Fix Washed-Out PDFs

A Planet Quark reader was having trouble with an older version of QuarkXPress outputting PDFs — the colors appeared faded and washed out. That created a problem for her because she couldn’t show her client exactly what the layout would look like. (She was using version 7.5.) Here’s an example:

Unsaturated colors in the PDF
Saturated colors in the PDF

The fix is to change the Color area of the PDF Export Options to Composite RGB instead of CMYK. Here’s what that looks like in QuarkXPress 9.5:

Explanation: Early versions of QuarkXPress were tuned for output to offset printers. So, when it exported a PDF, it took into account the dot gain inherent in ink-based printing and reduced the saturation of the inks so that they would be accurate when printed on a press. Unfortunately, that also meant that the on-screen preview looked washed out.

Later versions of QuarkXPress (8 and up) changed the default PDF output settings so that colors and black always appear saturated in the PDF.