I am attempting to print an image of a bowl of food with a drop shadow that gradually transitions to transparent on a white background. The shadow renders beautifully within Adobe Illustrator, but when my printer sends me a proof, the shadow appears with very hard edges (see screenshots below).
The printer has told me that this 'hard edge' phenomenon is unavoidable due to the CMYK process. The outermost edge of the shadow is set to C=1, M=1, Y=1, K=0, and the printer is unable to print tones lighter than that — leading to a hard shadow cutoff.
Is my printer's advice correct? Is there anything I can do to work around this so that the shadow appears more natural in the printed version? It's hard for me to believe that there's no way to do this, as I've seen many printed gradients before (e.g., packaging in a grocery store where the product casts a shadow).
UPDATE: For those with similar issues — I received a hard proof from my printer and the problem was gone. I think that since my monitor is so sensitive, it was showing as a hard line cutoff, but in physical print the hard line is negligible / does not show. So this ended up being a non-issue!
Image rendered on my monitor:
Screenshot from PDF proof from my printer: