First, what is aliasing? Let’s say you have imported AI, PDF, and PSD files with spot color Pantone 286C, and you’ve used that same spot color to fill or stroke InDesign objects and type, too. Suddenly, your client tells you that they’ve changed their corporate color to “Pantone 235 C” and you need to update all your files before your big job goes to press… tomorrow.

Perhaps you know that InDesign’s Ink Alias feature (hidden inside the Ink Manager) lets you alias one spot color to another. But you can force it to alias to a process color, too, if you’re a bit tricky about it.

Sure, you could open all the source files and change them to the new color. Or you could save yourself a lot of time by aliasing the old spot color to the new spot color in InDesign. To do this, make sure you have spot color swatches for both colors in the Swatches panel. Then, open the Ink Manager. (You can find the Ink Manager in about 5 or 6 places, including the Swatches panel flyout menu, the Color panel flyout menu, the Print dialog box… they all go to the same place.)


In the Ink Manager dialog box. select the “from” color (here, Pantone 286) and choose the “to” color from the Ink Alias pop-up menu. When you click OK, InDesign aliases one to the other, so when you print or export, the colors shift accordingly.

The problem is that normally, you don’t see the aliasing on screen, so you just have to trust it. Fortunately, you can force InDesign to display aliasing by turning on View > Overprint Preview (or turn on seps in the Separations Preview panel). For example, here’s a shot of a PSD duotone inside a stroked frame, with vector artwork in an INDD file (with transparency) on top of it. (Remember that you can place INDD files into CS3 as easily as PDF files.)


Now here’s what it looks like after aliasing Pantone 286 (blue) to 235 (dark red), and then turning on Overprint Preview:


Okay, that’s great. But what if your client said, “we’re not printing with a spot color anymore. We want this color printed as a process tint build of 50% cyan and 70% yellow.” Ink aliasing is great, but you can only alias a spot color to another spot color (or to a solid process color). Or can you?

When talking with Sandee Cohen recently (via Skype, while she was in Copenhagen! I love technology…), we came up with a clever solution. First, build a CMYK color swatch for the color you want. But instead of defining it as a Process color, make it a spot color.


Now use the Ink Manager to alias your spot color to this new “CMYK spot” color… but before you close the Ink Manager, click on the icon to the left of the CMYK Spot in the ink list. That tells InDesign to separate the color into process colors.


That’s it! When you print or export a PDF, you’ll get process colors:


Sandee and I will be presenting a session about staying flexible and keeping your options open ’til the very end at The Creative Suite Conference in a couple of weeks in Chicago. Then Anne-Marie and I will be doing an InDesign tips & tricks session. If you like this tip, you’ll love the conference.

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