May 19, 2006

Transparency Checklist

When I travel around the country and speak at events, one of the topics I cover is usually an in-depth understanding of how Adobe's transparency model works. One of the nice things about what Adobe has done with the Creative Suite is that they have made this transparency model a core technology which is shared across the applications. So what you learn about transparency can be applied to Illustrator, InDesign, and Acrobat.

To help people achieve the best possible print results from their files, I have created a small checklist, which I have published as a small card (I hand these out at events, such as at the recent Creative Suite Conference in Chicago). Knowing that I can't possibly visit each person individually (although that would be really nice!), I've made the file available for download here (PDF 68k).

Detailed information about transparency and PDF/X-1a can be found in Chapters 11 and 12 of Real World Illustrator CS2.


Scott said...

Why is native AI and PSD suggested over EPS in InDesign? Is the same true for Illustrator? We use EPS files almost exclusively in our shop but in the back of my mind, I know it's a dying format...

Mordy Golding said...

Hi Scott,

The main reason is because EPS is a flattened format that doesn't support transparency. There's nothing technically wrong with EPS as a format, but when you start to use some of today's cool transparency features, you can severely limit yourself and run into issues.

I describe many of these issues in my book and when I give transparency sessions -- there's too much to go through here -- but basically, if you are using transparency features, you'll always be better off using native AI and PSD files in any Adobe workflow.

scott said...

Cool, thanks Mordy. I'll hit the index on monday. I guess I'm wondering if there is a performance increase by using psd over eps... along the same lines as how careful layering (keeping transparency low in the layer stack) can speed up a file, printing, and even create smaller PDFs.

Mordy Golding said...

Depends what you consider "performance" Scott. By taking advantage of transparency features, you can make late stage edits and avoid the use of clipping paths, etc. Sure, those files may physically take an extra minute or two to process during printing, but you'll have saved countless minutes (hours even) during the design and editing process.

So not only is performance in this case a relative term, it's misleading as well because you're not looking at the other advantages of AI and PSD.

Sandee Cohen said...


Strictly speaking, the Quark folks are right about their "never- been- done- this- way" claim for transparency.

Illustrator lets me set colors and shadows for individual parts of a frame, fill, etc.

But I can't drill down to an individual character in text to apply transparency. Or have I forgotten too much of my favorite vector drawing program?

Anonymous said...

Maybe this relates to my problem and maybe not. But for some time now I have had some trouble when I make Tiff files using the "Export" command. I always keep all the type on the very top layer which is set to 100% normal transparency. I do use quite a few transparency effects in the layers below this.
So, sometimes when I export as a Tiff file the result is missing the entire type layer although no transparency effects that I know of are on it. The entire file, type and all comes up just file if I import into Photoshop though.
it gets a little worse: Sometime I do use transparency effects in the type. This is usually on a stroke set behind the fill. What's the proper solution for this?
My solution, these days is to send my work in a tiif format whenever possible and to (of course) check it carefully before I send.
PS I'd be happy to buy the book if it contains an good explanation. I think I had a much earlier one from 3.2 when Deke was writing the series . Then , it was more of an introduction. I gather things are different now with the Real World series.


Jope LeMonnier

Mordy Golding said...

Sandee - you certainly can apply opacity and even blend modes at the character level, both for Area Type and Point Type. but don't worry, you can always fall in love with Illustrator all over again! :)

Jope - saving your file as TIFF would rasterize EVERYTHING in your file, so the transparency issues wouldn't mean much. As for why your texxt is not appearing in exported TIFFs, I couldn't say -- I'd need to see a copy of the file to see if something odd was happening.

As for whether my book contains good explanations, you'd have to ask other readers. But if you like what you see here on my blog, it's a good indication of the kind of content you'll find in the book. The entire book has been rewritten from scratch for the CS2 edition.