Prepress Gremlins: The Duotone Edition

Archipelago Books catalogs

Twice a year I lay out a cute little catalog for a publisher friend, and I’ve been doing it for four or five years, so the files have gone through several software upgrades. They were originally supplied to me as Quark XPress 4.1 docs, and I probably kept it that way for one or two issues before converting it to InDesign CS. Then the files upgraded to CS2, and then the fonts upgraded to OpenType. For the latest issue, I started the job in CS2 at home (hello, my name is India, and I am a late adopter) and then made the final round of corrections at my office, using CS3. Everything preflighted okay, and I sent the printer both PDFs and application files.

Two weeks later, I got an excited message from our rep at Kromar. They’d had some problems with the files, which they’d taken care of, but their prepress guy wanted to tell me about it. Ooh, curious! So I called back immediately, and the nice man in Winnipeg tried to explain to me what had happened.

This catalog is printed in two colors, with all the book jackets set up as duotones. Because I’m using InDesign and I can, lately I’ve been saving those duotones as .psd files instead of the venerable EPS format. Hadn’t been a problem. But this time—and I’m assuming it’s a CS3 issue, because neither I nor the printer had seen this before, and this is the first job I’ve done in CS3—something went horribly awry!

The PDFs I sent—which I created using R.R. Donnelley’s instructions, since Kromar doesn’t provide its own and Donnelley’s the most persnickety printer I’ve ever had to prepare files for—passed their preflight tests and seemed to be fine, so they were going to use them. But then, when they were checking proofs looking for something else, their technician noticed that one color had dropped out of all the duotones—the black, I think. Nutty! They poked at it for a while and then, since I had also sent application files, reopened all the PSDs, flattened them, and resaved them. The black came back. “Would saving as EPS also have worked?” I asked. Yes, since EPSs are already flat, he said. (Duh? I may have known that once . . .)

We shouldn’t have to flatten these files, we agreed—InDesign proudly supports native Photoshop files, so I’ve been sending PSDs for the last five issues, and it’s never been a problem before—but henceforth I’m going to go back to saving all duotones as EPS files, just like olden times. At least I don’t have to split each plate into a separate document, like we did in the really olden days (1998?). I’d completely forgotten about that nightmare until another designer reminded me.

So. Anybody else noticed anything weird that’s specific to CS3? Is there anything wild I should know about like that thing in CS2 with the autoplace where after page eighty or so the text would thread itself onto to the master page and everything would go to hell? Whoo! That was a startling bug to make it through beta testing—I think I managed to trigger it on the very day that I upgraded. Nobody tests layout software on books longer than eighty pages?

Also, what kind of file preparation voodoo do you do because there was that one time, five years ago, when something didn’t work right and the printer said, blah blah blah don’t do it again? For example,

  • I always root out any unused fonts before packing up the files, even if they appear only in an empty box somewhere on the pasteboard.
  • I try to remember to remove stray crap from the pasteboard.
  • I remove any unused colors, master pages, and style sheets.
  • In Quark, I used to compulsively seek any instance of the “normal” style and nuke it, by either making a style for everything or applying “no style.”

What else? I know there used to be this whole little prepress song and dance I’d do to make the rain come when I was sending a file to the printer, back when I had to send files to printers all the livelong day, but I’ve forgotten most of it, because I do so little print production now. How about you?


Sorry. Was that excessively nerdy? Here’s a Unicorn chaser.

18 thoughts on “Prepress Gremlins: The Duotone Edition

  1. I have been having a problem with Anziano small caps — they won’t print to my laser printer though they will to a pdf. I assume they will output okay from the printer (if not, I’m screwed). The vendor, OurType, thinks it’s a CS3 issue. I haven’t confirmed that though.

  2. Your file-prep examples match what I would do at my last job before producing the final PDFs (in Quark) of the newsletters I set. I would then check all font usage in the PDF, because I had had coworkers who incorrigibly would apply bold or ital attributes to the roman typefaces instead of using the appropriate fonts of each face. (We once got advances back for one job with any attribute-coded text missing.) InDesign reduced that attribute paranoia, but I still ran through many of the cleanup rituals you mention above. I kept my master templates lean and up to date.

