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I have been provided with a text-only PDF which is supposed to only be using black in 100% K or tints of black (50% K, 60% K, etc). The client needs to print this using a black plate process and overlay this text-only PDF over an older full-colour artwork PDF which has had the text separated from the artwork.

The "black-only" PDF is quite large and has circulated between multiple providers, so there is a chance some characters might be using C/M/Y values.

The question now is, how to check if this text-only PDF is indeed ONLY using tints of black in either 100% or X%, and not a single element with C/M/Y values?

Is there some free tool that takes a PDF and generates a list of all the colour codes being used?

  • Could you please check whether this question is a duplicate for yours? If so, please ping me and I'll merge them. – Vincent Apr 3 '17 at 12:52
  • It does look similar, but wouldn't call it a duplicate. In my PDF there's zero chance of rich black being used. All the text is intended to be 100% K or % tints. There is however a chance other colours (blue, green, red of different CMYK codes) may have slipped in through multiple copy-pasting from different sources. The INDD source file has been cleaned up in the past but nobody really knows if there's a surviving blue of some sort on a small character somewhere. Also not having access to the original INDD, just the PDF export. – Lucian Apr 3 '17 at 20:44
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I don't have an acrobat reader on my computer, But Adobe Illustrator can usually open any PDF file. I can definitely help if you want to check and analyze the spot colors in illustrator.

First open your PDF document in illustrator and select all of the artwork. Next open your swatches panel and to the right select the little drop-down menu and click on menu item “ Select All Unused Colors “

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Next, open that drop-down menu again and click on menu item “ Delete Swatches”. This will remove all swatches from your swatch panel that are not being used in your document. Your swatches panel should now only contain the colors being used in your document and maybe a white swatch also. Notice the black swatch in this next image. It has no tiny little triangle in the corner, which indicates it is a process color.

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If you double click on that Black Swatch it will open another panel, showing you it's properties

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Where it says color type, you want to select the drop-down menu and choose the spot color option (if it is not already chosen) . Doing this, will ensure that any black process artwork will be converted into a spot color (which would remove any other CM or Y values). Now you will see a little triangle in the swatch which indicates it is a spot color. This is what you want

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Now in this next image you will see that you can select any other artwork in your image and view it's actual percentage of the color fill.

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The sure fire way though to know for sure if there is any other CMYK values in the artwork is to open your print dialog box, as in this next image. If black is the only color with the little printer icon visible, this absolutely shows there is no other CMYK artwork in your image

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OR YOU COULD

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Open your PDF document in CMYK color mode in illustrator and open your separations preview panel with the overprint preview option selected and toggle visibility on each one of the elements and you can see items are colored by which method

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    LOL Or you can choose to avoid the entire process completely and just open the PDF in illustrator and jump to the print dialog box and check if black is the only color with the little printer icon visible – wch1zpink Apr 2 '17 at 1:07
  • Thanks for you effort in writing this. Checking with the 'Output tab' via the 'Print dialog' in AI seems to work indeed, however AI (CS6) only opens a PDF one page at a time. As this document is 80 pages, it means i need to open each page individually (80 times) and check with the 'Print dialog' (80 times). I was hoping for a quicker way :) – Lucian Apr 2 '17 at 6:55
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    @Lucian: There's a multi-page PDF script for Illustrator here: aiscripts.com/open-multipage-pdf - which opens all the pages of a PDF as artboards in Illustrator. – Billy Kerr Apr 2 '17 at 7:50
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Lucian, I suggest you create a custom preflight profile in Acrobat.

See example below (French version but I'm sure you'll figure it out): New Preflight profile > Color > CMY plates + any spot color

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Unfortunately, you'll notice that Printers marks are also considered as "errors". That makes sense, since they use "Registration color".
You can use an individual correction > Page > Delete all elements outside crop area to get rid of them, and then run your "black only" preflight:

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  • Thanks Vinny. Which Acrobat are you using here? – Lucian Apr 3 '17 at 8:45
  • @Lucian, I use Acrobat X Professional – Vinny Apr 3 '17 at 8:48
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I'm gonna jump forward. YOu don't need to check the pdf for color. You want to change possible color things to 100%K.

So A) you can use it in Acrobat using Preflight "change to grayscale" profile.
B) you can use site like http://greyscalepdf.com/ that's does exactly the same only for free. The plus size of site is that can be used on a computer with internet but without programs. So on a smartphone. It's nice tool for a designer on the go.

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