We are going to take a break from the usual format of this column to answer some questions that I've been getting from readers.
For many months we've been examining how different common graphic packages deal with spot colors and the proper methods for defining spot colors for reproduction on a press running only CMYK inks. Several of you have asked what is the best way to deal with documents that contain spot colors. In this installment we'll look at some of your options.
Your first option is, in my opinion, your best option: preflighting your files. The earlier in the production schedule you can detect problems and errors, the better your chances of making your deadlines and not having to work late.
Figure 1 shows the spot-color portion of the control panel interface of Markzware FlightCheck, a popular preflighting package. Here you can set various methods for spot color handling such as simply notifying you when spot colors are present in the document, as shown in Figure 2. But preflighting can go further than simply alerting you to the presence of unwanted spot colors. The interface for Enfocus PitStop Pro, another popular preflighting application, is shown in Figure 3. As you can see, the option to "Convert Spot to CMYK" has been enabled.
Process a file with spot colors and all spots will be automatically converted to process. Although the ideal situation is to properly design the document in the first place, having preflight software make corrections such as this can mean the difference between making a deadline and missing it.
RIP and spot color
If you have a proofing RIP, you may be able to use it as a preflighting application, too. Most RIPs offer you some sort of spot color handling option, as shown in Figure 4. Selecting the "Disable" option will force the RIP to proof any spot colors by simulating their Process equivalents. Keep in mind, however, that your RIP may proof simulated spot colors differently than they will print when converted using another software program.
Instead of using the RIP to, perhaps incorrectly, proof your spot colors, a better idea may be using it to simply police your files and alert you to the presence of spot colors in a document.
Figure 5 shows a standard spot color handling sequence in the EFI XF RIP. The RIP will look for manufacturer specification for the color definitions from companies such as Pantone, or it will look to see if custom definitions have been added in the form of L*a*b* or CMYK values. It can also search the document itself in an attempt to find the spot color "recipe."
A better suggestion might be to set the interface as shown in Figure 6. Here, all of the possible spot color definitions have been turned off. With this configuration the RIP will be unable to process and proof any documents that contain spot colors. Process a document containing a spot color and you will receive the error shown in Figure 7. RIPs may even be able to show you which spot colors are contained in the document,
as shown in Figure 8.
In an ideal world, if you don't print documents containing spot colors you won't get documents with spot colors. In reality, adding preflighting software to your workflow or configuring your proofing RIP to act as a sort of spot color traffic cop can save you time now and headaches later. Do this and you may even get home on time.
John Nate is technical sales manager for EFI. He can be reached at 262.691.1290 or via e-mail email@example.com.