Archive for the ‘Adobe’ Category

Just when you’ve all cozied down with PDF 1.7 what happens?  Yes, that’s right.  A new standard rears its head.

Around the middle of 2017 the ISO committee will publish PDF 2.0 (ISO 32000-2). So by the end of 2017 you’ll probably need to be considering how to ensure that your workflow can handle PDF 2.0 files correctly.

As the primary UK expert to this committee I thought I’d give you a heads up now on what to expect.  And over the coming months via this blog and our newsletter I’ll endeavor to keep you posted on what to look out for as far as print is concerned.  Because, of course, there are many aspects to the standard that do not concern print at all.  For instance there are lots of changes in areas such as structure tagging for accessibility and digital signatures that might be important for business and consumer applications.

As you probably already know, in 2008 Adobe handed over ownership and development of the PDF standard to the International Standards Organization.  Since that time I’ve been working alongside other experts to ensure that standards have real-world applicability.

And here’s one example relating to color.

The printing condition for which a job was created can be encapsulated in professional print production jobs by specifying an “output intent” in the PDF file. The output intent structure was invented for the PDF/X standards, at first in support of pre-flight, and later to enable color management at the print site to match that used in proofing at the design stage.

But the PDF/X standards only allow a single output intent to be specified for all pages in a job.

PDF 2.0 allows separate output intents to be included for every page individually. The goal is to support jobs where different media are used for various pages, e.g. for the first sheet for each recipient of a transactional print job, or for the cover of a saddle-stitched book. The output intents in PDF 2.0 are an extension of those described in PDF/X, and the support for multiple output intents will probably be adopted back into PDF/X-6 and into the next PDF/VT standard.

But of course, like many improvements, this one does demand a little bit of care. A PDF 1.7 or existing PDF/X reader will ignore the new page level output intents and could therefore produce the wrong colors for a job that contains them.
In my next post I’ll be covering changes around live transparency in PDF 2.0.  Bet you can’t wait!
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The background
The last few years have been pretty stable for PDF; PDF 1.7 was published in 2006, and the first ISO PDF standard (ISO 32000-1), published in 2010, was very similar to PDF 1.7. In the same way, PDF/X 4 and PDF/X 5, the most recent PDF/X standards, were both published in 2010, six years ago.

In the middle of 2017 ISO 32000-2 will be published, defining PDF 2.0. Much of the new work in this version is related to tagging for content re-use and accessibility, but there are also several areas that affect print production. Among them are some changes to the rendering of PDF transparency, ways to include additional data about spot colors and about how color management should be applied.



Universal SmoothnessTest.tif (2,3 MB)

This test image contains 16,7 million colors of a
24-bit RGB file. Convert this test image with the designated ICC profile. So you can evaluate very quick and easily the color reproduction and smoothness quality of the output profile.


DF/VT is a hot topic these days. In a nutshell, it’s a standard for describing a file format based on PDF, specifically for delivery of jobs for variable data printing. The “VT” part of the name stands for “Variable and Transactional.” It was designed to address all VDP needs, from personalized specialty items, through direct mail, to phone bills and credit card statements.

PDF/VT was published as ISO 16612-2 in 2010, and the first implementations were shown at Ipex in that year, but it took until early 2012 for most of the commonly used document composition vendors to release products that support it. Like many of the other PDFbased standards, PDF/VT uses a file-centric approach. A PDF/VT file encapsulates all of the graphical content for a VDP print job and does so in such a way that an external job ticket can be associated with it to control how it’s processed in the print service provider’s systems. So what benefits does PDF/VT provide? It boils down to four things:

1. Robust content delivery.

PDF/VT builds on nearly two decades of work in CGATS and then in ISO to define the PDF/X standards for the delivery of print jobs. PDF/X-1a, PDF/X-3 and PDF/X-4 are now in common use, but primarily for the delivery of static print jobs. Those standards increase the reliability of printing workflows across multiple companies or sites by requiring that all fonts used are embedded and that all color is specified completely enough to preflight, proof and print correctly. All PDF/VT files must also be valid PDF/X files, so all of the experience encapsulated into those standards is automatically inherited.

