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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!

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    Have you tried exporting to PDF/X-1a and printing the PDF? (This may flatten the artwork better) – Scott Feb 1 '15 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? – armadadrive Feb 1 '15 at 19:11
  • Hey @Scott, unfortunately this doesn't seem to be helping. Any other ideas? – armadadrive Feb 1 '15 at 21:52
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    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 '15 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? – armadadrive Feb 1 '15 at 22:56
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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 :) – armadadrive May 20 '15 at 15:12
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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..." – armadadrive May 20 '15 at 15:11
  • Thanks. I didn't even see the text below the second image. – 13ruce May 20 '15 at 18:14

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