General tutorials InDesign

InDesign Export to PDF Settings Explained

Magazine and print designers must be versatile in many areas. Design and typography is a must, image color correction is a good bonus, but to be able to work on your own, which means creating print materials from beginning to an end, you have to know lots of stuff about prepress process. Creating error free print ready PDF files is one such thing. 


Some 15 years ago, there was no PDF output. To export pages of your magazine to printing house you had to print pages to a .ps (PostScript) file. This process was called Print To File. Then the prepress team in the printing house sent those files to a RIP (Raster Image Processor) which converted PostScript files so that the image setter can recognize them and create four sheets of film, each in one process color.

Later came PDF output. But in the beginning it was not direct exporting to PDF. Again, you had to create Postscript files. Print ready files were then “distilled” in an application called Distiller, which resulted in the PDF file that was ready for print.

Today InDesign can directly generate PDF files without the need for Distiller. Of course, Distiller is still available to convert PostScript files into PDFs, if necessary, but directly exporting PDF files is the recommended method of creating PDF files. It’s faster and easier to generate PDF files through direct export.

Again, as in other production related posts we will deal only with the necessary options that will be of use to you.

All of the screen shots in this post are from my custom preset which is set up from the joboptions file I got from the printing house with which I work very often.

Before we start it is good to point out that the images in your publication have to be in CMYK color mode and at least in 225 dpi resolution. 300 dpi is the default one, but if you cannot have images at 300 dpi, 225 dpi will work fine. You can go lower than this, but than this will affect the quality of the images in print.

If you are not sure if all of your images and documents are print ready, check out our post about preflight which will help you determine if your layout files are error free.


An Overview of PDF settings

For a start, let’s go through some of the important settings in export PDF menu.

  • Adobe PDF Preset indicates whether a default preset or a user-created preset is being used. If you’ve started with an existing preset and modified some of its settings, the preset name is followed by the word “modified”. You will always work with your own presets so we will show you how to create one of your own. Other presets can be really handy. For example, Web preset is good if you have to export small sized PDFs, with 72 dpi resolution, that you have to send via email to your clients or team members. Print preset is fine for printing PDF files on your local printer. This will shorten the time that the printer needs to process PDF files and images are exported in 150 dpi, which is just enough for printing on conventional desktop or office printers.
  • Compatibility indicates the minimum version of Acrobat required to read the file. The label in parentheses shows the PDF file specification that applies; for example, “Acrobat 5 (PDF 1 .4)” indicates that the resulting PDF will be compatible with Acrobat 5 .0 and later, and that the file meets the PDF 1 .4 specifications. Proper compatibility also affects other applications that must process the PDF, such as imposition software and RIP. While an Acrobat 9/10-compatible file may seem more up to date, your RIP may not allow you to use it. Consult with the prepress team in your printing house about the requirements for your RIP, to determine the appropriate compatibility setting.
  • General includes basic file options, such as page range. The choices such as Bookmarks, Hyperlinks, and Tagged PDF affect only interactive PDFs and do not pertain to print-ready PDFs.
  • Compression allows you to specify settings for compression and downsampling of images. Additional options let you compress text and line art, and crop images to frame limits. Always use compression settings, because if you do not compress the images in the PDF, the file will be huge in size and it may cause problems to the RIP when processing those files.

Always compress your images. This will save you time and PDF files will be significantly smaller.


  • Marks and Bleeds options let you include crop and bleed marks, as well as page information, bleed, and slug area.

Printing house with which I work does not need printer’s marks at all, so every check box is empty. I set up bleed in my documents by default so I checked this option.


  • Output controls how colors are converted (or preserved), based on your choices and the color management settings in effect.

Important option here is to set color conversion to “No Color Conversion”


  • Advanced controls font embedding and subsetting, OPI comments, transparency flattening, and the inclusion of JDF information.

Select “High Resolution” in Transparency Flattener option.


  • Embedding includes the entire character set of a font in the resulting PDF; subsetting is a form of embedding that includes only characters used in the document, and results in a smaller file size. It is advised that you never create a PDF without embedding or subsetting fonts.


Default PDF presets

Here we will discuss the three most commonly used presets. You can modify each of these and re-save them. As you can see from my own preset drop down menu I modified all of them to suit my needs. I will point out which options to change. By adjusting them you will get presets that will suit you much better, PDF files will be smaller in size and quality will be sufficient for the intended purpose.