2. Integrated data about page ranges.

A PDF/VT file can contain something called a “DPart” structure, which comprises a hierarchy of information about the various pages in a job (this is often called “metadata” because it’s data about data). A specific range of pages may be identified as a personalized catalog for a specific recipient of a direct mail campaign, for example. The next page can be marked as a cover letter to accompany the catalog for the same recipient. At the next level up in the hierarchy, the recipient’s title, address, etc. can be included, pulling all of the printed pieces that must be delivered together. In the level above that, metadata about all recipients within a ZIP code area can be pulled together, and the next level up might show which ZIP codes fall into the area covered by a specific distribute and print service provider site. The hierarchy is designed to be flexible and accommodate whatever data you need in your workflow. It can then be connected with a template-based jobticketing solution to control imposition, rendering, printing, finishing and fulfillment. This can be useful if you’re printing a very large number of relatively short jobs and need a way to ensure that your workflow is correctly configured for each one. But it is most important if you’re printing and fulfilling jobs where each recipient receives different numbers of pages, especially if the output needs to be bound and finishing equipment needs to respond to those differences.

3. Performance optimization hints.

Most rendering workflows designed for VDP include some form of optimization to reduce the amount of processing required for graphical page elements that are used multiple times in a job, so that the rendering process doesn’t slow the press down. Examples might be the background image on a direct mail postcard, the logo or an ad in a TransPromo piece, etc. Each workflow includes its own approach, and these vary in sophistication and effectiveness. Most of them try to render such elements only once, to cache the results of that rendering and then to reuse the cached results multiple times. PDF/VT tries to help in this process by defining some hints that can be written into jobs by the document composition tool as the file is created. These were designed to enable a rendering workflow to identify those reused elements more easily and to therefore make better decisions about caching strategies more quickly. Unfortunately, VDP is a market in which technology is developing so rapidly that the PDF/VT hints are already a little too simple and don’t offer much value to the best current rendering solutions.

4. Support for pseudostreaming.

Historically, data formats defined for transactional printing, such as AFP, have allowed for streaming print workflows, i.e., the first pages of the job can be printed while the composition system is still creating the definitions for later pages. A single PDF file is not well constructed to support streaming (the “optimized PDF” structures to support byte-serving from web sites should not be confused with streaming for print; the requirements are very different). PDF can, however, be used in a “chunking” workflow, where multiple PDF files are created, each containing one chunk of a single job. The first chunk might contain the pages for the first ten thousand recipients of a direct mail piece, for instance, with the next ten thousand recipients in the next chunk. This allows something very close to streaming to be achieved, by printing from one chunk while later chunks are still being written. The efficiency of this mechanism can be improved further by extracting any large shared graphics into a separate PDF file and referring to them from the chunks themselves, so that they only need to be delivered once instead of in every chunk. The PDF/VT standard includes a conformance level called PDF/VT-2, which is specifically designed to support this kind of chunking workflow. It’s even possible to bundle all of the chunks back together into one continuous stream, although that’s more likely to be a good choice for the light production end of the digital production print spectrum than for high-volume printing.


The PDF/VT standard offers some real benefits for the construction of robust, flexible and efficient workflows, encapsulating rendering, printing, finishing and fulfillment. But files must still be constructed well to take advantage of those benefits. It’s important to understand what PDF/ VT offers and what it doesn’t.

Much of what I’ve described above is optional. You can make a perfectly valid PDF/VT file that doesn’t include the DPart structure or optimization hints. It can still be valid even if it’s not constructed in a well-optimized way, even if an image that appears on every page is included separately on every one of those pages, bloating the file and reducing the speed at which it can be processed at the print site. PDF/VT is not the silver bullet that will magically make all your frustrations around VDP print jobs go away, but it is a good foundation that best practice solutions and workflows can be built on.


When you’re evaluating a solution for variable data printing, whether it’s on the composition side or on the print site, support for PDF/VT is likely to be a good thing, but there’s no substitute for testing that solution to ensure that it meets your specific needs. At both ends there can also be configuration issues that can have a significant bearing on how efficient the results can be; it’s often worth asking if your vendors have guidelines on best practice and on integration with the other components in your whole workflow.

Martin Bailey is the Chief Technology Officer of Global Graphics Software. He’s also the UK’s principle expert to the PDF and PDF/VT committee in ISO and chaired the CGATS and ISO committees working on PDF/X for many years


I recently told a friend I was writing an article about painless RGB to CMYK conversion. “A whole article?” he frowned. “Can’t you cover that in one sentence?”

Now, my friend is a designer with years of prepress experience, so I was somewhat taken aback by his question. Nonetheless, I thought I knew what he meant. “Is ‘Use Photoshop to change the color mode from RGB to CMYK’ the sentence you had in mind?” I asked.

“Well, yes,” he said. “I mean, that’s pretty easy.” The key word here is “painless.” For our purposes, let’s define painless RGB to CMYK conversion as “changing the color space of an image in a way that honors the original creator’s intent (within the limits of the printing process) and doing so in as automated a fashion as possible.”

