CMYK Illustrator - print only black


Hope someone can help with this little gem, cuz I can’t find anyone who’s posted anything on this.
I’ve set a preset in Illustrator (CS3) to print to an Accu-set printer, but the color separations always automatically fill in all four colors, and print all four colors. The preset doesn’t hold just the black selection to print.

I need to print negatives to film, so I only need the black to print, and I can’t figure it out (and I can’t try 100 different settings in real-life at $300 a roll for film!)
I’ve read the dictionary… problem is, I’m not good enough to figure out what I need to use: color management, color seps, inks, ink properties, etc. And, I don’t exactly know how to include these settings in the final print options statement even if I did know. Anyone who’s tried to script the printing aspect of illustrator probably feels my pain right now. Printing and all its options is just plain confusing to me.

Is there anyone who can give me a general script of how a printing handler should be set up, with variables, layout, etc. that I can use to take apart and learn the proper way to set something like this up now and in the future? Especially with regards to CMYK printing and color separations.

Any websites on learning how to script illustrator would be helpful, too, as everything I have is “dictionary-like” and doesn’t give adequate examples on how to use stuff. I think you need to be born with the “Applescript Gene” to figure this stuff out on your own!

Thanks in advance!

Rather than setting your script to print to the Accuset (and wasting film), could you set it up to print separations to a lazer printer (fitting to page!!) to test its behaviour. Then when you figure out scripting separations from Illustrator, you can just change the target printer in your script.

Perhaps I’m not fully understanding what it is you are trying to accomplish though…If you have a CMYK image, and you just print the black, you are going to be missing a lot of info from the CMY plates. Is your image grayscale and you only need the one plate? If so, Illustrator will automatically print only the black plate.

If for some reason it’s still outputting all 4 plates and you can’t coerce it to print just K, I would suggest printing it to a PDF printer as separations, and then have applescript delete the CMY pages (plates). You’ll be left with just the black plate, and you can check the file before hand so as not to waste film.

For the AI scripting reference, go into your application folder: Illustrator CS3: Scripting: Documentation for all the scripting guides.


Illustrator will only print separable colors so if your process colors are imaging unexpectedly (and yes, a blank plate is unexpected!), then your files are not clean.

Make sure your operators are vending you clean files (even if you are the only operator):stuck_out_tongue: and this shouldn’t be an issue. (I actually had to track down some process color for an operator this morning and show him what to look for and how to correct / avoid it in the future.)

GIGO - clean files in = good output. A normalized workflow makes scripting is much easier as well as gaining a staff of competent trained people.

(Sorry, I do this (workflow engineering and automation) for a living (currently focused on Illustrator but you name it I’ve probably scripted it at some point) and had to butt in.)

Thanks for the info guys! Here’s a little more info on what we do with this file…

(If it was possible, I could load a .pdf file of what I’m trying to print so you would know what we’re trying to accomplish, but I don’t know if that’s possible)

Basically, we print this file to a negative film, which is then used to burn magnesium plate via a light-table to make dies for hot-stamping various products. That’s why just the black needs to print. It HAS to be 100% K because the light will make it’s way through any other variant and cause halftones on the magnesium, effectively rendering it useless.
It’s very easy to select “Host-based separations”, negative, then de-select the other 3 colors and print the document. That’s what I’m trying to re-create with the script. The script will also does other things: prints 2 monochrome copies to a laser printer for documentation purposes, saves a copy of the document to a server for future potential use, etc. The document does contain one or more of the other 3 CMYK colors, they just cannot be allowed to print to the negative.

This one step is the one giving me the headache. Yep, I consulted the documentation in the dictionary and the scripting documentation folder, and there looks to be a method to choose the ink to print with under the

{class:color separation options, inks, list of ink, ink properties, KIND} section of the dictionary.

But, it’s THIS area that I’m having the problem with. Unlike JOB SETTINGS, PAPER SETTINGS, etc. under PRINT OPTIONS, there’s no INK SETTINGS category. So, I’m lost as to how to use this parameter, and where to put the values, and where to include it in the final PRINT OPTIONS.

I don’t want to learn how to script the GUI for this, because it would only make sense to me that something so visual and accessible in the print prompt should be fairly non-complex to script, eh? I’m curious about what was said about .pdf printing b/c that’s something I haven’t gotten into yet. If that’s relevant in this case, can someone elaborate further?

And, although I picked up Applescript in an attempt to fix a script left in place by a previous employee (successfully, I might add!), this may turn into a full time profession, so I’m very focused on learning how things work and how I can make them work correctly, as opposed to work-arounds that work, if that makes any sense.

That’s what makes everyone’s input so valuable to me! I study it all!!

As always, thanks for any help you can provide…


I found this would probably go under COLOR SEPARATION SETTINGS, under Job Options. But, I still don’t know how to incorporate the inks properties and list into that.


Looks like I might have to copy everything from Illustrator and paste it into InDesign, as it has this beautiful, scriptable way to accomplish what I’m trying to do:

set print ink of ink “Process Magenta” of document 1 to false
set print ink of ink “Process Cyan” of document 1 to false
set print ink of ink “Process Yellow” of document 1 to false
set print ink of ink “Process Black” of document 1 to true

I know Bullfrog said you can’t do this in Illustrator unless the file is somehow corrupt, but isn’t it possible to script the GUI for this? Sorry for being so anal about this, but I just feel there is SOME way to do this, especially since you can do it manually.

Thanks again, everyone!