Not many of us designers take Acrobat seriously, the file format has become ubiquitous to the trade but the application is little more than a file viewer. Now most of this is because of Adobe did a crap job with the interface of Acrobat, it seemed obvious the development team was trying to shove more and more features into each version to justify its relevance beyond an annoying popup every time your pointed your web browser at a PDF. Well in Acrobat Professional 8 a new interface has been added so after all these years it finally feels like an Adobe application.
So what does that mean for designers? Most publications are only taking PDFs for ads nowadays to cut down on sloppy collects or smoothing out the drop-in process. Most of the time these files are being sent via email or FTP, so proofs are irrelevant, the ads already in the hands of the printer. So how do you check your color before hitting SEND and hoping everything works out right? Use Acrobat to check it.
First obviously export your file as a Press Quality PDF. Some publications are lazy and don’t update their submission guidelines and list X1-A PDF as the preferred format, which is fucking stupid. X1-A PDF are Acrobat 4.0 compatible, and 4.0 doesn’t support transparency so your images end up with weird little white lines around the crop boxes. Just send them a Press Quality set for Version 6, they will never know the difference. So after that, open up Acrobat > Advanced > Preflight.
There are an array of different media profiles to check against ranging from offset to newspaper printing.
After that, you can check your separations. Advanced > Output Preview.
From here you get a listing of the ink plates, scroll over any object and you get a breakdown of the ink values under the cursor.
Or just turn off plates to see if the spots are properly set. You can even check overprint settings from the same menu.