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Proofing Tools

With Acrobat's built-in support for ICC color management and Adobe's standard implementation of color management across all of its professional publishing applications, soft proofing is becoming an increasingly viable activity in Acrobat. Even if you're leery of signing off on onscreen color, you can use Acrobat's proofing features to view color onscreen consistently across Adobe applications, to simulate various CMYK printing conditions onscreen, and to manage the color that's produced in an inkjet comp, for example, as well as in a final contract proof. Hopefully, over time, you'll learn to trust color management and begin working with your prepress partners to create reliable profiles for your workflow. This way, you can closely approximate onscreen what will actually be printed on the press.

Color Management Preferences

You may recall from Chapter 3 that your first opportunity to apply color management to PDF files comes when they're distilled. However, before you view any PDF file onscreen with an eye toward color, you should find out from the document creator whether and how color management was applied (you won't find this info in Acrobat). The options you specify in Preferences affect the way unmanaged color PDF files are displayed; any color management applied to the file when it was distilled takes precedence over specifications you make when viewing the PDF file in Acrobat.

Since there's so much overlap among color controls across Adobe applications, it's easy (though not essential) to use consistent color preferences—the same working spaces and color engine—in all programs, thereby dramatically reducing surprising color shifts. Equally important is making certain that everyone in a workgroup viewing color-managed documents uses the same settings. If all of your team members have calibrated monitors, use the same engine to make color conversions, and apply the same profiles; it goes a long way toward establishing confidence in the color you see and print.

In Acrobat, choose Preferences > General from the Edit menu, then choose the Color Management panel (Figure 4-40). From the Settings pop-up menu you can choose from the same nine color settings available in Photoshop 6, Illustrator 9 and 10, and InDesign 2.0, including generic prepress defaults for the United States, Europe, and Japan; a Custom option; or Color Management Off. On a Mac, you can also choose a tenth settings file, ColorSync workflow, which applies to Mac-only workflows that make use of applications from companies other than Adobe. The various prepress settings files use Adobe's internal color engine to convert color between various color devices, as well as Adobe's RGB color space, industry-standard CMYK press profiles (SWOP in the United States, for example), and appropriate dot gain for those printing conditions.

Figure 4-40. The Color Management panel in Preferences.

Choose a prepress setting that's appropriate for your working conditions or create a custom setting if you have a custom output profile from your prepress partner for your final press or contract-proof device. Don't turn color management off, however, because that choice is intended to emulate the color of video and other applications that don't support color management. Checking Use Black Point Compensation maps the black point of the source color space to the black point of the target color space, resulting in a full dynamic range of colors in the target device. In geek-speak, this is a relative (rather than absolute) transformation, and it reduces the likelihood of washed-out blacks or clipped shadows. Black-point compensation affects the way color is displayed onscreen and in printed documents—though only when the application, not the RIP, manages printed color.

Proof Setup and Proof Colors

Once you've set your Preferences, you can specify proofing conditions. Happily, in addition to using the same color settings as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, Acrobat has identical proofing tools: Proof Setup and Proof Colors, both of which reside in the View menu (as they do in Acrobat's sibling applications). You can use these features to determine how your onscreen (RGB) colors will look when printed (CMYK).

By using the Proof Setup command, you can choose from a number of predefined output profiles—the same ones available in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, of course—to simulate CMYK conditions on your monitor. Select View > Proof Setup > Custom, and then choose your desired output profile from the Proofing Space pop-up menu (Figure 4-41).

Figure 4-41. The Proof Setup dialog box.

If you have a custom output profile (which should be stored in the ColorSync folder in the System folder on the Mac, or in the System\Color folder in Windows), you can select it from the list or choose one of the myriad proofing devices or printing or prepress options. (You can also choose RGB profiles if you're publishing to the Web from a PC and want to soft-proof viewing conditions on a Mac, or vice versa.)

There are two more choices to make in the Proof Setup dialog box: You can check Simulate Ink Black or Paper White. The former uses a relative colorimetric rendering intent; the latter uses an absolute colorimetric rendering intent. But let me back up a bit: The rendering intent, which I mentioned in Chapter 3, describes how the color engine maps colors from one color space to another—in this case, from the CMYK proof space to the RGB monitor space. When you check Simulate Ink Black and use the relative intent, this turns off black-point compensation and provides a more accurate depiction of how true black will print. It maps colors by comparing the white points of the two color spaces and shifting all colors accordingly. It's a good idea to check this box when you're printing under conditions with a small dynamic range, such as to newsprint or to desktop inkjet proofers.

Simulating paper white, in contrast, uses absolute rendering, which theoretically does a better job of representing the entire compressed gamut of the print medium. This makes it a better option for soft proofing. To see the soft proof you've just set up, you must toggle it on: Choose View > Proof Colors (Command/Ctrl-Y).