My friend confessed that his customers were sometimes so unhappy with the color resulting from his “easy” conversion method that he often had to correct the images. As for process automation, he admitted his company had none—other than allowing RGB images to convert to CMYK in its RIP. Because the RIP isn’t set up for color management, this method frequently results in a poor color conversion, and, in some instances, a free second press run. Many printers have a better method for dealing with supplied RGB color, but my friend’s technique is not unique and I would certainly not call it painless!

Digital cameras spawn more RGB files
Dealing with supplied RGB images is a relatively recent phenomenon for commercial printers, coming on the heels of digital photography’s growing acceptance. Digital cameras and scanners capture images through red, green and blue (RGB) filters, producing RGB images. Of course, high-end CMYK drum scanners (now mostly a thing of the past) capture color in the RGB color space as well, but the the scanner’s computer handles the conversion to CMYK automatically. Consequently, longtime time prepress experts are used to working with CMYK images, and many printing companies still prefer to receive CMYK files from their clients, perhaps believing this absolves them from responsibility for the potentially “bad” color that might result from performing the conversion in-house.

As the growing use of images captured from digital cameras or designer-driven scanners has all but eliminated scanning as a prepress function, printers will be getting more and more incoming RGB image files. It is critical to determine how to successfully convert these RGB files into the cyan, magenta, yellow and black colors that will be used to print them.

Color management is absolutely essential. While color reproduction has always been “managed” for print production, color management today is almost purely electronic. Simply put, every device in the workflow that touches color—computers, monitors, digital cameras, scanners, proofers and printers—captures, displays or outputs color a little differently. Color management takes into account the different capabilities of image capture devices, display devices and output devices, and helps ensure the color displayed on one computer monitor can closely match another, or that a proof from an inkjet printer approximates what will be produced on a press.

Profiles—descriptions of each device in the workflow’s color capabilities—are the key to good color management. Profiles can be proprietary, but acceptance of ICC profiles, based on the specifications put forth by the International Color Consortium, is nearly universal. By combining source profiles with destination profiles, input color can be transformed via rendering intents to the proper color on output. The mapping of these profiles is performed by a color management/matching module (CMM). CMMs exist in many places in the production workflow, including image editing and page layout software, the computer operating system, printer drivers and RIPs.

RGB ‘s big three
In a print production workflow, there are three primary places where RGB data can be converted to CMYK:

  1. At an individual desktop computer.
  2. With a server-based system.
  3. In the RIP.

There also is at least one color conversion option available online at, an ASP-style service that offers RGB to CMYK conversion of individual images, accomplished by color experts on a pay-per-conversion basis. The system includes a unique compression method that allows very large images to be color corrected via a Web connection without a long upload/download time.At the personal computer level, Adobe Photoshop reigns as the supreme image-editing tool used universally by photographers, designers and prepress providers. Like my friend, the majority of these users employ Photoshop to make color space conversions. Using consistent color settings and the right profiles, Photoshop can convert images from RGB to CMYK successfully. (The process can even be automated through batch processing and scripting options.) Photoshop, however, is not the only option for desktop-level color conversion. You can use an image editing application, such as the Windows-based Picture Window Pro offered by Digital Light & Color (Cambridge, MA) or Binuscan’s (Hartsdale, NY) CMYK+. Scanner interface software (Binuscan ColorPro, LaserSoft Imaging’s SilverFast, Creo oXYgen, or Heidelberg’s LinoColor) naturally allow for conversion to CMYK, much like the drum scanners of old. The latest version of Adobe’s Acrobat Distiller includes an option to convert color to CMYK. And the Mac operating system’s “Save as PDF” allows savvy users to create ColorSync filters to be used to convert images, text or vector artwork to CMYK using ICC profiles in the process of creating a PDF file.

Doing it properly with desktop publishing applications
Desktop publishing applications such as QuarkXPress or Adobe InDesign also offer a way to convert color between color modes from the print or export options. Sometimes RGB to CMYK conversion is done incidentally from a desktop publishing application, as, for example, when RGB images are placed in QuarkXPress layouts, then output with the “Print Colors” option set to “Composite CMYK.” If Quark Color Management has not been enabled, this will convert any RGB image in the document to the CMYK color space using a built-in algorithm rather than ICC profiles. The resulting conversions often aren’t very pretty.

