Archive for December, 2015

The Perils of Ink Coverage

Add comment December 3rd, 2015

You might think that after almost 24 years as a freelance book designer/layout artist the odds of a totally new (to me) hassle in sending PDFs to a printer were, well, nonexistent. Except that there’s always something new to learn.

A few weeks ago I finished the layout of a children’s book. The client had approved and so I uploaded the PDFs to her printer, Ingram Spark. It was a weekend, so I didn’t hear back from my client until the following Monday. She told me the PDFs had been rejected because the total ink coverage was too high and that she really didn’t understand what that was all about.

So I went to the Ingram Spark site and nosed around my client’s account, found the file and the error message. Sure enough, it said that the total ink coverage of the front cover and various pages exceeded 240%.

Okay, so what that means, briefly, is that the “formula” that makes up any color in the CMYK (Cyan Magenta Yellow blacK) model must add up to less than 240. When the number exceeds 240, the site informed, it can cause cracking of the ink on the page because that ink is so heavy on the paper. Below is a screenshot that shows a spread from the book, along with InDesign’s Separations Preview, indicating the percentage of each of the four color inks (again, Cyan Magenta Yellow blacK) that make up a color on the printed page.


You may not make it out but the blue highlighted areas in the small box in the center show the percentages of each color of an area of the red dress of the figure poking out of the whole on the left-hand page of the spread. Below is that Separations Preview blown up a bit so you can clearly see the numbers.


The total, you’s notice on the top line, “CMYK,” is 242%. Rejected.

What to do?

I admit, the first thing I thought about was to monkey around with the color until I got the individual percentages to add up to a number below 240. But I quickly realized that wouldn’t fly because the art had been done by someone else and approved by my client as is. More to the point, however, that was just one speck of one image. What about the rest of the image? And all the other pages? So I took the easy way out and googled “total ink coverage.” I found a great piece by David Blatner, “Force Color Image to CMYK with a 240% Ink Limit”, on the InDesignSecrets site. In it was a link to a color profile for keeping the total ink coverage within 240%.

I was able to download Mr. Blatner’s “simple” profile, import it into InDesign, and select it for the children’s book I was working on.

As I said in my comment to Mr. Blatner, “ … saved my skin … .”




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