How to Use Indesign Separations Preview


You spent days or even weeks doing your layout. You thought everything’s ok and you sent all files to your printer only to hear them say, “There’s a problem with your file?”

One of the best tools in InDesign to help you avoid a lot of unexpected surprises is InDesign’s Separations Preview, you can avoid unexpected spot colors, overprints that don’t overprint, overprinting where you didn’t want it or CMYK blacks in text and placed files. Simply put, this will allow you to see how your job is going to separate and how the colors will print on a press.

Read on to find out how you can prevent these problems and avoid paying extra to have your service bureau or printer fix it.

Go to Window > Output > Preview > Separations


The Separations Preview Palette will open up. Click on the View settings from “Off” to “Separations“.



You can now see all the colors in your document. As you point your mouse on a any part of the page, you will see the color percentages of each color in the separation preview palette. As you can see below, as I point the mouse on my spot color, it correspondingly displays the color percentage.


You can also turn off visibility of certain colors so you can check color overprints and knock-outs are behaving properly. Turning off the Pantone color below hides the Pantone colored background image. Alternatively, turning off the visibility of the CMYK colors and leaving the Pantone visible will enable you to see how your spot color will print on actual run and how the CMYK knocks-out the spot color.



The other thing you can do with Separations Preview is check or preview ink coverage. Click on the View setting and select “Ink Limit”. Enter a value for maximum ink coverage in the box that appears next to the View menu (you may ask your commercial printer for the correct value to enter). Areas that exceed the ink coverage limit are shown in shades of red. This may mean that ink coverage on that area may be a little too heavy for the print process and may sort of form some glossy sheen when printed on certain substrates. All other areas appear in grayscale.



  1. Christina 5 November, 2010 at 03:58

    I’ve used this article multiple times – it’s very handy as a freshen-up-article as I don’t use InDesign too often, I seem to forget exactly how the separations preview works – but fortunately I allways remember that it’s important 🙂

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