QuarkXPress and PDF support

This page contains a collection of notes on the way PDF is supported in QuarkXPress.

QuarkXPress 8.x

QuarkXPress 8.1 is the first release that offers output support for native transparency. It still flattens transparency in imported PDF files though.

As with previous releases,  users should change Quark’s default fill from ‘white’ to ‘None’ in the Preferences/Tools section. This can avoid issues with staircasing in the edges of images.

How synthetic fonts are handled

QuarkXPress 8 handles synthetic fonts, which are sometimes called artificial or faux bold and italic, in such a way that outputting them should be no problem. A synthetic font is a font that is created artifically, e.g. you select ‘Avant Garde Black’ for some text and then set the font style to ‘Bold’ even though an Avant Garde Black Bold typeface does not exist.

QuarkXPress 8 builds such styles artificially:

  • A bold style is created by adding an outline around the glyphs. The thickness of the outline is calculated from the size of the text.
  • The italic style is created by skewing the glyphs about 12 degrees to the right.

Even though this approach to faux styles is ‘safe’ and leads to proper PDF or PostScript output, it is not recommended to do this. XPress 6 and 7 actually work in a similar fashion.

QuarkXPress 7.x

Even though PDF support improved with each new version of QuarkXPress, it still leaves something to be desired in version 7.

Importing PDF into a QuarkXPress 7.x page

From version 4 onwards, you can directly place PDF files in a QuarkXPress publication. The PDF import module of QuarkXPress 7 still has some fundamental limitations doing so.

  • It will only import PDF 1.4 (Acrobat 5) or less. More recent PDF versions are not supported. Acrobat 8 offers a neat ‘PDF Optimizer’ function which allows you to save the document to an earlier version.
  • PDF 1.4 files should not contain transparency.
  • There is no control over layers.
  • Issues with QuarkXpress throwing up error messages for files it should be able to import are fairly common. There have also been some complaints in the Quark forums about imported PDF files that move after opening and closing a document a few times. These issues may be solved in a future update of the product.

If you run into problems importing PDF files in a QuarkXPress publication, try converting the PDF to an EPS. If the PDF contained compressed data, the EPS may be a lot bigger but fortunately QuarkXPress is pretty good at handling EPS. In fact, when you import a PDF in a QuarkXPress page, the software will internally also wrap these data in an EPS. Unfortunately it sometimes fails to do so properly.

To avoid output issues with placed PDF files with subsetted fonts, make sure to upgrade to QuarkXPress 7.31 or later.

How to create PDF files from QuarkXPress 7.x pages

There are essentially two ways of creating PDF files from QuarkXPress pages:

  • Export to PDF – This option quickly got a bad reputation in the QuarkXPress 6 days because the export module, which was and still is based on Jaws technology from Global Graphics, created huge files. Reliability has improved in version 7 but the reputation for creating oversized files is still present.
  • Print to a PostScript file and distill or normalize this file to get a PDF file – This is the workflow that most printing companies use. I recommend to use the GWG procedure for creating PDF files from QuarkXPress 7. Here and here are interesting threads from the b4print forum about creating PDF files.

Whatever mechanism is used to create a PDF file, it is impossible to convert QuarkXPress layers to PDF layers.
As you can imagine, transparency can be a major hassle when creating PDF files. Quark have written a white paper which offers handy tips on how to make optimum use of transparency in files. Here is a brief summary:

  • Type should be on top of all other objects in a separate layer which contains all text boxes (except for type that needs to interact with transparency). By doing this, you make sure that type is not affected by any transparency flattening.
  • Try to move transparent objects as far back in the stacking order as possible.
  • Only use transparency when it is appropriate. Never use transparency when the same effect can be achieved using a tint or shade. Some transparency effects can just as easily be achieved using clipping paths.
  • If several objects require the same type of drop shadow, group them before applying the drop shadow.
  • Don’t use artificial bold (selecting bold as a type style instead of selecting a bold font).
  • Make sure the resolution of images affected by transparency is high enough, ideally higher than the resolution used by the Flattener.

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