Observations and arguments.

InDesign CS 2: Phantom Spot Colors

If I knew what caused it, I would know how to prevent it. Suspicions include placing a .ai or .eps graphic that contains a spot color. Or a pdf. Or copying and pasting such an object from one InDesign file to another–even when the spot color exists in both documents.

But at the point when I am preparing the file for final release, I often discover one or more colors I cannot modify or delete.

This annoys me primarily because I am the sort of production artist who prefers to delete all unnecessary colors, fonts, layers, objects, etc. from a file. The impact of such detritus on today’s modern RIPs (modern enough, shall we establish, to handle InDesign CS2 files to begin with) is likely insignificant at this point in the technology. But to me this kind of manual file scrubbing remains both a valuable idiot-proofing practice and a matter of common courtesy–towards my own self or some other designer or production artist who will be asked to adapt this file for reprinting in three to six months time.

But this is not merely a matter of my own work habits and hangups.

Often I am handed a file in which a designer has created swatches for dozens, if not hundreds of PANTONE swatch colors, and I must select each color individually (or in small batches) to winnow down the list to the set of colors in actual use. (The workaround in which I create a new mechanical document, and copy and paste objects from the designer document into my new one can often compound the problem of these phantom spot colors–turning previously editable colors into the undead.)

One trick I have found success with is exporting the file as an InDesign Interchange document (.inx), and then re-importing it into InDesign. Be sure to clean up your placed graphics (e.g. convert spot colors to process as needed) before you do this step, or you may find yourself doing it more than once.

tag: Adobe InDesign



  Lauren wrote @

A search for InDesign phantom colors brought me to your (gorgeous) site (such a beautiful, clean, brilliant take on the blog layout). You are the first person to echo my sentiments about scrubbing out file detritus for oneself and the designers who may pick up your work down the road!

  Erling Andersen wrote @

I will gladly join this chorus; I prefer keeping my files tidy myself.

Right now, I’m stuck with a SPOT-color that can’t be deleted – nor found anywhere manually within the document – which was what brought me to your site aswell..

Unfortunately, you didn’t know the answer either – so I guess I’ll just have to keep googling. Cheers 🙂

  Dean wrote @

I just had same problem, mind you it is a bit later and I have CS4, I couldn’t delete the spot colour, couldn’t convert it to cmyk through pdf either.
I started copying each object to another page till I found which object was dragging the spot colour in, I found an eps had the colour embedded, I open the eps in Illustrator, deleted the unused spot colour and updated links.
In indesign I can now get rid of the stuck Spot Colour….hope this helps.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: