Why would a printer not want to receive a layered PDF?

Gregg

Well-known member
Hi.

I work for a publisher and we use printers here in the States, as well are throughout Europe and the Far East. I often provide layered PDFs, especially for jackets/covers which have Spot UV, Foil, or Embossing/Debossing. For me, it's so much easier to send everything as a single PDF, and checking to make sure placement is accurate is simple and convenient.


For the most part, all of our printers are fine receiving the layered PDFs. The most common issue is that they forget to check the layers first before sending us an email stating that the Spot UV wasn't supplied. However, there are a few printers that insist on flattened PDFs, but due to language barriers, we have a hard time getting a thorough answer as to why.

I always assume the following:
- printer receives layered PDF
- printer rips the PDF, with special effects layers off and Art and Text layers on
- printer rips the PDF with Art and Text layers off and special effects layer on

Am I missing something here? Can anyone help me understand the challenges a printer faces when receiving layered PDFs?

Thanks in advance.
 

truehue

Active member
We recently received a layered PDF that was causing troubles when sending through for print. Looked like an overprint issue the artist neglected to handle properly. Additionally, it was taking Acrobat a long time just to open/display the 50mb PDF.
 

G5MacMan

New member
"Am I missing something here? Can anyone help me understand the challenges a printer faces when receiving layered PDFs?"

100% down to the competence of the operator and what software there using.
 

Macmann

Well-known member
Uh oh. Grammar police! Unfortunately in this day of speech to text and spell checkers, people can't be bothered with correct spelling and punctuation. Sadly, a spell checker probably would've missed that incorrect use of "there". I have found a Google Chrome extension called Grammarly that is outstanding in this regard....for those of you who didn't have a nun to beat it into your craniums in your formative years. ;-)
 

Gregg

Well-known member
"Am I missing something here? Can anyone help me understand the challenges a printer faces when receiving layered PDFs?"

100% down to the competence of the operator and what software there using.
I would think it would be broader than operator level. I'm thinking it would be a company decision as to whether or not they accept layered PDFs. I would expect all operators to be following the same guidelines (should, at least).

In regards to software, what would be some examples of software that wouldn't accept layered PDFs, and how old would this software be?
 

Some Guy

Member
I always assume the following:
- printer receives layered PDF
- printer rips the PDF, with special effects layers off and Art and Text layers on
- printer rips the PDF with Art and Text layers off and special effects layer on
The DFE rips and sends the print ready file to printer.

In cases that there is no DFE, the driver on the pc rips and sends the print ready file to the printer

In cases that there is no driver/pc (ie printing from a thumb drive stuck in printer, or uploading pdf to the embedded web page), the print engine rips the file using whatever adobe clone or official adobe decoder.
 

Gregg

Well-known member
The DFE rips and sends the print ready file to printer.

In cases that there is no DFE, the driver on the pc rips and sends the print ready file to the printer

In cases that there is no driver/pc (ie printing from a thumb drive stuck in printer, or uploading pdf to the embedded web page), the print engine rips the file using whatever adobe clone or official adobe decoder.
To clarify, when I referenced "printer" I wasn't referring to the actual printer or press. I was using the term in reference to the company. For example, Quad Graphics = the printer.
 

Joe

Well-known member
Some people just don't like change. I still have people that insist on sending me version 1.3 PDF's because it worked well 15 years ago.
 

ssutton503

Active member
I happen to work for one of those companies that request you still send PDF v 1.3 but there is a very good reason. We are a small company and can not afford to keep upgrading our workflow software every time Adobe releases software with updated features. Specifically, any PDFs above version 1.4 will not import into our pagination software without our intervention. We have to open newer PDFs into Acrobat, postscript and then turn into PDF 1.3s. From my point of view, the creator/designer is more likely to get what they want if they make the printer preferred version themselves instead of asking their printer to do it with their older software.

This is also my 2 cents to the original posting - some printers have older software and know that you sending layered or the latest version of a PDF will not give consistent results. Or perhaps even get the correct result. Speaking from a printer's point of view, I would suggest you give your printer what they ask for. But I am biased. :)
 

Gregg

Well-known member
This is also my 2 cents to the original posting - some printers have older software and know that you sending layered or the latest version of a PDF will not give consistent results. Or perhaps even get the correct result. Speaking from a printer's point of view, I would suggest you give your printer what they ask for. But I am biased. :)
Absolutely. We would never force a printer to accept a file formatted in a way that they advise against. It is great to hear your take on this, as I imagine it's a similar stance to some of our printers overseas, but they just can't communicate it as well.
 

PricelineNegotiator

Well-known member
Absolutely. We would never force a printer to accept a file formatted in a way that they advise against.
Sheesh, what a statement. It's good to see posts like this, but unfortunately the market is changing fast with people getting their hands on software like Canva and just making some absolute crap artwork. People using the title "graphic designer" means nothing these days.

The money barrier to get into graphic design used to be substantial and it would keep people away from starting, but now a free program is letting every person design things for print. I get the aspect of empowering people to do things on their own, but letting them think that they don't need to consider certain design aspects for print is not good. Then each person needs to be educated when they send over their file. Or they are insulted that THEY need to change their file to make the job print right (or conversely angry at you that you can't change their file to print correctly).

