I apologize in advance if this has been asked, but I've searched for a few phrases and I'm not sure how else to ask it.

Using InDesign I've created a vector "ribbon" and given it a drop shadow. I've also placed a PSD file with a transparent background on the document.

On screen, the exported PDF and the InDesign screen preview look perfect (View > Overprint Preview is enabled). Here is a screenshot of the exported PDF (v1.5):

PDF Preview

When printed on my HP LaserJet 2600n, however, I get these god-awful blocks around the shadow of the ribbon object and the placed PSD file. Here is a photo of the printed page (the camera on my phone washed out the image - it is accurately reproducing the colours):

Photo of printed result

I've tried converting Spot colours to Process in case the printer was experiencing some issue with the Pantone colours, but the colours are actually printing fine, it seems to be the placed file and the shadow causing issues.

I'd love to learn how to fix this, and more importantly - what causes the issue!

  • 1
    Have you tried exporting to PDF/X-1a and printing the PDF? (This may flatten the artwork better)
    – Scott
    Feb 1, 2015 at 19:08
  • No - admittedly I don't know much about the different printing and PDF formats. Can you recommend a good article to help explain? Feb 1, 2015 at 19:11
  • Hey @Scott, unfortunately this doesn't seem to be helping. Any other ideas? Feb 1, 2015 at 21:52
  • 1
    Not really. This would be a specific issues with that printer and what it needs to reproduce colors properly. Might be due to sending CMYK to an RGB device or vice versa.
    – Scott
    Feb 1, 2015 at 22:41
  • Oh! Well this is just a personal printer I was testing layouts with - if the PDF does seem to represent the design, then will a commercial printer likely reproduce it OK? Feb 1, 2015 at 22:56

3 Answers 3


This is known as the 'dreaded white-box' problem. It was fairly common about 10 years ago (less so now) and has to do with transparency issues when the artwork is flattened. Adobe have a fairly comprehensive trouble-shooting page about it here: https://helpx.adobe.com/creative-suite/kb/white-box-or-color-wash.html

  • Thanks! That's a great page. I think it was due to the age of the printer as they printed just fine commercially. I've upgraded since posting to avoid this issue :) May 20, 2015 at 15:12

This often happens when transparency effects like drop shadows or <100% opacity are used in a layout with spot swatches. Convert all of your spot color swatches to process (double-click the swatch and change the color type from spot to process) and re-export the PDF.

  • Thanks @13ruce, but if you read the question fully you would see that I said, "I've tried converting Spot colours to Process..." May 20, 2015 at 15:11
  • Thanks. I didn't even see the text below the second image.
    – 13ruce
    May 20, 2015 at 18:14

If you are printing from InDesign, select ADVANCED > PRINT AS BITMAP > 600dpi. This is a 'workaround' solution, as I don't know much about printing/flattening/layering in the package, but my docs print without the block shadowing around them now.

Print dialog box

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