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Both PDF/X-1a and PDF/X-4 are great industry standards when embracing a PDF workflow. We will take a look at the differences between the two. I'm going to go ahead and export a PDF based on those two standards. I'm going to go under File > PDF Presets and under Define. I've created two PDF presets. Let's take a look at those now. The first one is based on PDF/X-1a. The only thing I changed is under Marks and Bleeds I said All Printer's Marks. I changed my Offset to 0.1667 inches, and I made sure my bleed was the industry standard eighth inch.
I also, in the General tab, clicked on Spreads. Next, I went and created another PDF preset for PDFX4. I did the same thing. I clicked under Spreads in the General tab and under Marks and Bleeds, I picked All Printer Marks, Offset of 0.1667 inches, and the industry-standard bleed of an eighth inch. Next, I picked these two different presets and created two different PDFs. We're going to take a look at those in Adobe Acrobat.
I now have my two PDFs side by side. The one here on the right is based on the PDF/X-1a, and the one on left is based on PDFX4. What's the difference is, they look the same. Well, if I go under Advanced and I go under Print Production and I pick my Flattener Preview, I can see if there is any transparency in my document. Right away I know there is, because Transparent Objects and All Affected Objects are not grayed out. So let me go ahead and look at Transparent Objects, and I can see if there is any transparency in my document and where it is.
PDFX4 supports live transparency. In other words, when I export my PDF nothing gets flattened. I'm going to go ahead and look at now my PDF/X-1a. I need to click on that, and then I'm going to go to Advanced > Print Production > Flattener Preview. When I click on that PDF, I notice I don't have any options; everything in this PDF has been flattened. In a PDF/X-1a, there is no live transparency. Now this is really good if your printer does not support live transparency in their RIP.
Let me go ahead and close that and look at the other differences. I'm going to go back and look at my X4 again, and I'm going to go under Preflight and just examine if there is any kind of ICC profiles in here. When I pick that from my Preflight panel, I'm going to hit Analyze. I notice in my PDFX4 file that I have all my images are RGB with ICC profiles. What I'm going to do is let these convert to CMYK at the time of output.
Next, I'm going to click on my PDFX1 file and do the same thing. I come under Advanced and I click on Preflight and when I do the same exact test, I notice it says, "No problems found," which means I have no RGB images or no ICC profiles. All my RGB images have been converted to CMYK during the export PDF process. There are advantages of working with a standard, but you should really talk with your printer to determine which one is best for their prepress workflow.
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