Transparency Tricks You Can Use Today

ImageTransparency is used in every file these days.  From drop shadows and glow effects to type and gradients, designers have a complete set of transparency tools at their fingertips.

Despite their name, the tools’ functions are often less than transparent, so following are some tricks to overcome common transparency problems.

Problem: You have a PDF that has been flattened and some clip art or an image has a white box around it.

Solution: Using the Touch Up Object tool, select the image and the background it is on.  Edit the objects in Illustrator and use the Transparency Palette to multiply the white box onto the background or create a mask using Illustrator drawing tools.  Save and close the Acrobat temp file.

Problem: You have a PDF file and you need to put a background in behind the file.

Solution: Extract the page you need to work on as a single PDF file (or all pages if you need to apply a master background).  Open the PDF page in Photoshop.  If it is a transparent PDF it will appear on Layer 1 and the background will be transparent.  If not, you will need to remove the background layer in Photoshop and copy the page to a new Layer.  Get rid of your white background using the Photoshop selection tools and feather slightly to get a soft edge if needed.  You can now re-save this file as a PDF and place it in InDesign on top of the background you have already placed. You could have pasted the background on another layer in Photoshop, but if the background is a master and needs adjusting later, its safer to use InDesign to put it together and just change the master once.

Problem: The image in your PDF doesn’t graduate as intended

Solution: Select it with the Touch Up Object Tool along with the item it is on top of.  In the Illustrator Acrobat temp file create a shape over top of the item to be graduated.  Select the shape and apply a white/black gradient in the direction you want.  Select the gradient and the item below it, and in the Transparency Palette menu select Make Opacity Mask.  Save and close and the PDF will contain the new graduation.

Problem: You are creating a PDF from an InDesign job.  Everything looks fine, save for one spread that is mostly a collage of images with drop shadowed header type across it.  You are using High Resolution flattening settings but this spread won’t come out properly.

Solution: Use Spread Overrides.  Choose the pages in Indesign’s Pages Palette that you want to Override.  In the Pages Palette menu at the top left, select Spread Flattening → Custom, which will open the Flattening menu; you can then slide the Raster/Vector Balance over towards Raster.  It may prompt you to the effect that increasing the Raster will cause larger files—just select OK.  When you print to file you can leave the Transparency setting at High Resolution (or your Custom Setup) and make sure that ignore spread overrides is not checked.

Try any of these tips with your next problem file.  Print turnarounds are faster and faster and sometimes you don’t want to wait for new files.  In such situations, these transparent tricks could save the day.

Andrea Mahoney
Workflow Automation Specialist
TriBay Enterprise