    Then I got to my current job, where the artist/designer (a) stored all recurrent art and type elements on his Quark pasteboards, (b) never got rid of extraneous typefaces in the layouts, (c) would leave extra blank pages at the ends of press-ready layouts, (d) would never remove one-off spot colors or para/character styles from their respective lists, and (e) updated his master versions of the templates with the turn of the year (for the date in the footer), then reused these files for the next 12 months. Editors had access to the DTP files to place initial text and fit copy, so I would wince when I had to open these docs.

    Changes have come, though. With this past month’s issue, we’re now in an InCopy/K4 workflow, so editors won’t have this sort of direct access anymore, and that artist is setting sail for other employment shores.

  3. Oh, yeah, of course, in Quark I’d always have to check for the bold and italic attributes. Those incorrigible coworkers get around, don’t they?

    Another thing is that I always do a save-as before gathering files for output, to compress the document. Works in both Quark and InDesign, as I recall.

    And I’d always print to postscript and distill separately, never generate PDFs directly from the layout application.

  4. Ditto as well on the PostScript/Distiller two-step, which seemed to produce more reliable PDFs in Quark, according to our regular printer’s prepress gang.

  5. Not nerdy. Well, not excessively so. And it will give me even more to ponder when my own copy of that cute little catalog arrives in the mail.

  6. India, your file prep list about equals mine, although I’m often forgetful about removing unused colors. Interestingly, I’ve gotten lazy about distilling PDFs and have not had problems Exporting to PDF from both InDy CS2 and Quark 7.01.

  7. What an odd problem… I recently upgraded to CS3, but I can’t recall if I’ve sent off any jobs with PSD duotones. If you’re interested in investigating further, you may get some answers in the Adobe User to User Forums: http://www.adobeforums.com/webx/.ee6b330/

    I’ve been a regular there lately, trying to figure out where my favorite little tricks from CS2 disappeared to!

  8. One of our designers here had a similar problem with PSDs that contained two spot channels (if I’m recalling the specifics correctly). He found that saving them out as Photoshop pdfs allowed them to display, print, and pdf properly from the ID CS2 document.

  9. I’m having a “disappearing duo” issue in CS3 using the same .eps file I’ve been using for over a year successfully in CS2. I have searched high and low and cannot get this thing to view in separations mode, or to export to pdf files. I’m wondering if I should try the alternate method and save out my duotone to psd! Has anyone else had an issue with an old duotone .eps file disappearing in separations view?

  10. Well, I just tried the opposite. I saved my duotone photoshop eps file out as a psd, imported in into inDesign CS3. It outputs and separates perfectly as a postscript file. Should I worry about the end result at the printer?

    I wonder if CS3 requires change, as long as it’s the opposite of what you’ve been doing for years. Like a Gemini…

  11. Yes, I’m sure we’ve all had mysterious image problems where just saving the file under a new name makes the problem go away. Perhaps ID CS3 just wants things to be freshened up.

  12. I will have to confess that I’m still using CS (the original) and I simply refuse to upgrade because I do not want the hassles. I was dragged, kicking and screaming, from doing book covers in Illustrator to InDesign (correct camel-cap?) CS and before that, was happily working away in PageMaker. It’s going to catch up with me though, but until it does…

    And since I’m baring my soul: when I first got InDesign I had to do the layout for a 10 page catalogue, on deadline. New software and deadlines just don’t mix, so in desperation over the learning curve, I did the layout one page at a time in Illustrator, then combined them all in Acrobat. They said they wanted PDFs, so I thought I’d get away with it. Imagine my embarrassment when they requested the application files.

    I’m sure the prepress guys have mocked me on every design and clientcopia.com site to be found.

    /topic hijack

  13. Cathi.

    Cathi, Cathi, Cathi.

    Somehow that is more painful to me than the knowledge that there are still thousands of designers out there using Quark XPress 4.

  14. I think I bought the upgrade and never installed it. That’s probably worse, isn’t it?

    My shame knows no limits.