It's like some high anxiety version of whack-a-mole.
 
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OffsetStorefront

Well-known member
I think it's a mismatch of expectations. A novice designer expects a printer to receive their file and do what they need to do to make it print. If a printer isn't doing a good job of communicating what they need to make that happen, or what they are doing themselves to make it happen (and its cost), both sides will just complain forever about the other not understanding their uncommunicated expectations. If you imagine the trend...eventually the printers that don't ask much prep of their customers will become more attractive vendors than those who do.

We can't rely on 3rd party education programs to communicate those expectations anymore because those programs aren't required to amateur design anymore, thanks to the software revolution. But the power of software goes both ways...we have so many ways now (expensive, but existent) to automatically pre-flight and modify files to get them ready for print. We just need to adapt to the new industry!
 

Joe

Well-known member
I happen to work for one of those companies that request you still send PDF v 1.3 but there is a very good reason. We are a small company and can not afford to keep upgrading our workflow software every time Adobe releases software with updated features. Specifically, any PDFs above version 1.4 will not import into our pagination software without our intervention. We have to open newer PDFs into Acrobat, postscript and then turn into PDF 1.3s. From my point of view, the creator/designer is more likely to get what they want if they make the printer preferred version themselves instead of asking their printer to do it with their older software.

This is also my 2 cents to the original posting - some printers have older software and know that you sending layered or the latest version of a PDF will not give consistent results. Or perhaps even get the correct result. Speaking from a printer's point of view, I would suggest you give your printer what they ask for. But I am biased. :)
On the flip side if I had a publication that needed to be printed and you insisted on a 1.3 PDF I would find another printer.

On the original topic it can be problematic getting a layered PDF if you don't have software to deal with it. We use Prinergy and there is a licensing option for Layered PDF Versioning which is very expensive. We do not do a lot versioning so we can't justify the price of it. But we will take layered PDF's. We may need to tear it apart to use it but we will take them.
 

Puch

Well-known member
I think this problem should be evaluated from a higher perspective. The content owner or creator (the publisher) wants the best quality product for the cheapest price that's available on the market. One can talk about quality and time, but at the end everything boils down to the prices, IMHO. The OP clearly states that they did their homework that's why they outsource the material to far away places.

Now, imagine how the selected vendor, who works for a fraction of the US price would use the 'latest and greatest' software? I see these companies struggling to keep their presses in a good shape, changing blankets, rollers etc. regularly, checking & fine tuning CTP curves to be able to achieve those fine tolerances G7 or PSO comes with. Software is the last item on their long list of 'some investment needed'. If they can produce sellable, good quality products using a 8-10 years old CTP, fed with flattened CMYK PDFs, they won't invest into new software just to be able to accept PDF/X-4 documents.

On the other hand, if you hand out layered PDFs, you also hand out the arguably most tricky part of today's prepess: the flattening. One has to have the latest RIP/DFE with the latest APPE (Adobe PDF Print Engine) in it, to reliably reproduce what the creator have seen in his/her latest InDesign version. I wouldn't go into such a workflow, only if the vendor has an up-to-date softproofing solution (also an expensive option). Letting them flatten the artwork, without a thorough visual inspection of the result is a russian roulette.
 
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Gregg

Well-known member
On the original topic it can be problematic getting a layered PDF if you don't have software to deal with it. We use Prinergy and there is a licensing option for Layered PDF Versioning which is very expensive. We do not do a lot versioning so we can't justify the price of it. But we will take layered PDF's. We may need to tear it apart to use it but we will take them.
Hi, Joe. By "versioning" do you mean multiple languages sharing the same CMYK plates?
 

Gregg

Well-known member
It could be language versions or just price change versions.
Would you mind letting me know how you handle the language versions - I realize this is slightly off-topic. We have tons of co-editions for our picture book titles, and coming up with an ideal workflow has always been a challenge. Due to scheduling demands, we are not able to have a single ID file with every language on its own layer. Instead, we send out the US edition, while it's still a work in progress, and the co-ed publisher(s) sends back a Text Black PDF of their translated interior. We use a PDF import script to place the co-ed PDFs into our US interior file to ensure text is set properly and there are no art crashes, etc. At this point the US interior will already be with the printer, so we send them (the printer) the co-eds PDFs to run out plotters for approval.

The US interior is sent as 2 PDFs; one that has all the CMYK elements, and one that has the Text Black elements. The printers use Prinergy to compile the different versions. That's how we do it here.
 

Joe

Well-known member
The versioning jobs we get are almost always a mess because customers don't want to do it the right way. They usually send in full PDF's that contain the base version and one version of changes. Then another with the base version and one version of another change. Unfortunately the base content usually doesn't match between the multiple PDF's. I've tried several times to get people to put the base version in one InDesign document and then put all the version changes in separate layers in that document but I might as well be talking to a brick wall. People can't be bothered to do things the right way.
 

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