While one should ideally make sure a color image is also suitable for greyscale printing via a printer's automatic conversion, sometimes it would make sense to simply provide an alternate version (that happens to look less optimal in colour).

Is there any way to directly store such greyscale alternatives in the colored pdf, and if so, how can this be set up via InDesign?

  • Note I'm not talking about plots as handled here, but rather about e.g. photos of devices, where the greyscale version might be something like a "flat-shaded comic" version Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 7:10

2 Answers 2


You can't (as far as I'm aware) store different images (or text or anything else for that matter) in a single PDF for different printing processes.

You should be supplying PDFs in the correct color space, with appropriate profiles embedded, so I'm not sure if it would even be a good idea.

What I would suggest is to setup both sets of images in the InDesign document on separate layers. You would have for example, a CMYK Images layer and a Greyscale Images Layer with the respective versions of your images. You can then export color and greyscale PDFs from your InDesign document easily by setting the layers you need to print (Double click unwanted layers and deselect 'Print Layer').

  • Now that you mention layers, I wonder if conditional text can be used for images as well... Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 6:45

The easiest way to manage colors and grayscale versions is to simply create 2 different PDF. Not only it's safer but your printer will probably also prefer this. You can probably store them in layers but that's just a risky workflow that might not save you much time.

One easy easy to replace images through Indesign is to simply create 2 different folders for your images and name the images with the same filenames. Create you color version first, save it and then create a duplicate of that file for grayscale. Then move the colored image folder and relink all your grayscale versions in that new Indesign grayscale layout, and adjust your stylesheet.

Yes, that means every time you'll make new changes to the color version, you'll either need to do this step again for the grayscale or do the revisions in the grayscale version.

But the result is far better than using the automatic grayscale conversion and you can adjust your contrasts and stylesheets properly too. There's also less risks of mistakes (eg. forgetting a layer or a spot color, etc.)

  • 1
    Why is using layers risky? I would say having to rely on moving/renaming folders is just as risky, and more work. What happens when you want to swap out one image and check both versions? You have to go through the process of changing folders and relinking the images, with layers you just toggle the layer visibility.
    – Cai
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 10:07
  • 1
    I do think they're both valid solutions, I just don't see why using layers is more risky.
    – Cai
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 10:09
  • @CAI it's risky because of the manipulation and last minutes mistakes, which under stress often happen as you certainly know. It may be faster for you to use layers but can take quite a while if you have a lot of pictures/elements. Your images on your layers still need to be placed as well while changing folder doesn't require you to move or place anything. Same with the texts (color vs grayscale on the same file). You still need to do the revisions twice with layers. When you duplicate your file, everything is exactly the same as the color version besides the colors!
    – go-junta
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 10:13
  • Fair enough. I see there may be more room for errors. For me, using layers would be easier. As I said, I do think they're both valid solutions, I think you just need to find a workflow that works for you.
    – Cai
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 10:20
  • 1
    Just to specify: A good workflow is to get the color proof approved, then a few pages of the grayscale one for style. When everything is approved, we focus on the color layout and at last (when fully approved), we do the grayscale one based on the answer I gave. I work with Quark and updating links is a joke... instead of pressing "enter" 300 times, I simply put the back of my mouse on the numeral "enter" key and watch the magic happens :D Maybe it works with InDesign too, that's a print shop lazy trick.
    – go-junta
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 10:26

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