PDF viewed normal, but printed negative image...why?

I’m a print broker not to graphic design savvy, but savvy enough. Client provided a packaged InDesign file in which we sent back a print ready pdf for them to review/approve. They complained saying an image on the back cover appeared to be the “negative image” of the pic, but it looked ok to me. They said the viewed the pdf via Word, so I assumed that was the issue. So I submitted the file to the print vendor & they provided a pdf proof and all looked ok to me. Just got the publication and the image was printed as a “negative” image. How is this possible? Why would it look good to me, at least on my computer. I’m afraid the vendor will say to them it looks like a negative image on their side. Worried that I can’t trust a pdf now. Help! I need to get a grasp of this issue and figure out why it happened.

Thanks for your help!!!

Hmm. I’ve not heard of this happening before. Unfortunately, without getting my hands on the actual files, it would be tough to diagnose. (Maybe someone else has experienced this and can diagnose without looking at the files.) Off the top of my head, I’d compare the color mode, bit depth, and color profile of the negative image vs. the settings on an image that printed properly. Please keep us updated as the cause of the problem and the fix.

I have negative images show up in various pdf readers other than Acrobat. Viewing a pdf directly in a mail program (especially Outlook) is most common source of negative images.
Can’t say I’ve had them ever show up as correct in a PDF but print negative. That’s a new one.
What are YOU using for a pdf reader?
If the file came from a client and they are viewing the PDFs in Word, I’d consider the source of the file PDF suspect. Some of the non-adobe softwares out there have very strange PDF engines in them that aren’t always compatible with postscript. Did YOU try printing out the pdf in question?

I could only take a vague guess at what may have gone wrong, if anything, at the file level.

It is pretty clear however, that there were a couple things wrong in the “chain of custody”.

Unless there’s some technical justification for exchanging live, native InDesign files (in some cases there is), this should have been a PDF, cooked to the print vendor’s specifications.

The same client that furnished an InDesign package views PDF’s in Word? Yeah, there’s something seriously amiss about that.

If the client wasn’t afforded the opportunity to review and approve that proof, that’s on you.

It shouldn’t be, but it happened. A real diagnosis would require file access, so again, based only on what you’ve offered here:

  • File submittal potentially mishandled from step 1.
  • A soft proof that wasn’t the printer’s proof rejected by client. (Was any proof approved by the client?)
  • A soft proof that was the printer’s proof approved by you. (How certain are you the image wasn’t negative?)
  • No true proof of press output in your story.
  • Printer ran the job with the negative image, so is it reasonable to assume their quality control concluded it matched the proof you approved? Did it?

Love you guys for such prompt & thorough responses! Thanks sooo much!

I do think something is wrong with the image that was submitted in the packaged InDesign file, something beyond my capacity. It is a new person working on the publication this year. It’s just funny how they were able to see the “negative” of the image, while I was not. I even just went on another computer to see if my cheapy pc was messing up my view and nope.

Lastly, the print vendor we use are practically on robot mode, so there’s a severe lack of quality control even though I told this this is my most important project of the year and that a human that knows what they’re doing needs to stay on top of this, they assured me they were. So, any recommendations for trade printers would be valued!

Not sure how I could prevent this from happening again. I’m waiting to hear back from the printer, they’ve been good on f-ups in the past. ugggggghhhhh!

If you got the packaged Indesign file did you look at the actual pic file in PS from the linked folder?
And pdf in Word? WTH???

I know, I even sent them a link to download adobe reader. Make no sense.

BUT…maybe I just figured out why(in a way) the image didn’t print correctly. I looked a little deeper and saw the back page with the issue, actually linked to an InDesign file of the back page. Maybe they created it separately then linked to it? And maybe linking to another InDesign file doesn’t jive?

It does—I do it all the time with multi-lingual documents—but it has to be packaged correctly, of course. That said, had it not been packaged correctly, it would have reported as a missing link when you opened the file in InDesign. As I asserted earlier, all that could have been a non-factor had the client simply and rightly submitted a PDF rather than native indd.

Maybe what I should have done is exported that back page file as a .jpg or .pdf and then placed it on the back page on the pub.

Surely not .jpg. Never a good reason for that.

Did the client, together with the packaged files, supply a set of hardcopy as accompaniment? It’s always good to have some tangibles, best remedy for finger-pointing.

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