Published in New England Printing and Publishing 2002  © Ron Ellis


12 Cool Things About Pitstop

by Ron Ellis

           Being on-site at many printing plants I often find myself watching an operator struggling with a problematic PDF file. It usually goes like this:

The operator says, “Another PDF. This one won’t print right – it has RGB graphics and its missing fonts.”

The prepress manager usually says, “Another bad PDF – and we don’t have time to fool around – that need to be on press tonight!”

And I say, “Hey, do you guys have a copy of Pitstop?”

Very often the plant already owns a copy of Pitstop but the operators are only using one or two of the features and are unaware of some of the extraordinary things that this utility can do.

What is Pitstop? Pitstop is to PDF plugins what a swiss army knife or leatherman is to jackknives. Pistop is a third party PDF plugin made by Enfocus that launches when you launch Acrobat. It can do a variety of editing, preflight, and repair tasks, and can be automated to perform these tasks.

Here are 12 cool things you can do with Pitstop, and why they are so cool:

1.      Convert a PDF from RGB to CMYK. Pitstop can convert an entire PDF or certain elements such as individual pages or graphics and images from RGB to CMYK. On a basic level this is important because many customers still send in files with RGB images and scans, and this allows us to make those files usable. Even more important, for certain types of work many customers are using Windows apps such as Microsoft Word or Publisher, and these applications as well as apps such as Corel come with free RGB clipart, which is great, but we cannot use it unless it is coverted to the right color space.

2.      Convert a PDF from RGB or CMYK to grayscale. Pitstop can convert an entire PDF or certain elements such as individual pages or graphics and images from any colorspace to grayscale. This is important because in many cases when a customer gives you a 1 color job they may include artwork such as logos or graphics from color jobs. Pitstop lets you covert these pages or graphics to grayscale so that they will only output the mono plate.

3.      Embed missing Fonts. Pitstop will let you embed missing fonts. This can be very important. In many instances the PDF is created on the PC. If the PC user does not embed the fonts and you are using a program such as Preps on the Mac to impose the PDF there may be no easy way to rejoin the font. Pitstop, will allow you to open the PDF on the PC and add the PC versions of the fonts (including True Type). So that you can correctly output the file and continue the job. (In the worst case scenario Pitstop allows you to replace the font with a different but similar font.)

4.      Preflight a PDF file. Pitstop will allow you to Preflight a file, and allows you to specify various criteria to check so the preflight is only as thorough as you need. For example you can set up a preflight set called “Black + 1 Spot”, and Pitstop will tell you if the file meets those exact criteria. 

5.      Keep track of changes and multiple versions made to a PDF file. Pitstop has a feature called the Certified workflow which helps you preflight, change and track changes as you take a PDF file from being unprintable to being a file you can use. In the Certified Workflow you preflight the file, and make changes based on a profile. Pitstop lets you track the changes you have made and return to a previous session at any point. It lets you notoify your customer via reports of what changes you have made, and lets you easily move back to a previous version if desired.

6.      Remove or change embedded icc profiles. Pitstop will allow you to remove or change the icc profiles the pdf file is tagged with.  This has implications for basic output (removing the PDF file), as well as letting you tag files for movement in other directions (such as virtual proofing).

7.      Automate common PDF edit and change tasks with Actions. Almost any Pitstop task can be automated so that it can be performed automatically. For example if you have a book that needs to have pages adjusted so that the content for odd and even pages is shifted to a predefined margin, .5” down from top, and .5” from the outside page edge, and then numbered an action can be created to perform this task. Actions are incredibly powerful because they let you perform tedious and repetitive actions automatically (such as embedding all fonts on all pages, or converting all pages to cmyk, etc). Actions make the troublesome aspects of PDF workflows easier to cope with.

8.      Create rich black out of black objects (by design - except small type and small objects). Pitstop will let you convert blacks into a rich black and will also not convert type and objects smaller than a certain size.

9.      Make sure linewidths are not too thin, and correct if they are too thin via action or manually. Pitstop can automatically check linewidths and make sure they are not too thin and convert them to a more appropriate width which can be imaged on the platesetter or imagesetter.

10.   Adjust overprints  and knockouts (via actions or manually). Pitstop allows you to manually select objects and view and change their stroke and fill characteristics including knockout and overprints. This allows you to check and make sure files are behaving the way you want and to verify trap and other print characterisitics and change them if desired. Obviously Pitstop is not a trapping program, but its tools help you check and verify and manually make adjustments when needed.

11.  Add or remove crop marks. For files that come in without crop marks, Pitstop can add crop marks, and if desired can add color bars. If you want to remove crop marks Pitstop can crop pages down and also allows you to remove unwanted objects such as crops.

12.  Create and certify a PDFX file. Pitstop can take a pdf file and convert it to a PDFX file. In addition to keeping a note of problems and changes made, it will create a PDFX compliant file which can then be printed with much less chance of problems.

Those are only a few of the cool things Pitstop is commonly used to perform. Pitstop can edit individual objects or pages and perform over 70 correction capabilities. In my PDF toolkit Pitstop isn’t the the only tool but it is the most versatile. You probably already have a copy in your plant. It is worth making sure your operators know the full range of capabilities that Pitstop can give them.

Ron Ellis is a prepress consultant specializing in workflow training and integration. He brings a strong background to all aspects of prepress and has been involved in numerous computer-to-plate installations throughout New England. His consulting services provide color management, integration, training, workflow development, and troubleshooting solutions to the graphic arts community. In addition to consulting, Ron has been working in the printing industry for the past 18 years, and has real life experience to bring to the digital challenges most printers are facing. He currently provides services to a number of prominent prepress dealers, and manufacturers. Ron holds a master’s degree in education in Instructional Design from the University of Massachusetts. More information on his services can be found at or by calling 603-498-4553.