I have a booklet designed for an amateur performance event. It's 12 pages saddle-stitched (stapled), 6 impressions on 3 sheets of paper. It's a small need for 500 copies, somI expect it will use copy-shop technology rather than an offset press.

When I make such a booklet at home, the "print booklet" is a special feature. A rendered PDF shows spreads as the reader sees it.

Meanwhile, only two impressions are to be printed in color: the outside cover (pgs 8,1 on one impression) and the center (pgs 4,5 where the spread is the same as the print layout).

Question 1) can I expect the print shop to take the normal readable PDF and lay out the pages on the sheets? I expect this is a print-time task.

Q2) I expect it's best if images are converted to greyscale at print-time, so I don't have to guess at the print characteristics (gamma, dot gain). Or, will this throw them for a loop?

It's complicated by the need to print two sides on one (more expensive) printer and the rest on a grey printer. I'm worried that the auto layout and booklet print is all-or-nothing, and I should be prepared to handle things. (It's a "cheap" place.)

My understanding is that I would normally have InDesign render a PDF file with the "for Print" preset, which includes bleed and crop marks. It somehow is encoded as metadata so if the printer doesn't use oversized pages it will print the right stuff, and on overised pages it shows physical marks for the trim step.

What's the reality? Anything else I need to know?

  • 1
    Before you optimize, make sure the optimization matters for the printshop you are choosing. You simply can not optimize if the print shop is unknown, all you can do is prepae several good guesses.
    – joojaa
    Nov 2, 2015 at 7:34
  • Exactly - ask the printer. Nov 2, 2015 at 15:39

2 Answers 2


A lot depends upon...

  • how many books are being published
  • where the color pages fall within the book
  • how many pages in total the book has
  • if it's a self cover or not

It is most often more cost effective to run everything as 4 color. For most shorter run publications, everything is printed in color, even if some pages only use the black plate.

If your color pages fall on various signatures, you'd have to run it all 4 color anyway. So without an exact page count and specifications as to where color pages fall, no one can definitively state that it may be possible to run part of the job as 1 color and part as 4 color. Often it only makes sense to split the run if it's a very large page count and all the color pages fall on the same signature - and even then only if there's a large number being published.

Your greyscale images should be black only (Photoshop Greyscale mode) when placed in InDesign. Commercial printing customarily doesn't pick and choose images to convert to greyscale if there is also color in the piece (see paragraphs above).

In you are considering an online publisher... they run everything RGB or CMYK... even if it looks greyscale.

For commercial press, you would just export a PDF/X-1a format file with marks (bleeds/crops) from InDesign in reader spreads. I don't know what you're going on about with respect to metadata and oversized stock. Most commercial printing is done on stock larger than the final size, then trimmed down to meet desired dimensions. In cases where there is a bleed, that is the only way to get quality reproduction.

You should possibly have a conversation with your print provider. They may be able to give some specific settings or steps which would help you with your specific project.

  • 1
    "You should possibly have a conversation with your print provider." I wish I would. I've asked about that from day 1, so as to set up with the right template. But I still did not even know which shop they plan to take it to, and whether they speak english. The person who will be getting it printed is not the same as the show producer or anyone else I've spoken to. This question is to help me be prepared before speaking (?) to them, which will be done in-person with a visit bearing the file. Being prepared will save ad-hoc work on the PDF and/or another trip.
    – JDługosz
    Nov 2, 2015 at 6:39
  • What's a "self cover"?
    – JDługosz
    Nov 2, 2015 at 6:40
  • Well, all color pages must fall on the same signature if there's any hope of splitting the run. The size of the signature depends on how many pages to book has in addition to what the press house likes to run -- 4 page sigs, 8 page sigs, 16 page sigs, 32 page sigs.... no one here will know that. Self cover designates a piece where the same stock is used for the cover as it is for the interior so the cover is just the same press run. If it were not a self-cover, then the cover stock may be thicker/heavier than the interior pages and would have to run separately.
    – Scott
    Nov 2, 2015 at 6:43
  • 2
    In short, there's honestly no way for anyone else to answer these questions for you. And there's really no way for you to be prepared before discussing things with the print provider. All you can do is create the InDesign file and export to PDF/X-1a with marks... then let the printer take it from there. What your'e suggesting may save a little bit of money... but without much more information it's all guesswork at this point.
    – Scott
    Nov 2, 2015 at 6:45
  • For 8 pages... there's little point in thinking of splitting the run to 1/4 color. Just set up the pages you want greyscale as greyscale in InDesign. Honestly, you may as well use color wherever you want in an 8 page piece. That is how it will be run... it's just not cost effective for any print house to run 4 pages in 1 color and 4 pages in full color then bind them.
    – Scott
    Nov 2, 2015 at 6:47

Our office printer MX-3140N would be able to do that and staple the back. It will differentiate between B/W impressions and color, so I simply send it a PDF with 12 A4 pages, and tell it to do a booklet on folded A3 paper. It will autodetect if the page only contains greyscale, so the conversion to greyscale has to be done by you.

Our office printer is by no means a high-end printer. It cost around 5000 EUR. So I would expect that many places will have a similar printer.

To print cheaply you need to avoid spending people's time, and doing the grayscale conversion will save time.

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