 Smallest File Size

Appropriate for online distribution or e-mail attachments. Do not use it in commercial printing, where reliable viewing, online proofing, and reproduction of the original content is crucial.

The Smallest File Size option aggressively compresses and resamples image content, and converts all RGB, CMYK, and grayscale content to the sRGB color space. This may result in noticeable color shifts from the original artwork.

Settings include:

  • Compatibility: Acrobat 6 .0 (PDF 1 .5), which maintains live transparency and layers
  • Color Images: Bicubic downsampling to 100 dpi. You can change this to 72 dpi, which is sufficient for display viewing; Compression = Automatic (JPEG); Image Quality = low. You can change it to medium.
  • Grayscale Images: Bicubic downsampling to 150 dpi. Again, you can change it to 72 dpi; Compression = Automatic (JPEG); Image Quality = Low. Change to medium.


High Quality Print

Intended for printing on in-house and desktop printers. Any RGB, Lab or spot-color content will remain in its original color space, not converted to CMYK.

Bare in mind that printing with these settings in no way will correspond to the final, traditionally printed output. For the most accurate printing resemblance, print your pages on proofing printers. For that you will use either custom made preset or the Press quality preset.

High Quality Print settings include:

  • Compatibility: Acrobat 5 .0 (PDF 1 .4), which maintains live transparency
  • Color Images: Bicubic downsampling to 300 dpi. You can change this to 150 dpi, which is sufficient for desktop and in-house printers; Compression = Automatic (JPEG); Image Quality = Maximum.
  • Grayscale Images: Bicubic downsampling to 300 dpi. Again change it to 150 dpi; Compression = Automatic (JPEG); Image Quality = Maximum .
  • Output: No color conversion; includes tagged source profiles.


Press Quality

The settings of the Press Quality preset create a PDF that converts color content to CMYK using the specified destination profile, which locks the output to a particular device.

  • Compatibility: Acrobat 5 .0 (PDF 1 .4), which maintains live transparency
  • Color Images: Bicubic downsampling to 300 dpi; Compression = Automatic (JPEG); Image Quality = Maximum.
  • Grayscale Images: Bicubic downsampling to 300 dpi; Compression = Automatic (JPEG); Image Quality = Maximum.
  • Monochrome images:  Bicubic downsampling to 600 dpi; Compression = CCITT Group 4.
  • Output: Convert content with profiles to destination; preserve color numbers for untagged content; maintain spot colors

Some printing houses will say it is OK to send them PDF files created with this preset but most of them will ask for you to create PDF files with their joboptions file, which leads us to the next chapter.


Custom made PDF preset

Each printing house has its own rules and regulations regarding the way that the PDF files should be made. Some like to have a whole magazine outputted as one large PDF file, some like it page by page. Some prefer all page marks to be on, some like them to be off.

Talk with your printing house and ask them what kind of PDFs should you send them.

The majority of printing houses will send you their joboptions file which you will save in User/Library/ Application Support/Adobe/Adobe PDF/Settings on Mac and on a PC, they’re stored in C:\Documents and Settings\User\Application Data\Adobe\ Shared Documents\Adobe PDF\Settings.

This is the easiest option for you, since the joboption preset will be visible in your presets menu. All you need to do is to select it and all of the settings will be adjusted automatically.

If they do not have joboptions file ready and you need to adjust preset on your own ask the prepress team what options to include and what not to include.

To create custom made PDF preset, follow the next steps:

  1. Choose File > Adobe PDF Presets > Define.
  2. Choose the appropriate preset for a starting point. I recommend adjusting the High Quality Print preset. The majority of the settings that you need for print output are already set up in this preset and you will need to adjust only few of them.
  3. Click the New button, and name the preset. I always give it a name that is the same as the magazine or the printing house for which it is intended.
  4. To modify the bleed settings, choose Marks and Bleeds, and set the appropriate bleed amount for your workflow. It is not sufficient to check the option to Use Document Bleed Settings. If a document has been set up with zero bleed, the resulting PDF will be without bleed. Rather, set the bleed amount to an appropriate number (usually 3 mm or  0.125 in).
  5. Choose any printer’s marks you wish to add. Ask printing house prepress team, which ones, if any, to choose.
  6. Click OK to save the PDF preset
  7. To save the PDF preset give it a brief name (InDesign adds the extension .joboptions to the name), and save the preset.
  8. To load a predefined PDF preset, choose File > Adobe PDF Presets > Define and click the Load button. Navigate to the supplied file and click Open. The preset is added to the list of available presets in InDesign.


