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Problem printing white > transparent gradient

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Tom Hawcroft
Problem printing white > transparent gradient
on Aug 17, 2016 at 11:32:10 am

Hello there,

I'm having trouble printing a white to (white) transparent gradient layer on a map project in CS6.

This is how it SHOULD look (screenshot from the PDF):



But when printed, the map detail that is meant to be obscured shows through in a messy, pixelated fashion. I tried using flatten transparency and I read that rasterizing the gradient could work, however so far that only results in a solid block of white or a fully transparent selection and I'm struggling to find where I'm going wrong.

The PDF was made from a flattened illustrator document, I'm doing test prints before getting done professionally and I am not at all confident at this stage. Exporting the whole thing to a TIFF yields better results, but it pixelates the vector lines which is unacceptable for a map...

Assistance greatly appreciated!


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Kalle Kannisto
Re: Problem printing white > transparent gradient
on Aug 17, 2016 at 6:05:19 pm

Some effects, like transparency, drop shadows, blur, etc. will be rasterized no matter what. The question is at what resolution and quality. Illustrator has a document raster effect settings dialog (Effects>Document Raster Effects Settings...) where you decide the resolution. "High (300dpi)" is meant for print production. Also the PDF settings should be "high quality print." To improve quality further you can select ZIP compression instead of jpeg for raster images in the PDF options dialog when you save as PDF.

If you are printing with white, the likehood is that a printing plate of some kind will be produced, metal, rubber or silk screen, in which case the image is best output as black where you want white ink, and specified as white ink. Since I don't know how you will actually be printing this, the proper specifications for the output should be requested from the print provider. But it is quite possible they'll want a "black" plate for white.

Kalleheikki Kannisto
Senior Graphic Designer


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Tom Hawcroft
Re: Problem printing white > transparent gradient
on Aug 22, 2016 at 4:17:47 pm

Hi Kalle,

Many thanks for your response, apologies for not replying sooner I was away this weekend and I needed to experiment more with my document... I'm afraid I just cannot get it to print correctly and I've testing on a few printers - detail which should be hidden is showing through. Example below, the PDF on the left and the printed version on the right.



You may understand my confusion as the PDF looks fine! I've tried flattening transparency, rasterizing the gradient... Maybe it's something to do with overprinting? I really don't know. The gradient layer actually degrades the details underneath: they should be smooth vector lines getting more faint but they appear pixellated .

Should I perhaps be applying some sort of transparency mask on top of the map, or is a white gradient the 'right' way to achieve this kind of result?


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Kalle Kannisto
Re: Problem printing white > transparent gradient
on Aug 22, 2016 at 5:38:15 pm

Which printer are you printing this out on currently? If it is not a postscript printer, you might be seeing artifacts that don't appear with a proper, high resolution postscript printer. You could ask your print provider to make a test output to see if the problem exists at their end.

Kalleheikki Kannisto
Senior Graphic Designer


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