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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tutorial: How to preserve RGB color settings when creating a PDF straight from Photoshop.

RGB Color Blend Settings - file I want for print
CMYK Color Blend Settings - file I don't like for print
Personally, I prefer color richness and vibrancy over muted tones and create covers with that in mind. Even softer images in cooler tones need to have a certain amount of contrast for me to be happy with a visual. Because of this, I prefer RGB color settings over CMYK color settings.

However, I started noticing discrepancies between jpegs provided and approved of by authors and the muted output in the PDFs I was providing to authors, but this only happened with certain projects. Then I realized the muted PDFs were the ones coming out of Photoshop directly, rather than the ones coming out of InDesign.

Ideally, a cover is formatted in InDesign, but some printers, like CreateSpace, don't provide cover templates in an InDesign format, only in PDF or PNG format, which means it will be formatted in Photoshop and the PDF needed for upload to CreateSpace will be 'saved as' in Photoshop vs 'printed as' a postscript file, then converted to PDF in Acrobat distiller.

What this means is, when a cover is formatted in InDesign, then converted to a PDF, the color attributes will carry over to the PDF, or a warning will pop-up, explaining the color transparency space doesn't match. However, when saving to PDF straight from Photoshop, unless you direct the output settings in a specific way, RBG color settings will switch to CMYK settings in the final file. This comparison shows the difference in output.

So after fighting with this for many hours, I figured out how to save my Photoshop to PDF setting and keep my RGB color in the final output file.

The cover is finished and ready for conversion. Now what?

Save as PDF:
  • as a copy checked
  • layers unchecked
  • ICC profile sRGB checked
  • Save
Next window:
  • View PDF after saving
Output settings: 
  • PDF/X-1a2001 (modified)
  • PDF/X-1a2001 
  • first switch to 'no conversion'
  • then switch to 'include destination profile'
  • switch back to 'convert to destination' profile
  • (this sequence allows the middle window to activate)
  • select 'Adobe RGB 1998' in middle window
  • finally, reset PDF/X-1a2001 above because it will change during the previous steps
  • save preset

Now you have a PDF that looks as crisp and vibrant as the original RGB artwork created in Photoshop.

Added note ... If for some reason white splotches appear in the PDF that doesn't show up in any other format, the 0 opacity the underlying font layers; DO NOT BLIND THE LAYERS. That way the fonts will still be embedded in the pdf properties but won't affect the visual.

Hopes this tutorial has helped.

Onto wrapping up the next book :-D
Until next time ...
Aidana WillowRaven

This post edited by Grammarly* ~ NOW FREE FOR CHROME USERS!

*Blurbs and quotes provided are not edited by WillowRaven, but posted as provided by author/publisher. 


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you :D

      I started doing the occasional tutorial to mostly remind myself how I did something when it was either a newly learned technique or something I don't do often enough to remember how I did it before, lol. And putting it on my blog made it easy for me to find later if I have a hard drive crash (happens to me A LOT).

      I'm just glad some other people find my tutorials helpful, too.

      AW :D


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