How to Check a PDF File for a Color System

Written by william harrel
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How to Check a PDF File for a Color System
What colour system does your PDF use? (colour image by Yermashkevich Pavel from Fotolia.com)

Since Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF) is designed to let you create multipurpose documents---documents designed for optimal printing and display on computers---PDFs support several colour systems, usually called "color space." When you export from another program, such as InDesign, Quark or Illustrator, to a PDF, it exports with a specific colour system. Monitors use the "Red, Green and Blue (RGB)" colour system. Documents designed for laser printers and printing presses often require a CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) colour system. You can use Acrobat Pro to check (and change) a PDF's colour space.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Acrobat Pro 7 or later.

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Instructions

    Checking a PDF's Color System

  1. 1

    Open the PDF in Acrobat Pro. Click "File" on the menu bar and choose "Open." This displays the Open dialogue box. Navigate to the file, select it, then click "Open."

  2. 2

    Click "Advanced" on the menu bar and choose "Print Production," then select "Convert Colors" on the Convert Colors flyout menu. This opens the Convert Colors dialogue box.

  3. 3

    Click "Document Colors" (button in the upper-right corner of the dialogue box). This displays two boxes, "Color Spaces" and "Spot Colors." Colour Spaces shows the various RGB and CMYK colour systems defined in the document. Spot Color shows the "spot" colour systems, such as "Pantone," and specific spot colours assigned to objects in the document. Typically, spot colours are called out during creation of the document in the source application, such as InDesign. Designers use them when they need to match colours precisely, such as the colours in a company logo, for example.

    Converting Colors for Printing

  1. 1

    Consult your printer's documentation to determine the optimal colour system. Or, if you're using a print shop, ask them which colour space settings works best with their printing presses.

  2. 2

    Open the PDF in Acrobat Pro. Click "File" on the menu bar and choose "Open." This displays the Open dialogue box. Navigate to the file, select it, then click "Open."

  3. 3

    Click "Advanced" on the menu bar and choose "Print Production," then select "Convert Colors" on the Convert Colors flyout menu. This opens the Convert Colors dialogue box. There are a lot of options in this box. To convert a colour space for printing, you should concentrate primarily on the "Object Type" and "Color Type" dropdowns and the options in the "Output Intent" section.

    Object Type lets you choose the objects in the document---text, images, line art, and so on---on which you want to apply a colour conversion. For most print jobs, you'll choose "Any Object."

    Color Type lets you choose the colour space. For most inkjet printers, you should choose one of the RGB options. For high-end print jobs, choose one of the CMYK options. (Consult the printer documentation or your print shop for help with this.)

    The Output Intent options let you tweak the output for optimal printing, such as paper type, how to render blacks and greys, which pages to apply the conversion to, and so on. Each printer and print shop require slightly different settings --you'll get the best output by setting these options according to your printer's documentation or your print shop's specifications.

  4. 4

    Click "OK" to save the colour conversion options.

Tips and warnings

  • Getting optimal output from computer documents on printing presses is somewhat tricky. If you're not familiar with this process, you should send the PDF to your print shop and let them make the conversion changes.
  • For the optimal print output, convert your photos and graphics to CMYK in the source application, such as Photoshop or Illustrator. Calibrate the source program to the intended output device as described in the application's Help system.
  • Colour documents created on computers and then printed on high-end printing devices are subject to "colour shifts," sometimes producing undesired results. For the best results, calibrate your monitor with the intended output device and work closely with your print shop.

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