PDF In-Depth

Getting color right for print in PDF files, Part 1: Enfocus PitStop Professional

About the Author

Pat Gilmour

Pat Gilmour has worked as a publishing technology consultant and trainer in London, UK and Paris, France for over seven years. He works in both print and online publishing, and specializes in PDF workflows (Adobe, Enfocus, etc.) and data driven web sites. In his free time...  More



PDF has gone from being a buzzword next-big-thing technology to an established de facto standard. The format is now commonly used in document archiving, distribution and professional printing. The Portable Document Format (PDF) was however not originally conceived as a high-end printing technology and so documents are not always as flexible and editable as some printers, working to very tight deadlines, would like. Further, though it is now easier than ever to produce reliable print-ready PDFs (thanks to advances in Adobe and Quark's key applications), many creative professionals still make mistakes when outputting PDF files for print. The purpose of this article then, is to help print professionals deal with color issues in PDFs that have been incorrectly created by DTP operators.

Perhaps the most common color-related problem with PDF is when a designer inadvertently leaves RGB color in the file and that color then fails to separate correctly on the RIP. Jobs usually end up needing to be rerun and this not only adds to the expense of the job but can also sour relations between the printer and the client as each blames the other for the mistake.

Advances in RIP technology are promising to make this type of mistake a thing of the past as up-to-date (and expensive) technology allows RGB color to be correctly converted at the RIP stage of output. In theory, jobs entirely in RGB will be able to be processed and output successfully to CMYK and this is part of the thinking behind the PDF/X-3 ISO standard which allows for RGB color in files providing the color is correctly tagged with color management information.

So much for the ideal; the reality is that most print-pros won't be working with such equipment for some time to come and so a solution is required for when PDF files arrive with RGB in them. This two-part article considers two quick and easy ways to do this: Part one, using Enfocus PitStop Professional (Enfocus.com -- 30 day fully functional demo available for Mac and PC) and Part two, using Adobe Acrobat 7's (Adobe.com -- 30 day fully functional demo available for PC only) build in color conversion. We'll consider the pros and cons of each. If you would like a demo file containing RGB to work with for these tutorials, you can download one here.

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