This concludes the topic of PDF file creation. As always, if you have any questions or misunderstandings please feel free to contact us or leave a comment.


Applying Correct Color Profiles in Photoshop

Many times inexperienced designers and publishers wonder why their images do not look in print like they look on the screen. Well, they will almost never look the way they look on screen. Many factors can influence the final print output. From different screens which are not calibrated to photographs that are not professionally retouched and to colors settings that are not correctly adjusted.

In this post we will deal with how to choose and adjust the correct Photoshop color settings and how to assign those settings to images.

If you want your images to print correctly you have to apply correct setting according to the printing method you will be using.

Lets dig in into Photoshop Color settings. There are many settings here and it would take a book to explain them all in detail. Besides all of the Photoshop Color Settings are explained in detail in numerous web sites and you don’t need to know all of them. I will show you which ones you need.


Importing and Selecting ICC Profiles

Before we start, talk with your printing house prepress team and ask them which ICC profiles they use. If they are using the profiles that are not included in Photoshop Color Settings ask them to send you appropriate icc files. When you receive them, place the files in /Library/ColorSync/Profiles

Now you can open Photoshop and in color settings panel (Edit/Color Settings) you will have to load this new profile. On the right you can click Load and navigate to the destination where you have saved your icc profile file.

This profile will now be visible in Settings drop down menu. After you have chosen your profile all other options will change according to the selected profile.

Lets skip to working spaces.

All of these settings will be automatically selected when you choose appropriate profile from Settings drop down menu.

RGB working space is the working space for your RGB images. Many Photoshop experts retouch images in RGB mode, so it is essential that the right profile is selected and that you correct images with this profile applied.

CMYK working space will be applied to CMYK images.

Gray and spot will be used when you work on greyscale images and on images with spot colors.

Color management policies tells you how Photoshop deals with newly opened images, especially the ones that have different or no color settings applied than yours since printing photographs with different profiles applied can result in color mismatch.

We need to tell Photoshop how to handle these color profile mismatches, and we do that in the Color Management Policies section of the Color Settings dialog box. By default, Photoshop is set to Preserve Embedded Profiles, which will keep the original color profile intact, and that’s rarely something that we want so we need to change these options.


Applying Profiles to Images

Here we will explain two scenarios. One is when you work with one printing house and you use only one color profile and another scenario is when you are working with few printing houses each with their own color profiles, or when you are using different printing methods or inks.

The next description is for all of you that are working with same printing house and use only one color profile.

Ask When Opening and Ask When Pasting checkboxes for the Profile Mismatches option should be selected. Each time you open an image in Photoshop you will be asked if you want to keep the embedded profile or to replace it with the working one, and the working one is the one you want to apply and the one you need.

Missing profiles checkbox should also be ticked and if the image you open does not have any profile applied the Missing profile window will open and you will apply your working profile.

In this way you will apply the correct color profile to your images as soon as you open them. So the next time you open an image with wrong color profile you will be presented with the “Missing profile” dialog box and you will have to tick the Assign working check box.

What happens if you work with few printing houses that use different profiles?

Well, then your best option is to uncheck Ask When Opening and Ask When Pasting checkboxes. Also leave all the options to Preserve Embedded Profiles. This will result in images retaining their original profiles and then you can choose which one you need to apply.

In this way each time you open an image that has different profile assigned, you will have to assign correct profile manually.

To do this go to Edit/Assign Profile. This dialog box looks almost the same as Missing profile dialog box but here you can choose from all of the profiles that are available and you will choose the one you need.


All of these processes are the same regardless if you open an RGB or CMYK image.

After you apply the steps described above, you can start color correcting your images if they need color correction.



These are the several steps that you have to take to assure that your images will print as closely to the original as they can.

In the end I advise you to invest some money in color proofs. Each printing house have their own proof devices which simulate the printing method they use. You can inspect them and if you are not satisfied you can correct the pages which are not satisfying.

You will have to sign those proofs if satisfied and they will serve as an evidence if something goes wrong in the printing process and you can always talk with the printing house representative why the final print is not equal to the color proofs which you were shown to approve.

General How to

How to Make Dr. Oz Good Life cover Better?

Last few weeks we have been writing a lot about cover pages. We presented what we thought were the best ones from the last year, we gave you some tips, and we introduced you to the cover page design. This post will discuss one that is, well, not that good.

