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  • Saving Illustrator file as PDF washes out colors and loses outer glow

  • Sarah Peller

    November 11, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    So, I’ve just completed a project made in Illustrator. When I save it as a PDF and open it in Adobe Acrobat Professional and Preview on my Mac, the colors appear to be washed out. The text is no longer a deep black and looks rather gray. Also, the outer glow doesn’t seem to be there anymore. If I import that same PDF into Photoshop, it looks exactly as it should.

    Anyone know what’s going on here?


  • les nemeth

    November 12, 2010 at 12:13 am

    Color management settings.

  • Sarah Peller

    November 16, 2010 at 3:08 am

    Do you think you could elaborate on that?

  • Vincent Rosati

    November 16, 2010 at 4:39 am

    When I hear something regarding washed out colors, I tend to think RGB to CMYK conversion.
    Also perhaps, your overprint settings in the print dialogue.


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  • les nemeth

    November 16, 2010 at 5:52 am

    Acrobat is picky about color management. I remember I had something similar happen a while back. It’s not only RGB vs CMYK but depending on the issue it can be related to your Acrobat’s preferences setting. Don’t know any specific, just go through your preferences and check various color related settings.

    Other things to try: experimenting with various document color profiles.

    There are also transparency flattener settings that can influence results.

    There’s a whole slew of topics you can find about this issue if you just google and I bet you could find a solution pretty fast.

  • Sarah Peller

    November 17, 2010 at 12:39 am

    It’s not that I’m converting from RGB to CMYK… It’s already in CMYK in illustrator. And I’m not sure why I’d be looking in the print dialogue box, since I’m not printing the image. I’m only saving as a PDF and viewing it in Acrobat at this point in time.

  • Sarah Peller

    November 17, 2010 at 12:45 am

    I’ve tried messing around with various preferences (in the save pdf dialogue box, the “edit colors” menu in Illustrator, and the color settings option in illustrator). Nothing seems to change the outcome and I’m honestly not sure what I am even looking for.

    I tried setting the transparency flattener setting to high, but there was no change.

    I’ve tried searching online for the solution to this problem, but I”m not coming up with any answers. Maybe I don’t know how to word it, I don’t know….

  • Sarah Peller

    November 17, 2010 at 12:52 am

    Hmmm… I was just poking around in Acrobat. When I selected Advanced > Print Production > Overprint Preview, I got a preview of the image with the rich blacks and the outer glow showing quite nicely. If I check the “simulate black ink” box, it returns to the washed out grayish look of the lettering that I keep seeing.

    I’m not sure what this means exactly…

  • les nemeth

    November 17, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Sarah, you need to sit down and start searching. Don’t mean to be critical but there’s a lot of information about it. I don’t know why overprint preview works or what exactly is that. However, it took me less then 3 minutes to find a whole slew of information. Such as…

    Start with the Help file.
    The Help file took me to this site:

    At the bottom of that page, there are a few print related links. Checked out a few of them quickly. One of them took me to this site:

    (Note that this refers to a CS3 printing guide, but there’s also a CS4 printing guide. And I’m sure that the overprint preview did not change a whole lot, if at all, in CS4.)

    In that printing guide PDF ( on page 11 I got the following info:
    “…Use the Overprint Preview in Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat 8 Professional, and Adobe Reader to check the interactions of objects using blending modes. Activating Overprint Preview in these components generates a more realistic display of artwork,
    providing the opportunity to catch objects that may image differently from the way they appear when viewed in the normal, composite view.”

    As you can see this was all under 3 minutes or so. It’s not hard. You could say that all this info still doesn’t make much sense to you, which is ok. In that case, search and find out more about it, until you find as much info as you need.

    Good luck!

  • David Cabestany

    November 22, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Try saving to a different version of PDF, when in the options window pick a different version in the compatibility drop out menu.

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