Previewing output (Acrobat Pro)

Output Preview dialog box overview

The Output Preview dialog box provides the tools and controls to help you simulate how your PDF looks in different conditions. The top part of the dialog box has several controls for previewing your document. The Preview menu allows you to switch between previewing separations and previewing color warnings. When you select Separations, the bottom half of the dialog box lists information about the inks in the file, as well as total area coverage controls. When you select Color Warnings, a warnings section replaces the separations section and provides information about ink warning controls. The preview settings you specify in the Output Preview dialog box are reflected directly in the open document.

You can also access the Object Inspector from the Preview section of the Output Preview dialog box to inspect the content of your document. For more information, see View information about the content of a PDF document.

Output Preview also includes access to the complete Ink Manager for remapping spot-color inks in both printing and previewing. Ink mapping for previewing only applies when the Output Preview dialog box is open.


If you are using a color management system (CMS) with accurately calibrated ICC profiles and have calibrated your monitor, the onscreen separation preview colors more closely match the final color separation output.

Output Preview dialog box
Output Preview dialog box lets you preview separations, color warnings, and details about individual objects.

Open the Output Preview dialog box

  1. Choose Tools > Print Production.

  2. Choose Output Preview in the right pane.

Choose simulation profile and preview options

Select an existing profile for simulating how your document looks when printed.

  1. In the Output Preview dialog box, select an option from the Simulation Profile.
  2. Select any of the following options:

    Simulate Overprinting

    simulates the blending and overprinting of colors in the color-separated output.

    Simulate Black Ink

    Simulates black and dark colors according to the black specified in the simulation profile. Otherwise, blacks are mapped to the darkest color that the monitor can draw.

    Simulate Paper Color

    simulates how colors may look when they are printed on the paper color. If you deselect this option, then the paper color is monitor white.

    Set Page Background Color

    Displays the page color. Click the colorswatch to select the color.

View colors by source space or preview specific elements

You can limit which colors are displayed in the preview. You can also view specific element types, such as solid color objects, images, smooth shades, text, and line art. When you select a source color space, you see only the objects in that color space. Limiting colors is useful, for example, for seeing whether a page contains any RGB color or where a spot color is used.

  1. In the Output Preview dialog box, select one of the available options from the Show menu.
  2. Select Show Art, Trim, & Bleed Boxes to preview any page boxes you’ve defined. For more information on defining page boxes, see Set Page Boxes dialog box overview.

Preview color separations

You can preview separation plates and ink coverage to ensure that the printed piece meets your requirements. Although previewing separations on your monitor can help you detect problems without the expense of printing separations, it does not let you preview trapping, emulsion options, printer marks, and halftone screens and resolution. Those settings are best verified with your print service provider using integral or overlay proofs.


Objects on hidden layers are not included in an onscreen preview.

  1. In the Output Preview dialog box, choose Separations from the Preview menu.

  2. Do any of the following:
    • To view one or more separations, select the empty box to the left of each separation name. Each separation appears in its assigned color.

    • To hide one or more separations, deselect the box to the left of each separation name.

    • To view all process or spot plates at once, select the box for Process Plates or Spot Plates.


    A single process or spot plate appears as a black plate. This makes objects on a light-colored plate, such as yellow, appear more visible.

Check ink coverage

Too much ink can saturate paper and cause drying problems or change the expected color characteristics of the document. Total Area Coverage specifies the total percentage of all inks used. For example, 280 means 280% ink coverage, which could be accomplished with 60C, 60M, 60Y, and 100K. Ask your print service provider for the maximum ink coverage of the press you use for printing. You can then preview the document to identify areas where total ink coverage exceeds the press limit. If you find any problems, you can Alt-click (on Windows) or Option-click (on Mac), the area to insert a comment. The comment is prepopulated with the ink coverage details.

  1. In the Output Preview dialog box, choose Separations from the Preview menu.

  2. Do one of the following:
    • To set a sample size, choose an option from the Sample Size list. Point Sample specifies the value of the pixel you click. 3 By 3 Average and 5 By 5 Average specify the average value of the specified number of pixels within the area you click. Sample size does not have an impact on the Total Area Coverage warnings. It only has an impact on the percentages next to each of the individual plates.

    • To check for total document coverage, select TotalArea Coverage, and choose a number from the pop-up menu or type a percentage in the box. Highlights identify areas where the ink coverage exceeds that percentage. To change the highlight color, click the colorswatch and select a new color.

    • To check for specific area coverage, use the pointer to hover over that area in the document window. Ink coverage percentages appear in the ink list next to each ink name.


    You can adjust ink coverage by converting some spot colors to process colors using the Ink Manager.

  3. To record problems, Alt-click (on Windows) or Option-click (on Mac), the area. Acrobat inserts a comment that contains the ink coverage percentages.

Set the background color

You can simulate what your document would look like if printed on color paper.

  1. In the Output Preview dialog box, choose Separations from the Preview menu.

  2. Select the Set Page Background Color option at the top of the dialog box, and then select a color.

View color warnings

Output problems can occur when the colors in a document are not reproducible on a particular press, or when rich black is used unintentionally on type. To diagnose such color problems before handing off a PDF for high-end output, you can use the various color warnings in the Output Preview dialog box. Pixels in areas that trigger the warning are displayed in the warning color, which is identified by the swatch color next to the warning type.

  1. In the Output Preview dialog box, choose Color Warnings from the Preview menu.

  2. Select either or both of the following options:

    Show Overprinting

    Indicates where on the page overprinting appears in color-separated output. If you select Simulate Overprinting in the Output panel of the Advanced Print Setup dialog box, you can also see overprinting effects when you output to a composite printing device. This option is useful for proofing color separations.

    By default, when you print opaque, overlapping colors, the top color knocks out the area underneath. You can use overprinting to prevent knockout and make the topmost overlapping printing ink appear transparent in relation to the underlying ink. The degree of transparency in printing depends on the ink, paper, and printing method used.

    Rich Black

    Indicates areas that print as rich black—process black (K) ink mixed with color inks for increased opacity and richer color. Rich black is used for large areas since you need the extra darkness to make the text look black rather than gray.

    Type the Start Cutoff percentage to define the minimum percentage of black to diagnose the content as rich black. Rich black for this warning is a percentage of black (based on the cutoff value) and any nonzero C, M, or Y.


    To change the warning color used in the preview, select a color from the swatches color picker.

View information about the content of a PDF document

Use the Object Inspector dialog box to view image resolution, color mode, transparency, and other information about the content of a document. If you find any problems or issues with an object, you can Alt-click (on Windows) or Option-click (on Mac), the object to insert a comment. The comment is prepopulated with all the details found by the Object Inspector.

  1. In the Preview section of the Output Preview dialog box, choose Object Inspector.

  2. Click in the document window to view information about the objects that are under the pointer in the Output Preview dialog box.

  3. To note problem areas, Alt-click (on Windows) or Option-click (on Mac), the object. Acrobat inserts a comment that contains the information found by the Object Inspector.

Multiple selection with output preview

You can now select multiple objects when the Output Preview dialog is open.

To select multiple objects, use Shift + Click. To add a sticky note containing the color values, use Alt + Click (on Windows) or Option + Click (on Mac).

To disable this feature, go to Edit > Preferences > Page Display, and then uncheck Use Shift + Click for Multiple Selection with Output Preview checkbox under the Page Content and Information section.

Multiple selection with output preview

Adobe logo

Sign in to your account