Output intents in PDFs (Acrobat Pro)

About output intents

An output intent describes the final destination device you will use to reproduce the color in the PDF, such as the separations printing device. Output intents override working spaces during viewing and printing, but they do not convert the colors in the PDF.


In a PDF/X1-a workflow, the output intent describes the working CMYK space. In a PDF/X-3 workflow, the embedded ICC profile in the output intent is used to dynamically convert any objects with color-managed color to the color space of the ICC profile in the output intent. In most cases this will be CMYK, but can also be RGB or Grayscale.

There are two kinds of output intents: One includes an embedded device profile that defines the color space of the destination device, such as U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2; the other is a name that defines the destination color space and usually names a standard output condition. Using a named output intent rather than an embedded profile helps reduce the size of a PDF, but this is typically only possible for PDF/X-1a files, or PDF/X-3 files that do not contain color-managed color.

You include output intents when you create PDF/X (or PDF/A) files, using the Standards panel of the Adobe PDFSettings dialog box. (You access Adobe PDF Settings differently, depending on the application you’re using.) You can also use third-party plug-ins to include output intents. For documents with named output intents rather than embedded profiles, the program looks for the color profile associated with the named intent.

Create output intents

  • Choose Tools > Print Production > Preflight. On the Output Intents tab of Preflight Preferences, do one of the following:

    • To create a new output intent from scratch, click the Create A New Output Intent icon .
    • To create an output intent based on an existing one, select an option from the list on the left, and then click the Duplicate Selected Output Intent icon . An integer is appended to the name of the duplicated output intent.
  • Set output intent options.

Extract an output intent for reuse

You can extract an embedded output intent from another PDF, and then add it to the list of output intents in Preflight preferences.

  • On the Output Intents tab of Preflight Preferences, click Capture.

  • Locate the file with the embedded output intent you want and open it.

The output intent appears at the end of the list, with a name that indicates it was captured from a certain type of file, for example, “Captured Output Intent from PDF/X file.”

Export an ICC profile from an output intent

  • Choose Tools > Print Production > Preflight. On the Output Intents tab ofPreflight Preferences, select the output intent and click ExportICC Profile.

  • Specify a name and location, and click Save.

    The ICC profile appears with the other ICC profiles in the Profiles folder.

Delete an output intent

  • On the Output Intents tab of Preflight Preferences, select the output intent and click Delete  .

  • Confirm the deletion.