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Adobe Illustrator CS5 : Printing from Illustrator (part 3) - Specifying Color Separations

11/8/2011 5:03:18 PM
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Specifying Color Separations

If you choose either of the two separations print modes, you can specify additional options for how the color separations will print.

You can choose to print with the right reading emulsion up or down, and you can choose whether to print a positive or negative image. You’ll notice that as you choose these settings, the interactive print preview updates to show you how the art will print. You can also choose a printer resolution; these settings are specific to the printer to which you’ve to print. This information comes from the PPD file chosen for your printer or RIP.

If your file contains spot colors, you can convert them all to separate as process colors by selecting the Convert All Spot Colors to Process option. This option is even available when you’re printing composite proofs.

When you select the Overprint Black option, all objects that are colored 100% K overprint.

Previewing Separations Before You Print

The great news is that Illustrator has a Separations Preview panel. The bad news is that it’s not much more than a bare-bones implementation. Like the panels found in InDesign and Acrobat, the Separations Preview panel in Illustrator enables you to preview individual color separations for both process and spot colors (Figure 13.8) onscreen. Choose Window > Separations Preview to open the panel, and then select Overprint Preview to turn the feature on. Then, simply click the display or hide icon (eye) of your desired color to view or hide that plate. However, that’s where the similarities stop. Illustrator doesn’t “sense” what colors are actually being used in the document. For example, if you add five Pantone spot colors to your file but use only one, all five are listed in the Separations Preview panel, even though you didn’t use the other four. In addition, you do not have options for viewing ink coverage percentages, areas with varnishes, and other valuable print settings that you find in the Separations Preview panels in InDesign and Acrobat.

In the Document Ink Options section of the Output panel, you can specify which plates are sent to the printer and which settings each plate uses (Figure 7). Colors that appear with a printer icon on the far left print. To prevent an ink color from printing, click the printer icon to remove it. Inks that appear with a four-color icon separate as process colors. Inks that appear with a solid color icon print to their own plates as a spot (custom) color. Clicking a solid color icon causes just that color to separate as a process color. Additionally, you can specify custom Frequency, Angle, and Dot Shape settings for each ink.

Figure 7. The different icons that display in the Document Ink Options section of the Output panel indicate how the inks print.

Previewing Separations Before You Print

Figure 8. The Separations Preview panel lets you view each color plate onscreen.

Exploring the Graphics Print Panel

The settings in the Graphics panel of the Print dialog box are mainly for specifying options for your print device.

Prior to the release of Illustrator CS, the Document Setup dialog box contained an Object Resolution setting that determined the flatness setting for Bézier paths at output time. In CS versions of Illustrator the flatness setting is set by default, based on information from the selected PPD file. You can override this setting and use the slider to sacrifice path quality for print performance (although it’s best to leave this setting alone).

By default, Illustrator downloads subsets of fonts to the printer when you print a file. Downloading a subset simply means that Illustrator sends only the parts of a font that are required to print the text in your document. For example, if you have the word me in your document, Illustrator sends only the letters m and e to the printer instead of the entire font (this practice speeds up print times). You can override this behavior and choose Complete, which forces Illustrator to download the entire font to the printer at print time. Alternatively, you can choose not to download any fonts at all. You choose this option if you have fonts installed in your printer (some printers can contain hard drives and store fonts internally).


If you have problems printing Illustrator files to older print devices, try selecting the Compatible Gradient and Gradient Mesh Printing options.

By default, Illustrator chooses a PostScript language level that your selected printer will support. LanguageLevel 3 PostScript can print documents with transparency more reliably, and it contains smooth shading technology that helps prevent banding from appearing in gradients. You can also choose to send data to the printer in ASCII or in the default binary format.

The resolution at which live effects are rasterized is determined by the setting in the Document Raster Effects Settings dialog box. Here in the Graphics panel of the Print dialog box, Illustrator displays the current setting in that dialog box, allowing you to double-check to make sure the setting is indeed correct for printing (Figure 9). Illustrator won’t allow you to change the setting from the Print dialog box because changing the resolution setting may change the appearance of your artwork. To change the resolution setting, click the Done button in the Print dialog box, and choose Effect > Document Raster Effects Settings. You can then return to the Print dialog box to print your file.

