical objects.

When it comes to profiling a printer, it gets a little more complicated. You see, a printer—inkjet, laser, web press, offset press, everything—lays down ink that is, more or less, the same color across all jobs and production floors. Cyan, magenta, yellow, black, Pantone colors, and all the other inks we use are predictable in their color and, for the most part, identical from one shop to
the next. However, ink color is not the only factor when it comes to printed color. Equally important is the color of the substrate, or paper stock, on which ink is printed. Cyan, magenta, yellow, and many pre-mixed spot inks are semitransparent and are therefore tinted by the color of the substrate beneath. Laying down 100% cyan ink coverage on pure, neutral white substrate gives you pure cyan. However, putting down 100% cyan ink coverage on yellowed parchment yields a sea foam green. If you want to see pure cyan atop yellowed parchment, your software has to be told
that fact so it can adjust the colors to compensate for the tint of the substrate. Thus, every time you print on a new substrate, you should use a new ICC profile built specifically for that output device and substrate combination.

When you don’t have direct access to the color rendering device—for example, your print provider’s devices or if you vended out your oversized scans—and therefore can’t profile it yourself, ask the service provider for the most up-to-date ICC profile for the relevant device (on the substrate you’ve chosen). ICC profiles are just ASCII files with an .icc (or .icm) extension. They’re easily emailed as attachments. Once you receive them, drop them into the correct system folder:

Mac: /Library/ColorSync/Profiles
Windows: \Windows\system32\spool\drivers\color

InDesign and other color-managed applications and technologies will automatically detect and make available in the Color Settings dialog (see below) profiles stored there, although you may have to restart the applications after installing new profiles. Once the profiles are recognized, you’ll need to actually tell InDesign or whatever application you’re using to use the new profiles. By telling your creative tools about the color characteristics of your print devices, you can work in software like InDesign confident that what you see onscreen will print fairly close to the same way. Once your creative software knows your monitor, output, and input (digital camera, scanner, etc.) profiles, you will have achieved predictable color and a color-managed workflow. (Please know that I’ve provided only the briefest overview of color management; entire books at least as thick as this one have been written on the subject. If you want to get serious about color fidelity in your workflow, don’t stop with my introduction to the subject.)

The Purpose of Color Management

My favorite analogy to explain the basic concept of, and need for, color management is the United Nation.

Consider the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France and China. Among these five delegates are spoken four languages – English, Russian, French, and Mandarin Chinese. In order for the delegates to discuss an issue, each has a team of interpreters translating what is said by other delegates into English, Russian, French or Chinese. Thus, France’s delegate to the United Nations listen not to the actual words of Russia’s delegate but to a faithful translation by UN aides. The UK’s delegate listen in English, the US delegate also listen in English, and so on. Each member nation’s delegate speaks in his native tongue while the other delegates listen to translations in their native languages. Thus, the hard-working translators convert meticulously from one of the four different languages to another; every delegate hears precisely the same questions and words, just in different syllables.

Let’s elect some new delegates to the UN Security Council’ permanent seats. China’s seat we’ll give up to the Scanneravia. The island Kingdom of InDesign will take over for France. PDF Nation and the United States of Offset will oust the UK and the US. Instead of Russia, let’s install a delegate from the nation of the Federation of Independent Proof Printers.

We now have a new council of delegates, all of whom still speak completely different languages and still require their interpreters. But, you can’t just advertise in the New York Times classified for “scanner to offset press interpreter wanted, must also speak PDF.” How will these five delegates talk about a color photograph being moved from E6 slide to scanner, the digital output imported into an InDesign layout, and then the output sent on to proof print, PDF, and finally ink to paper? What if the discussion needs to include some or all of the other 10 UN Security Council member states. Maybe the photo needs some touch-up in Photoshopia before being flown to the Kingdom of InDesign? Or, after PDF Nation ships the document containing the photo, will that document pass through the Provence of the Web Press or need to be discussed by the myriad dialects of Printeria’s Monitors?

How are all these delegates supposed to accurately discuss the project, and each contribute to its completion, if none of them can understand any others interpretation of color? They can’t! They need interpreters to faithfully translate from the language of one into that of another, to tell the Kingdom of InDesign what Scanneravia is saying about red, green and blue or hue, saturation, and luminosity. Without a translator, one might swap purple for blue, mix some green into the yellow, or turn bright white into a dirty, aged cream.

