Using the Flattener Preview panel
Video: Using the Flattener Preview panelNow admittedly throughout this entire chapter, we've dealt with some pretty technical subjects. I mean, we are talking about different types of rasterization based on different settings and stacking order. So, how do we sum all this up? How do we actually take a look at out artwork and sleep at night knowing that it's going to print correctly when I send this off to a printer? The answer is that Illustrator possesses a tool that allows you to preview how your artwork is actually going to be processed in the flattening process without having to actually perform the flattening itself.
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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.
- Understanding how transparency works across the Adobe applications
- Deconstructing the Transparency panel
- Adding transparency to gradients
- Understanding how overprints and knockouts work
- Using a gradient or complex appearance as an opacity mask
- The rules of transparency flattening
- Working with complex regions
- Understanding the relationship between flattening and stacking order
- Creating and sharing flattener presets
- Saving PDF files and using the PDF/X standards
Using the Flattener Preview panel
Now admittedly throughout this entire chapter, we've dealt with some pretty technical subjects. I mean, we are talking about different types of rasterization based on different settings and stacking order. So, how do we sum all this up? How do we actually take a look at out artwork and sleep at night knowing that it's going to print correctly when I send this off to a printer? The answer is that Illustrator possesses a tool that allows you to preview how your artwork is actually going to be processed in the flattening process without having to actually perform the flattening itself.
This is something called the Flattener Preview and you can find it by going up to your Window menu and choosing to open up the Flattener Preview panel. Now, this is the way that it works. So, I am actually going to go ahead and increase the preview size just a little bit here and I am going to click on the Refresh button. That's going to load my artwork for this page now into this window and then I can choose from this pop-up list here to show me different settings of how that transparency is going to be flattened. I am going to start where it says None. Right now, this just gives me a color preview of my artwork itself.
I know that I have added transparency here in this forest file so now I am going to choose this option here, show me all transparent objects in my file. These are all objects right now in my document that possess some transparent quality that are going to require flattening. In this case here, when we created this artwork I actually used some opacity values for only some of these trees. So, we can see that right now whichever trees show up in red, those are the trees that currently have some type of opacity applied to them. Those are going to need to go to the flattening process.
There are some trees here as you can seem that don't have any transparency in them at all, but the red area is now identify to me which areas have transparency. This is extremely helpful when you are working inside of any file that either you created, or perhaps more importantly a file that somebody else created and you want to find out where are the potential problem areas. I want to know where is transparency used throughout this entire document. In fact, if you come up over here right now and you choose None, because that's how it first opens up when you open up the Flattener Preview panel, and when you click on the pop-up all these areas are grayed out, that means that there is absolutely no transparency whatsoever inside of your document.
So, you can go to print without worrying about any of these settings at all. However, if you see some of these objects that are lighted up, for example, this one, Transparent Objects, this lets me know right now which objects have some kind of transparency in them. There is another setting here called All Affected Objects. If you remember in the previous movie, we spoke about stacking order-- what happens when there are certain objects that are sitting above or beneath other transparent effects and the transparency is going to affect those objects as well. Well, if you choose All Affected Objects then any objects that are also going to be processed or touched in the flattening process, those will get highlighted in red as well.
So you can see a difference here when I go between Transparent Objects and Affected Objects. I now get to see more red areas. In fact, we will go and take a look at other example of the text so we can see that the text itself would also be affected if it falls beneath a drop shadow or other type of transparent effect. Now, we also spoke about this concept called Rasterize Complex Regions. Those are areas inside of the file that Illustrator based on your flattener settings goes ahead and chooses to rasterize purely for performance reasons.
So, right now I can see that since it's now available as an option that means that there are some rasterized complex regions that exist in this file. And if I choose that, I can preview exactly where that is. These right now are all the areas that you see in red that Illustrator deems as a complex region and it will go ahead and rasterize those areas. Now, the real question you could ask yourself is well, at what setting? Because we already know that if I use my high quality setting inside of Illustrator, I don't have any rasterized complex regions at all. So, I am going to go over here to the fly-out menu and I am going to choose to Show Options.
Let me make this just a little bit smaller here so we can kind of get that on our screen and I can see over here all of my flattener settings. Right now my slider is set to 25, which means I am telling Illustrator, be generous, try to actually rasterize more things to make the print time reduce. But I am going to go here and choose the preset called High Resolution preset and I am going to click on the Refresh button. When I do so, notice that right now if I go to the pop-up menu, Rasterize Complex Regions is grayed out. There are no complex regions because at the High Resolution setting, Illustrator is not allowed to rasterize things for performance reasons.
So, that's just not applicable at all. Sure, there are transparent objects that I will see, but they won't get rasterized. They will all be preserved in vector form. Let's go over here to the Medium setting over here, which had the slider at 75 and I am going to click Refresh once again and I will choose to highlight now those Rasterized Complex Regions. Notice over here there are fewer red areas. At this Medium Resolution setting, these are the areas that Illustrator has now identified as being complex and Illustrator will rasterize those areas. And if you remember, we also spoke about this setting here called Clip Complex Regions.
That creates clipping paths around all these complex regions. But if I were to uncheck that and then hit the Refresh button, we would very clearly see what happens. Illustrator would just simply rasterize those areas as squares. And in this case over here, when I print this, I might see like blocky discolorations, what we call stitching, in my final output. That's one of the reasons why we like to use the Clip Complex Regions setting. But again, using this Flattener Preview panel, I could really get a good idea about what's going to happen to my artwork before it actually go through the printing process or before this file is actually flattened it all.
And remember, the main point here that I wanted to show you throughout this entire chapter is that you should not really be going in and flattening your file. If you are a prepress operator or you're a trained professional in a closed course, you can go in and you can start to flatten content on your own, but usually this is something that's handled automatically in the background by both Illustrator and maybe a RIP. But I wanted to take a few moments here to show you as exactly what happens to your artwork when it goes through that process. So, if you ever look at output and you see for example a whole bunch of blotchy kind of discolorations, you know right away what it is that's causing their problem.
Now, I've gone back here to the pop-up list here just to show you one more thing. Right now, there are six different options here that you can preview with the Flattener Preview, but if I go to fly- out menu here, there is something called the Detailed Preview. This actually goes ahead now and gives me a few more options but at the expense of performance. And our Illustrator now is going to take a little bit more time to figure out exactly how this artwork is going to be flattened. But you can see that now I have more options. For example, I can preview which of my text will get outlined and I will be able to see All Rasterized Regions in general. I am actually going to just change back now to the Quick Preview here and let me actually switch to a different document.
I have opened right now a different document here that we worked on before, label.ai file. This is the file that has the text with the drop shadow. And I am going to click on the Refresh button because I want to show you how we can preview this potential problem where text falls beneath a drop shadow. So, I am going to choose over here to highlight all transparent objects. You can see over here that because my text now falls beneath the drop shadow, this background area now is going to get rasterized and also you can see that the top part of the S and the top part of the d over here also become red because those are going to get rasterized as well, because they fall beneath that drop shadow in the stacking order.
So right away, I'll be able to identify that it is going to be a problem when this file gets printed. If I come back to my file right now, when I actually move flowers beneath the seeds in the stacking order, and I choose to refresh the Flattener Preview, notice that right now the entire word Seeds now appears in Black. It's no longer red at the top over here, which indicates to me that the text itself will not get rasterize. This is a great way to actually use the Flattener Preview panel to make sure that all you artwork is going to look great before you actually go to print.
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