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In this installment of Illustrator Insider Training, Mordy Golding shows experienced Illustrator users how to create transparency effects and ensure reliable printing results. This course reviews the history of vector transparency and covers features such as knockout groups, opacity masks, and transparency flattening. Mordy also shows how to establish a safe workflow when placing Illustrator graphics containing transparency in PostScript, PDF, and InDesign files. A free worksheet is included with the course.
By far the most common question that I get about transparency triggered by the initial fear around its use when it was first introduced is, will it print? A brief look at the underlying technology will help us understand this question and also provides some key concepts that we'll be applying throughout this course. Now the majority of output devices used by print professionals use a technology called PostScript, a computer language that describes graphics. Companies like Xerox, Canon, Agfa, Heidelberg, etcetera, either license this PostScript language directly from Adobe or they license a PostScript clone, which is basically a cheaper copy of Adobe's technology.
Now PostScript itself does not support transparency. Any art that does contain transparency must be translated to something that PostScript can understand. This translation process is called transparency flattening. When printing files from Adobe applications, transparency is recognized and the artwork is flattened, making it compatible with PostScript. Potential issues in the print process can occur under two circumstances. The first is something goes wrong with your art during the actual transparency flattening process.
As we'll learn in Chapter 4 of this course, the flattening process itself has many settings and it's possible that the wrong settings can introduce some visual problems in your artwork. The second potential issue is that art that contains transparency is sent to the printer without the transparency flattening process happening at all. Many of us assume that when a printer receives a file from us, either a PDF or an Illustrator file for example, that they open the files inside of Illustrator or Acrobat and they print it from there, but that isn't always the case.
Some high-end print systems support direct downloading. Meaning a printer can just send your PDF or your EPS file directly to the printer and if a device itself does not recognize a transparency and flatten it, then what comes out of that printer is anyone's guess. Now in today's world for the most part these two potential issues have been addressed. Adobe has updated their design applications and the transparency flattening process itself to handle the translation process really in a much better way. In addition Adobe has adopted industry standards like PDF/X for example to help designers build and print better files.
Just about all of the printer manufacturers have updated and improved their devices to handle files with transparency inside of them and most prepress professionals have learned how to recognize and address potential issues. This course will help you understand how to make the most of transparency features that are available inside of Illustrator and they will help you recognize the situations where problems may occur so that you can act upon them and prevent bigger issues later on in your workflow. So there is no need to worry. Transparency does indeed print.
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