Printer Having Problems With My PDF

Hi all,

I'm new to this forum and forums in general and I'm having a few problems with my current employer's chosen printer.

We've just had a batch of 15,000 flyers sent to us with errors which I've never seen before, new colours and shapes, some gradients flipped and others correct, hidden layers appearing (I've removed those since it was called up before the print)...

The printer uses Adobe Reader and insists the software is up to date, I've had to adjust my work practices to accommodate the fact reader doesn't show bleed (files are also distributed online) and removing crop marks (as they don't need them).

I've had a few runs go out relatively well so far aside from some imperfections in colours along with weird and wonderful paper sizes but this is the first to come back in an unusable state (logo is entirely wrong).

I'm using illustrator CS6 and never had a problem before now, the PDF is saved as acrobat 6 (PDF 1.5) if that helps.

Has anyone come across problems like these and has anyone heard of Adobe Reader being used for printing on this scale?

I'd appreciate any help or advice you can offer me!

Thanks for reading, BHGFX
Firstly - a printer that only has Adobe Reader sets off alarm bells! Why don't they have Acrobat Professional? It's not even that expensive to begin with.

If they don't have the right tools to open and print the PDF - then it makes me wary that they might not have the printing equipment, that is prepress equipment to deal with what you're sending.

I feel they're ideology on printing is so antiquated that the technology has finally passed them out.

Secondly - did you get a proof? Or did you send them a proof?

This is very important, especially if you're getting inconsistent results.

If you sign off a proof and get something back that is incorrect - then you're entitled to a reprint free of charge.

If you send them a proof to match - and it comes back wrong then you're entitled to a reprint free of charge.

Thirdly - have the printers ever offered you a .Joboptions file to use for making the PDFs? Or any guidelines for their workflow in what settings to choose for the PDF settings?

Fourthly - have you set your colour profiles in Illlustrator to match the print - have you a colour calibrated screen and colour calibrated printer in your office to match exactly what you see on scree?

Fifthly - for colours are you selecting RGB/CMYK/Spot colours? Or a mixture of all 3?

- If you're just picking random CMYK values - then you can expect inconsistent results across different output devices. If you're choosing Spot colours then you should convert these to CMYK (if not using Spot colours) by using their LAB values - and at the Colour Destination set in the PDF settings.

If you're picking Pantone Colours - then you should reference this when talking to the printer and the colour conversion to CMYK that you expect - as they can do this on press or in prepress!

Finally -

You shouldn't have to do any colour conversions at all - you should be supplying PDFx4a as your PDF type - this supplies all your colour as is within the document.

The printer should be converting their colour profiles to match their machines at the RIP stage - that's the best place for any final corrections to happen with a file!

There's a lot of questions here - about your colour policy workflow and of course with why the printers are so ill-equipped to deal with an industry standard file???

And why they can't match the colours to your supplied file.

I'd think about ditching that printer and finding someone you can work with that can use the industry standard tools! There's no way you should be making compensations of no bleed just so they can use Adobe Reader?

That actually makes no sense - as you can include bleed and crop marks in a pdf that can be opened in Reader.

So why have issues with this makes me think they're too far behind the times.
Hi, thank you very much for the reply! You've given me a lot of information to move forward with :icon_smile:

I'm used to dealing with printers who don't really operate to any real standard (seems to be a thing in this area), I can't change printers or even suggest that due to their relationship to my employer!

I'm still fairly new to working in print and without any real standard to go by I've still got a lot to learn, could you (or anyone!) recommend some reading for me and anyone else who might be interested?

I'll answer your questions here :)

1 - Alarm bells were definitely ringing!

2 - I would like to proof everything correctly but this was frowned upon due to the employer-printer relationship, plus side is I don't need to worry too much about reprints but I'll definitely bring this into play now!

3 - I'll follow up on .Joboptions but I think I know the answer to this already!

4 - I'm using FOGRA39 on advice I've had previously, I want to recalibrate my screen but I need the equipment

5 - I'm using Pantone+ CMYK Coated and informed the printer

Finally - I'm using PDF/x-4:2010

Thank you for your time, help and understanding, I really appreciate your response,

Well the answers in the pudding really. If the artwork is coming back printed incorrectly you need to allow in the workflow sufficient time to get a proof to iron out the kinks.

1000 flyers not a big deal - 15,000 now we're talking serious money.

Logos are sacrosanct! If it's on 15,000 flyers then the that's a huge deal!

Fogra39 - I use that too and get very good results. It's a coated ink standard so colour reproduction on uncoated will vary - if you're using uncoated papers (like office paper, not silks, then consider using an Uncoated colour destination when generating PDFs.

Reference all and any spot colours you've used in the artwork, even if you've converted them to CMYK - and please ensure that you're using the LAB values when converting to CMYK - that will give the most consistent colour reproduction on various outputs.

But you've got some issues to deal with with the printer and how this muck up happened.

My inkling is that they tried to edit the PDF and opened in Illustrator or Inkscape or something and that causes strange clipping masks to occur.

For what it's worth Illustrator and Inkscape are NOT multipurpose PDF editors.

The only PDFs that should be opened in Illustrator are PDFs generated by Illustrator with preserve editing capabilities.

If you're not turning on Preserve Editing Capabilities, then if they try to open the PDF in Illustrator it will cause havoc.

Try when you can to get a colour proof - it's not always possible.

But at least get a lo-res PDF proof from the printers after they've done their "prepress work" on it.

Let me know how you get on.
Hey, sorry for the silence, been a hectic weekend and had a few meetings to deal with!

You've given me a good idea of where to go with this now. I'm now proofing everything that goes through the printer and things seem to be ok with this run (at least from what they've told me). They're a fairly new company and the guy I've been communicating with has a lot of experience with the machines and processes but file handling and design is fairly new to him, I've been put in touch with their on-site designer who's helped get the files into a workable state now (although it's still a bit of an unusual method to me)

Thanks again for taking the time to respond to me, it's been a great help and I've still got a lot to learn about the printing process.