Despite the tremendous strides Acrobat 5.0 has made in reliable soft proofing, you must still take into account many variables before you can soft-proof with confidence. Above all, you need a high-quality color monitor that has been properly calibrated and profiled (not an 8-year-old CRT, like mine). Viewing conditions, including incandescent versus fluorescent lighting, also dramatically affect the color you see onscreen. Most experts recommend that you view soft proofs in muted, consistent lighting conditions—no glare on the glass, a hood over the monitor, a plain gray desktop (onscreen), and neutral-colored walls.

Printing Managed Color

Most of you would probably rather trust the CMYK values you specify and view in software than resort to soft proofing. That's understandable: It takes time and practice to trust the color you see onscreen—even if that means simply knowing how the color viewed there will differ from the color as it appears in print. As long as you're learning about soft proofing, though, you should also get used to printing proofs from Acrobat using color management—again with the goal of producing color that closely approximates that which your printing press will produce.

As mentioned earlier, you can either let Acrobat apply color management when you print a PDF file (host-based color management), or you can let the PostScript output device's RIP manage color (printer-based color management). However, if you leave color management to a PostScript printer, it will convert an ICC source profile to something called a color space array and an output profile to a color rendering dictionary. The actual color conversion, based on these files, can occur in one of several ways, either by the driver or the printer, which can lead to unpredictable results. By letting Acrobat manage printed colors, you get more predictability and control because it uses the engine you specified in Preferences and the output profile of your choosing.

Select host-based color management by diving into the bowels of the Print dialog box. On the Mac, choose Acrobat 5.0 from the General pop-up menu, then click Advanced. In Windows, you can click Advanced directly, without jumping through this hoop. In the Print Settings dialog box (Figure 4-42), go to the Color Profile pop-up menu in the High-End Features area. Choose Printer/PostScript Color Management to cede color control to the printer's RIP, or choose Same as Source if you don't want to apply color management. To use Acrobat's color management, simply choose the desired output profile (for example, U.S. Sheetfed Uncoated v2 or a profile for your desired proofing device).

Figure 4-42. The Advanced Print Settings dialog box.

Don't get an itchy clicker finger: You still need to check more boxes before leaving this dialog box! First, check Print ICC colors as Device colors (you would only leave this box unchecked if you planned to let the printer manage your color). If you leave this box unchecked, PostScript will use color space arrays, converted from ICC profiles, to manage color in the RIP.

You'll also want to check Apply Working Color Spaces (which is checked by default). This tells Acrobat to use the RGB and grayscale working spaces defined in Preferences, in conjunction with the CMYK profile you specified in the Color Profile pop-up menu. In Windows you may also have the option to choose an output tray.

Now you're ready to roll: Click OK, then print the document. (See “Advanced Print Options,” next page, for more on the other choices in this dialog box.)

Advanced Print Options

The Advanced Print Settings dialog box includes features for much more than just printing color-managed PDF files. Some of them are described here (note, however, that overprints are covered in depth in the following chapter, in the trapping section).

Acrobat's Tiling feature lets you print oversized pages (for example, posters or billboards) on multiple sheets of paper rather than scale them to fit on letter-size paper (or smaller). If you choose None (your only option for document pages smaller than those specified in your Print Setup), Acrobat will print the image at 100 percent or let you scale it smaller or larger. Scaling is a good way to print letter-size documents on letter-size paper with trim marks and bleeds. If you print a scaled version of the document that includes printers' marks, your prepress partner will know you've included the information in the file (since it might not be immediately visible in the onscreen PDF file).

For oversized documents, however, you can either scale them or choose Automatic to tile them across multiple pieces of paper. Don't be confused by the term automatic, though: You do get to specify how you want the document tiled. For example, to compensate for the small margins that your printer cannot image, you can enter an overlap of up to one-third of the PDF page's width or height, whichever is smaller. If your overlap value equals that of the unprintable margin, you'll be able to trim the white away from the page and the pieces will line up precisely. You can still opt to scale the document should you want to save paper and not print at 100 percent (and you can enlarge the page, too, if you desire). Check Emit Slug to print the file name, date stamp, and tile location on the page, and check the Tile Marks box to help assemble the final printed pieces.

Device-specific parameters— Emit Halftones, Transfer Functions, and Undercolor Removal/Black Generation—tell the printer to use these settings for output (if they're specified in the PDF file) rather than the printer's defaults. You opt to include these settings when you prepare the file in its authoring application. Read more about them in the various applications discussed in Chapter 2. Generally, it's best not to include these specifications and to let your printer control the output for their particular device.

Finally, you can control transparency in your printed piece, using the Transparency Quality/Speed pop-up menu. Here you can trade off quality (degree of rasterization) for speed. At the lowest quality level, the entire page is rasterized. The higher the quality setting, the more vector data is preserved. The result is the highest possible resolution-independent output but more time- and memory-intensive processing.

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