How to Use ICC Color Space With Acrobat

Color management translates image information for viewing and reproduction.
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Colors look very different on a computer monitor than they do on a printed page, and also vary if you print from a desktop output device or commercial press. Adobe Systems created a system of color management to help content creators standardize document appearance, regardless of the device or medium through which you view it. ICC profiles help translate among these output media. You can use Adobe Acrobat Standard or Pro to control color management in new or existing documents.

1 Preflighting Files

The Adobe Acrobat Pro Preflight tool checks files destined for commercial printing and verifies that they follow the rules you set up to define press-ready files. The tool uses profiles, combinations of settings that regulate color, typeface usage, transparency conversion and ink limits, and the PDF version compatibility applied to your files. The ICC Color Spaces group of preflighting properties looks at color management profiles embedded in PDFs from page-layout preferences, bitmapped and vector artwork. When the tool analyzes your files, it looks at their output intents, which define how the color of document objects should be interpreted when the file prints.

2 Converting Color

When you open a PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro, you can convert it from one color space to another to optimize how it looks onscreen or on paper. If your file contains objects in various color spaces, Acrobat Pro can translate them to the optimal color space for a specific output usage. For example, when you send a PDF with a CMYK vector drawing and an RGB bitmap to a printing press, you want all of its artwork to comply with the CMYK expectations of the output medium. In Acrobat Pro's Convert Colors dialog box, you specify the ICC profile to use in standardizing your document's colors.

3 Creating PDFs

When you use Acrobat Distiller or an Adobe Creative Suite application to turn a document into a PDF, you can use Adobe's or your own presets to control how the output process handles graphics, type and other aspects of file content. Distiller and PDF-aware applications also offer advanced options for images, typefaces, color and document optimization. The Color panel provides the settings you need to apply an ICC color profile to all color objects or only to bitmaps. It also enables you to standardize all objects' color to a color space governed by a specific ICC profile. Along with the profiles that Acrobat Pro includes by default, you can add others to handle special situations or to comply with the requirements of a specific printing company.

4 Exporting From PDFs to Other Formats

Adobe Acrobat Standard and Pro both offer options designed to save PDF files or their contents in other formats. You can export the bitmaps from a PDF in JPEG, PNG and TIFF formats, controlling the ICC color profiles applied to these images or choosing not to include profiles in your output. Profiles applied to a document's images themselves can pass along with image data. Profiles applied to document pages don't transfer to JPEG output, although they can to other image types. This may change the appearance of exported JPEG files in color-managed applications.

5 Printing Files

When you print a document directly from Adobe Acrobat Pro, you can turn on color management and use an ICC color profile to target your document's content to the color-handling capabilities of a specific piece of output hardware. If the printer uses built-in color conversion, you can specify hardware-managed color handling. To select among these capabilities, open the Advanced Print Setup dialog box, and then access its Color Management tab.

6 Version Information

Information in this article applies to Adobe Acrobat Standard XI and Adobe Acrobat Professional XI. It may differ slightly or significantly with other versions or products.

Elizabeth Mott has been a writer since 1983. Mott has extensive experience writing advertising copy for everything from kitchen appliances and financial services to education and tourism. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English from Indiana State University.