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Black only PDF from InDesign?

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  • Black only PDF from InDesign?

    I would like to create a grayscale PDF file from InDesign.

    I am a faculty member of a university that teaching graphic communications. I have a project that requires students to create their own grayscale tint scale to help them understand imagesetter calibration. When they create the PDF file from InDesign, they get a CMYK PDF file. I would like to simplify the process so that they don't have to eliminate the extra channels before exposing film. Anyone know how to do this?



  • #2
    Re: Black only PDF from InDesign?

    There is no way to directly export grayscale PDF from
    InDesign. In fact, grayscale is really not part of InDesign's
    imaging model. If your content is indeed totally in the K
    channel, then the exported PDF will likewise be totally in
    the K (black) channel unless you do something improper with
    color management. At that point simply ignore the blank C,
    M, and Y channels. If you truly and positively much have
    grayscale in PDF instead of C=M=Y=0,K you can use the
    color change facility in Acrobat Pro to change that CMYK
    to grayscale.

    Teaching graphics communications in a university in 2008 and
    still "exposing film?" Hmmm.

    - Dov


    • #3
      Re: Black only PDF from InDesign?

      Thanks for the help.

      As far as film is concerned....

      We run a program that supports flexo, offset, and screen printing. Limited budgets and a varied course offering have made the use of film still viable. We use it to increase students understanding of halftone dot characteristics. It also provides hands on opportunity prior to students introduction to our CTP system.



      • #4
        Re: Black only PDF from InDesign?

        Have a look at this link.


        • #5
          Re: Black only PDF from InDesign?

          Unfortunately, that is a very poor solution.

          Why? Because it isn't PDF export. Creating PDF via
          distillation of PostScript is a "retro" workflow
          because it kills the live transparency, color management,
          and when flattening occurs, ability to modify or
          search for text in PDF.

          - Dov


          • #6
            Re: Black only PDF from InDesign?

            @ Hans

            While one might simply ask "why can't Adobe come up with a way do such a thing directly?" I sure would think that this could (should?) be something that could be handled using an applied color management profile - but then again, maybe you can't, as I think your question limited the discussion to InDesign only options - as Dov is expert on all things Adobe, I think if there is a way to accomplish this in Acrobat 8, he will offer that procedure.

            I have heard many say things like "To fix the existing color PDFs, download one of the many free/cheap PDF printer drivers, set it to print b&w output and automate Adobe Acrobat reader to open the color PDF and print to the B&W print driver." - in some cases, this works for office like documents, but my experience is that things like yellow become solid black and may not be what you are after at all !

            I will say that many people in the prepress world have come to depend on Enfocus PitStop to perform such things as this.

            I recall that when I worked with Enfocus years ago, that the print production traffic manager at Microsoft - ( I think her name was Colleen Isabelle ) - well, she was responsible for creating the PDF files that represented Microsoft Word manuals that would be sent to the printers.

            She asked us to build an Enfocus Action List that would convert RGB PDF files that were made from PostScript printed from Microsoft Word into 2 color (Black and Reflex Blue Spot) PDF files. I think this action list - and many others (including one that converts CMYK to B&W) should be available here;


            Of Curse, you need to purchase a copy of Enfocus PitStop to run these actions. If you wanted to "try before you buy" - feel free to contact me off line and I will arrange for you to send me a PDF and convert it so you can then evaluate the properties of the PDF file after conversion.

            contact me directly at or via my office at 805 527 8130

            I have attached a 2 page PDF file to this message - I have never done this before, so hopefully it will work - page 1 is the original CMYK PDF (it was created in 1997 using Acrobat 3!) and page 2 is the resulting B&W PDF - well, i guess this does not work, it keeps telling me this file is too large (it is a WHOPPING 120k)

            *sigh* okay - I have posted it here;


            Hope this helps !
            Michael Jahn - Slightly used PDF Evangelist
            Simi Valley California


            • #7
              Re: Black only PDF from InDesign?

              So you think it's wrong to teach student to distill a .ps file why? First of all when needed, it produces much smaller pdfs. Telling someone who posts a helpful answer to a question that it's a "poor solution" is the height of arrogance and your prolly just pissed you didn't think of it first.


              • #8
                Re: Black only PDF from InDesign?

                If there is no clues. Use these technique. Export via pdf and open to photoshop and save as to grayscale. and place back to indesign, illustrator or what ever you want.


                • #9
                  Re: Black only PDF from InDesign?

                  I did it. Unless i am really not understanding your question, try this:
                  Print > [select your printer as Adobe PDF 7.0 or whatever version you're using] > Output > Separations > deselect all but black > mess with your lpi, etc > OK > wait >
                  voila! PDF of just the black channel.

                  did i understand you correcty?


                  • #10
                    Re: Black only PDF from InDesign?

                    @ Damian Kennedy

                    I can't imagine how "mess with your lpi, etc" would somehow overcome the issue that if there were any object, type or images on the page that had components that were cyan, magenta or yellow - they would be missing.

                    Printing just the black plate of a color page is not going to 'convert' all the other color objects into black. The only time this would work is if the entire page was already black and white, which I am sure if were the case, the original poster would not bother asking for help with.
                    Michael Jahn - Slightly used PDF Evangelist
                    Simi Valley California


                    • #11
                      Re: Black only PDF from InDesign?

                      I just didn't understand what the OP meant. Why can't one use the Output > Composite Gray when printing to a PDF then? that'll convert everything to gray and keep it one the black plate. what am i missing here?


                      • #12
                        Re: Black only PDF from InDesign?

                        He is talking about exporting as PDF, not printing to a PDF. There is no option to export a grayscale PDF. There are many workarounds like printing to PDF, but as was already mentioned, you don't get all the bells and whistles of PDF when you go that route. Really, it doesn't matter as long as you have only grayscale in your document and color management is turned off in the job options. You just have to make sure that the RIP receiving the file is not converting color either. But, if you don't embed profiles in your document or in any of the elements contained within your document, you shouldn't have that to worry about either.


                        • #13
                          Re: Black only PDF from InDesign?

                          Umm . . . maybe I'm missing something, but wasn't Hans talking about making a calibration file for an imagesetter? Several have mentioned that printing to a PDF is a poor solution because of flattening and CM concerns. While that may be true, in general, should we really have to worry about flattening and CM in a calibration target? Shouldn't CM be turned off for calibration and what masochist would build transparency into a step wedge? I thought Hans was just looking for a way to prevent extra +blank+ seps at the RIP. If that is the case, I'd say printing to PDF falls into the "fit-for-use" caveat.

                          Just a thought.


                          • #14
                            Re: Black only PDF from InDesign?

                            I agree with Michael...

                            This is just for a calibration strip for goodess sake. And at a school no less. So teaching about film is very important too not just that here is a plate setter go make plates see the dots that what's supposed to be there.... the entire process of - the full scope of - printing and how it got to where it is today is important for any newbie fresh out of school.

                            Here is another way:
                            Print separations using Indesign - go to the output tab and deselect all but black. Print postscript to the imagesetter and were done.

                            But I think there is something we are not all thinking of and that would be the shooter to the imagesetter....

                            The original post said something about not having to deselect the other plate seps.... All of the shooters I have ever worked with gave CMYK as items to image and had to be deselected before letting the item image. So I think the question is lopsided with no matter even if you just gave a black one bit tif to the shooter the person making the film would need to tell the image setter to just image the color(s) needed.???

                            Am I wrong?

                            I need to ask this - What is being used to get the pdf to the imagesetter? Printing from Acrobat to it? Or is there a rip staging the files to be imaged?


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