That is where a color management system (CMS) comes in. Once a CMS learns the unique language of each speaker as well as the language of the listener, it can translate between the two. First, the CMS must be taught each language by the delegate (device) in the form of an ICC profile. The ICC profile is a Rosetta stone, defining a given device’s color language in the universal but unutterable dialect of math. Given any two of these ICC profiles, the CMS can translate color described by one in its native language to the native language of another. The end result is that, although two incompatible languages are used, the CMS ensures that both devices see, render, and maintain the same colors, hues, and shades.

Color management isn’t perfect. Not every device is capable of seeing all the same colors. One may clip the reds, another the blues; one may see fewer values between black and white than another; just as CMYK process inks simply can’t reproduce certain shades, like pure blue.

Without color management, however, you have absolutely no predictability in color input from source (a camera, scanner or software) onto screen, through touch-up (Photoshop), into layout (InDesign) and then to output (PDF, print or Web).

Did your digital camera accurately capture the full range of vibrant oranges in that field of flowers, or did your minor defects in the camera’s CCS encoder or JPEG renderer over-saturate the yellows by 6%? Without an ICC profile created for that camera, you’ll never know. When you bring the image into Photoshop, you’ve introduced two completely new devices with their own unique methods of interpreting and rendering color – Photoshop itself and your computer monitor. Without color management, both could be completely misinterpreting data coming in form the photograph. You could be punching up the blue in the sky over the flowers only to realize a week later when you get the printed pages back that you actually turned the sky purple.

The purpose of color management is to make the visible result of every color input device – camera, scanner, software – match the visible result of every rendering device – monitor, software, proof printer, printer – and both match the original all the way from initial capture to final output.

Follow the links below to learn more about

ICC Profiles | Configuring Color Management | Pre-Image Color Management | Proofing | Printing | Preflight

Preflighting a File

Acrobat requires you to have a file open in the document pane in order to run a preflight check unless you use a batch sequence or droplet. To preflight a document, be certain a file is open and click the Preflight tool in the Print Production toolbar. In the scrollable and resizable window, you see a number of preinstalled profiles listed with a description for the kind of preflighting each profile performs. Use the scroll bar on the right side of the window to display additional profiles, and open & close the various disclosure triangles. If the number of items gets too many, try using the Show & search/filter options.

The Options menu contains a number of menu choices for editing profiles, importing and exporting profiles, and creating profile reports.

Preflight Menu
Preflight Menu

If a profile exists containing the conditions you want to check, select a profile and click the Analyze button. After analyzing a file, a summary report appears in the Results tab in the Preflight window. Any errors in the file are reported in the summary. The summary report is listed in a hierarchy with subnotations listed under parent categories. Click the icon to the left of each category to expand the list.

If you see errors reported after preflighting a file, you need to fix the problems either in Acrobat using Preflight’s FixUps, the Print Production tools or back in the original authoring program, and recreate the PDF file.

Preparing to Print Professionally

When you are sending your files for full-service printing, you should take a few minutes to prepare your image and make sure you’ll get the results you want. Proof the image (See our proofing article here), make any changes, and then duplicate and flatten the image so that others can’t accidentally tweak layers and settings.

Follow these steps for the best results:

1. Find out what device your image will be printed to, and obtain the appropriate device profile.

2. Soft proof the image.

3. Make any changes to ensure you’ll get the results you want. Use non-destructive techniques, such as adjustment layers, so you can modify the image differently for another purpose later.

4. Save a copy of the file to a folder that names the print service – or includes the print service name in the filename so you’ll remember later.

5. Choose Image > Duplicate.

6. Select Duplicate Merged Layers Only, and click OK.

NOTE: If the bottom layer was called Background, Photoshop automatically flattens the file. If the bottom layer wasn’t Background, choose Flatten Image from the Layers panel menu to flatten the layer.

7. Choose Edit > Convert to Profile

8. In the Convert to Profile dialog box, choose the destination profile for the device you’ll be printing to. Then click OK.

9. Choose File > Save. Save the image in the format the service provider recommended, such as PDF or TIFF. Select Embed Color Profile, and select the maximum quality possible.