    Does CS2 or 3 offer me anything in terms of prepress that CS doesn’t, aside from hassles and advertisements for stock images?

  15. Hmm. I don’t recall ever seeing advertisements for stock images.

    It’s been at least three years since I made the switch to CS2, so it’s hard to recall what made it such a good upgrade, but I do remember that it was a really good upgrade.

    What made me make my boss buy it (aside from the fact that I thought it’d be a good idea to have a semi-licensed copy in the office instead of an outright bootleg) was the addition of object styles and anchored objects. I was typesetting a book of movie reviews (adult movie reviews, to be exact) and the !@#$% box thumbnails were killing me. Every time the text reflowed—which it did many, many times as the publisher kept asking me to make the book longer (harder! faster! oh, baby!)—I’d have to move all the images. So that was a very necessary feature, to keep me from killing somebody.

    Another thing new to that version that I use all the time is Quick Apply, which allows you to apply styles from the keyboard—hot key + text search for the name of the style. Huge time-saver for me. And there have been a lot of interface changes in CS2 and CS3, mostly to help get the millions of palettes out of the way. I think footnotes/endnotes were new to CS2, as well—or else they were radically improved.

    Somewhere around here, I think I have a post listing the new features in CS2 that I was drooling over at the time; I remember leaving the prerelease demo at InDesign User Group saying, “Can I have it now? How about in exchange for my left arm?” They were mostly specific to book design and typesetting, so they should be relevant to your work. I’ll look . . .

    I’ve only been using CS3 for a little while, and I haven’t been to InDesign User Group much recently, so I’ve missed all the demos, which is where I learn about the new features, so I’m not as clear on the utility of that upgrade. But if you already have it, for pete’s sake, install it! InDesign upgrades are not like XPress upgrades, where they include all the old bugs plus a raft of new ones, under a dubious layer of cosmetic changes. ID changes tend to reflect direct requests from users, as well as actual bug fixes and interface improvements.

  16. I would just like to announce that after 3 hours of having a computer tech ($50+ per) come here to do the installation, a Windows upgrade to become compatible, two calls to Adobe’s 1-800 # (they disconnected the first after a 20+ minute wait), several computer jams, many program crashes and a half glass of cheap wine, I am now operating Adobe CS4.

    That’s all.

    Please continue with your regularly scheduled programming.

  17. I know I speak for all the employees here at India Ink Industries when I say, Cathi, I am so proud of you. But . . . eeeeeeeuw. Windows. Now I understand why you’re so reluctant to upgrade anything.

  18. Oh, yeah!! When I started I dealt directly with the public in most cases, and the compatibility between Mac files and PC files was not there, and I don’t care what they say. So, I purchased a PC. It’s not the end of the world, but to put that thing on, listen to this (remember I skipped all the way from CS to CS4):

    1. Download A Service Pack from Microsoft. Took about half an hour.

    2. Install the CS4 software.

    3. Did not offer me an option to upgrade from CS, only from CS3. Could not register or finish installation.

    4. Panic, because I paid just under $800 Canadian for CS4 upgrade and Staples will not accept software returns once the seal is broken.

    5. Quadruple check everything (plus, I had it in writing from Adobe that I was purchasing the right CS4 version).

    6. Take their advice and download the trial version off Adobe site.

    7. Still doesn’t take serial #.

    8. Call Adobe.

    9. On hold 20 minutes, at least.

    10. Adobe disconnects us.

    11. The guy I’m paying $50 per hour to do all this has now been here 3 hours just to install this program. He has to leave.

    12. I call Adobe.

    13. Get through.

    14. Am given a secret combination of keys to hit that makes a box pop up with a secret code.

    15. I tell the rep the code.

    16. The rep gives me another code to type in, which I do.

    17. It’s registered!!! It seems to work.

    18. Rep tells me it will be rinse, lather and repeat if I try to change computers. WEEEEEEEEEE.

    I’m most annoyed that Adobe doesn’t warn people about the necessity of calling, I had a panic attack thinking I’d blown all that money on the wrong version.

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