Figure 9. Although you can’t change the Document Raster Effects Resolution setting from the Print dialog box, the Graphics panel does alert you to the current setting in case you need to make a change.

Exploring the Color Management Print Panel

If you really want to learn everything there is to know about color management, you should check out Real World Color Management, Second Edition, by Bruce Fraser, Chris Murphy, and Fred Bunting (Peachpit Press, 2005).

However, for the settings found in the Color Management panel of the Print dialog box:

  • Document Profile. The Document Profile setting displays the color profile that is currently embedded (or assumed) in the file. If you didn’t manually choose one, the profile you see here is the profile that is chosen in the Color Settings dialog box.

  • Color Handling. The Color Handling setting allows you to determine whether Illustrator will perform any necessary color adjustments (based on the chosen printer profile) or whether your printer will handle any required conversion on its own. Unless you are working within a proprietary workflow system, you should always let Illustrator determine colors, not the printer.

  • Printer Profile. When the Color Handling option is set to Let Illustrator Determine Colors, the Printer Profile setting lets you specify a profile for your printer. This gives Illustrator the information it needs to change colors so they look correct on your printer. If the Color Handling option is set to Let PostScript Printer Determine Colors, the Printer Profile setting is not applicable.

  • Rendering Intent. If some colors in your document cannot be reproduced on a given output device, the colors are considered out of gamut and must be converted to colors that will reproduce on the output device. There are different methods for converting these colors, and the Rendering Intent setting determines the method used. The most commonly used method, Relative Colorimetric, moves out-of-gamut colors to the closest possible color that will print on the device. It also adjusts other colors so that colors appear to be accurate. The Absolute Colorimetric setting adjusts only out-of-gamut colors and may result in posterization, where many shades of similar colors are used. The Perceptual method shifts colors so that they appear correct relative to each other, but it may not represent colors as being the most accurate match to the original values. The Saturation method enhances colors and makes them more vibrant and most suitable for business presentations where bright colors are more important than accurate colors.

  • Preserve CMYK Numbers. The Preserve CMYK Numbers setting is active only when Color Handling is set to the Let PostScript Printer Determine Colors option. With Preserve CMYK Numbers active, color values remain untouched in native artwork and text components.

Exploring the Advanced Print Panel

The Advanced panel in the Print dialog box gives you control over important settings such as overprinting and transparency flattening.

If your document contains overprint settings, you can choose from one of three settings to control overprint behavior:

  • Preserve. The Preserve option leaves all overprints intact in your file.


    The Print as Bitmap option is available for non-PostScript printers only and rasterizes all artwork in your file for printing.

  • Discard. The Discard option strips your file of any overprint commands. Those who have proprietary production systems or advanced trapping software in their RIPs will find this option useful. Rather than use a designer’s overprint settings, the trapping software applies and determines all overprint behavior.

  • Simulate. The Simulate option, available only when printing composite proofs, simulates overprints in the printout, giving the correct appearance of the final output in the proof.

If your document contains transparency, you can choose from a list of predefined transparency flattener presets. Illustrator ships with three presets called Low Resolution, Medium Resolution, and High Resolution, but you can also define your own custom option for your particular print session by choosing Edit > Transparency Flattener Presets.

Defining Print Presets


If you delete your application preferences, you won’t lose your saved print presets.

As you’ve undoubtedly seen, the Print dialog box in Illustrator contains a plethora of settings, and going through each panel to make sure the settings are correct is an exercise in patience. Print presets allow you to capture all the options set in the different Print dialog box panels so that you can easily retrieve those settings at any time. To create a print preset, click the Save Preset button (the disk icon) at the top right of the Print dialog box; to manage your presets, choose Edit > Print Presets. Print presets are saved in XML and are cross-platform, so you can import and export them and distribute them among others.

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