But when color management is set up properly in desktop publishing applications, placed RGB images can be converted quite successfully to CMYK. Adobe, in particular, has made consistent color settings between its Creative Suite tools a priority. All CS tools (including InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Acrobat and Distiller) can use the same “color settings file” (.csf). This allows users to color manage content within all the CS applications in the same way. And with the latest version of the Adobe Creative Suite (CS2), all applications that can export PDF files will share common “Adobe PDF Settings,” so a PDF file can be created from Illustrator in the same way as Distiller or InDesign. It is possible, then, to set up master color and PDF setting files and use them with all instances of the Adobe applications within a workgroup. A printing company might share these settings with its clients, so it won’t matter where color is being converted with an Adobe-based tool—it will be done consistently and to a master specification. Now we’re on the road to painless.

There is an ever-growing number of color management aficionados who recommend storing, manipulating and color correcting images in the RGB color space for CMYK conversion just prior to final output. This works even for stalwart CMYK prepress professionals, because imaged editing tools like Photoshop allow the user to accurately preview and manipulate CMYK data while working within an RGB image mode. The benefits of an RGB workflow are many. It is far easier to maintain an accurate gray balance in RGB images, because equal amounts of RGB indicate a balanced gray. Edits to RGB images won’t result in out-of-range shifts, either, as maximum blacks and minimum whites will be set to the right level automatically when CMYK conversion is accomplished using a good profile. RGB files are smaller and easier to store, and retouching or color edits to RGB images need only be done once, even if the image will be separated later for any number of different printing processes.

Server-based options
Several server-based image/workflow management tools make color conversion a highly automated and consistent process. Adobe now offers an array of server solutions, including the Adobe Graphics Server. The Adobe Graphics Server integrates database-driven digital asset management and color management, automating the process of managing and repurposing images. Users of the Graphics Server can create scripts to automatically convert color mode and attach ICC profiles as required, relieving the desktop computer user from that time-consuming task.

Binuscan offers the IPM Workflow Server, which promises to automate many aspects of image management from color mode conversion (based on ICC profiles or conventional separation tables) to image correction such as unsharp masking or gamma adjustments, and geometrical adjustments such as rotations, crops and resizing. Like most of these servers, IPM Workflow Server is a client/server solution and is compatible with Mac and Windows platforms.

Helios (Sacremento, CA), a company with long-time name recognition in the prepress industry, offers EtherShare OPI , a server-based image replacement product, which includes ColorSync/ICC-based color management. With EtherShare OPI, the high-resolution master image can be in RGB, CMYK or Lab color mode, while the corresponding low-resolution proxy image can be in CMYK mode. When the file ultimately is separated, the properly converted CMYK image is swapped in on the fly. (See

Alwan Color (Lyon, France) has positioned its CMYK Optimizer Server as both a preflight and image manipulation tool. CMYK Optimizer Server is based on hot folders, each of which can be associated with a series of tasks, including color inspection as well as mode conversion. Image files can even be directly imported into the server from an FTP location. As a preflight tool, CMYK Optimizer Server analyzes images placed in hot folders, generating a report of potential problems, including over-limit total area coverage or black ink issues and images requiring mode transformation. (See

Enfocus (San Mateo, CA) Pitstop Server provides a similar service for PDF workflows. Pitstop Server is hot folder-based as well, and lets users preflight and perform any action that can be accomplished with Pitstop Pro to PDF files. For example, a folder can be set up to automatically detect RGB images or text in a PDF file and convert it to RGB and Black based on a specific ICC profile. (See

RGB to CMYK conversion also can be handled at the end of the production chain. While RGB to CMYK conversion is part of all Adobe CPSI RIPs, the default settings are not optimal for most printing conditions. Most prepress workflow solutions, such as Creo Prinergy, Esko-Graphics’ Scope BackStage server or Heidelberg Prinect MetaDimension (to name just three of dozens), integrate enhanced color management tools for both proofing and final output to film or plate. These systems can be set up to apply the right profile for each specific output device in the workflow. So deciding to image a job originally intended for one press to another at the last moment won’t make any difference in terms of color, when imaging properly tagged RGB images, because the RGB data will be converted using the right profile for that press.

RGB to CMYK conversion can be accomplished at the computer desktop, with a server-based solution or in the RIP. Any of these methods can work “painlessly,” but all work best when some form of color management is used.

Julie Shaffer is the director of PIA/GATF’s Center for Imaging Excellence

Adobe Digital Publishing Gallery banner

Adobe has almost 1,000 publications listed in their Digital Publishing Gallery, all are apps created with the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite. The 961 examples (as of this publish date) are in many formats: the expected books and magazines, but also a few product catalogs and even a corporate annual report.

DPS Gallery has granular search and sort capabilities. You can find a publication by its app name or publisher, or get more specific to search by platform or language. Tabs will get you to the latest apps, or show the Top Ten most popular by views.

Adobe DPS Gallery navigation tabs and sort options
Which publications did you discover in the Adobe DPS Gallery?