I'm creating interior graphics for a client's nonfiction book and came across something I can't explain. I created a small, transparent graphic in Photoshop, exported it as a transparent PNG file (24-bit, not 8-bit), placed it in an InDesign document, and exported the document as a PDF/X-1a:2001. Everything looked fine in Preview, but if I import that PDF export back into Photoshop, for some reason my PNGs have grey backgrounds. What could cause that? If I sent the final PDF to the on-demand printer, would it print with the grey background, or would it read the transparency correctly?

I'm working on Mac Big Sur, Photoshop 22.5, and InDesign 16.3.2.

Attached is an example...

enter image description here

^^ This is the transparency as it's seen first in Photoshop.

enter image description here

Then this is what they look like when placed in InDesign. I have them on a larger grey background in the design, and these are actually still transparent.

enter image description here

This is what it looks like if the PDF is reimported into Photoshop. This is where it gets weird and I get the grey boxes. I've figured out why I'm getting thin white lines around the bounding boxes, but I can't figure out the grey issue.

Here's an example file of the PNG (which is only about half an inch wide due to project reasons).

PNG: enter image description here

One additional Edit: I'm realizing the boxes only show up if there's also a text field in the InDesign PDF export. If I just have the graphic and export it from InDesign, there's no problem.

  • 1
    Hi. Welcome to GDSE. Can you share the actual PNG. It's pretty hard to say anything without being able to examine it. Also what does the PDF look like in a Adobe Reader/Acrobat?
    – Billy Kerr
    Nov 10, 2021 at 11:52
  • @Billy Kerr, I attached the PNG. Adobe Reader is showing the same strange boxes.
    – Jay Dee
    Nov 15, 2021 at 20:09
  • 1
    hmm.... png is transparent.. must be something else at play. Maybe some Indesign frame color? (Shouldn't use Preview if you are using InDesign and Photoshop, use Acrobat. -- I, personally, would also not be using PNG if the goal is PDF/X exporting... I'd use .psd. PNG -> PDF/x means you are permitting automatic color conversions from RGB to CMYK.)
    – Scott
    Nov 15, 2021 at 20:14
  • Yeah, your PNG is transparent, and looks absolutely fine to me too. The problem must lie elsewhere.
    – Billy Kerr
    Nov 16, 2021 at 0:02
  • I can't figure out what's happening here, but a tip for future work is to make simple geometric graphics like this as vector graphics directly in InDesign. Easier to control and sharper edges.
    – Wolff
    Nov 17, 2021 at 22:54


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