Yesterday I was reading an article by Robert Newman and his opinion on the cover page of the new magazine “Dr. Oz The Good Life”. Mr. Newman shares his disappointment and I must agree with him. This cover is simply subpar.

Since our readers are interested in what, how and why of magazine design, in this post I will try to explain in detail what in my opinion is wrong with this cover and what could have been improved.

Let’s start with a masthead. As Mr. Newman stated, this is the biggest problem on the cover.

It is obvious why is this such a problem but let me explain. First of all, its size and shape are wrong. The size of the logo is the same as the main coverline on the bottom of the cover. There is this awkward space around the masthead that is empty and it is a waste of valuable space in my opinion.

Typography of the masthead is also a problem for me. I am sure there were much better choices than this. And if you take a closer look you will see that the masthead font and the font of the rest of cover lines are not the same. They are way too similar. Just look at the capital letters E and O. Very similar, but not the same. Another clash that should not be there. Another similarity you can see in the words “Dr. Oz” and in the rest of the masthead. It seems that words “Dr. Oz” are in some rounded sans font. Take a closer look and you will see. Again not good. The whole masthead should be in same font or in totally contrasting one. Not in a similar one.

As Mr. Newman stated there is nothing distinctive about it and its structure is wrong. I think that different design and font selection would be much better. Also this magazines best selling point is Dr. Oz itself. So why not make the Dr. Oz much bigger. Maybe some condensed, elongated font would be better.

Arrangement of the masthead, for example, could have been, large “DR. OZ” and below it smaller “The Good Life”. In this way masthead would be positioned in top left corner with “Dr. Oz” as a focal point of the masthead. This is just one proposition. I am sure that there are many more.  As I stated above, the size of the masthead is clashing with the main coverline at the bottom. Both in size and in font similarity. There is no contrast. The masthead just does not stand out.

Second big problem is the image. Jeans and sweater? OK, causal style, I get it. But in my opinion some better styling would be more appropriate. White shirt, blue blazer… Something more stylish. Image is dull and flat. There is no depth in it. Nothing special and for the first issue you should do something really special. But I leave this to photographers and photo editors to discuss further.

Although I do not have a problem with the font selection in coverlines, but the arrangement of them is another weak point. I think that the serif font used in the middle right coverline “Super Soft Skin” would be much better choice for the main coverline. Also the size could have been increased, by some 10-20%. In this way main coverline would dominate the page and it would be instantly recognizable as a focal point. Not to mention it would stand out against other coverlines and the masthead. In this way it just blends with the rest.

Headline in the top left cover “Drop 10 LBS…” uses numbers, but again not in an interesting way. Number 10 could have been made in this nice Bodoni looking serif font. Just to pop out from the rest of the headline. And the number should be a bit larger.

And there is this third font in there, above number 10, “easy plan”. This font is used only once as I can see. Why not some more? Why only once? In this way it looks it is there by mistake and not by purpose. I would use it more or none at all. If it was supposed to be used only once, than it should have been bigger.

Than there is this oval shape in top right corner. I don’t like oval shapes. Circle is much nicer. But, that is not the only problem. Maybe some double stroke would give it some panache. White color also does not work for me. Maybe some shade of blue or a yellow or pure cyan would be better or some other contrasting color that would make this oval pop out. Again, something is missing there.

And if I see it right this font in the oval shape looks condensed. So, it is different then the others on the page but not clearly different. There is no need for this. One font width is just enough.

Other cover lines are nice and neat. More or less, everything is fine with them.

Basically the problem is not in the strange oval shaped objects or four different fonts, don’t get me wrong. It is just that they are not arranged and designed in a nice and appealing way. Generally speaking this cover lacks some diversity, excitement and some playfulness. As you can see there is hardly anything in it that captures your attention.

I am not a Dr. Oz follower but I remember I have seen one or two TV shows by him. As I remember 75% of the audience were women. I suppose the same will be with the magazine. And this cover is not appealing for women.

It seems that the art department just did not have enough time do develop it further. It is visible that they did not spend enough time playing around with the cover and did not test some more options. When designing cover page, you just have to play around. Test and test and test. Numerous coverline choices, numerous type arrangements, numerous color schemes, shapes, sizes. We can only guess what happened during last stages of magazine production.

This is another proof that good cover design takes time and patience and I think that with few different choices both in font selection, sizing and arrangement this could have been much better looking cover page and I am looking forward to see the second issue.