Printing :: OS X, PDF Error "not reading shading dictionary"


When I print my PowerCADD 6 drawings using Mac OS? X built in Print to PDF? feature I get an error "not reading shading dictionary" when the PDF file is opened on a Mac or Windows computer. Sometimes the error is "error reading postscript" What's wrong?


Mac OS X 10.2.x (10.2.8 or newer recommended), PowerCADD v6 (6.0.4 or newer recommended)

This article was updated Nov.20, 2003. Apple appears to have fixed their Print to PDF model and shading dictionary error with the introduction of Panther!


Results thus far in Mac OS X 10.3.1 (Panther) indicate the problem with Apple's Print to PDF may be fixed. Drawings using PowerCADD 6.0.6 in OS 10.3.1 with both linear and circular gradients have been successful. The PDF created using Apple's Print to PDF feature no longer displays the "not reading shading dictionary" error when opened on a Mac or PC. If you are experiencing the problem described in this article an upgrade to Panther is advised (we recommend testing your particular drawings on a machine running Panther in advance if at all possible to confirm you work does not contain other nuances which may be contributing to a problem).

The specifications on how to print to PDF files was written by Adobe and is, frankly, several thousand pages long. In those pages there is 'room for interpretation' and that's what's happened in this case with Apple's implementation when printing to a PDF File?.

In the case of "not reading shading dictionary" errors, the drawing being printed contains gradient fills. Those gradient fills contain enough color shading information that it causes Apple's print to PDF to 'choke'. (Fixed in Panther OS 10.3.1)

There are also known problems with some fonts not being correctly embedded (included) with the PDF file which don't typically produce an error message but can in some cases. In all cases, when a font embedding problem occurs, the file looks fine on the Mac OS X machine that created the PDF but doesn't render properly to screen or print when opened on a Windows machine. (Testing is underway to determine if this issue is fixed in Panther OS 10.3.1, this article will be updated as new information uncovered)

What to do

There are couple of choices in how to fix the problem.

Option A: don't use gradient fills

This isn't a pretty option and may not be practical in all cases. However, if you only have a small number of gradient fills in a drawing and don't have access to the tools mentioned in Option B then it may be worth considering to get you past this deadline.

Option B: don't use Apple's Print to PDF feature in Mac OS X 10.2.x

Rather than using Apple's Print to PDF feature (which is the essence of the problem), use Acrobat Pro or Acrobat Standard for Mac OS X to create your PDF Files. All your gradient fills will print correctly. Not only does it address the "not reading shading dictionary" problem but it also provides a great deal more flexibility and addresses potential problems with embedding fonts which can also occur when using Apple's Print to PDF Feature.

Option C: (added Nov20, 2003) : upgrade to Mac OS X 10.3.1 (Panther)

Tests thus far indicate gradient fills print fine when using apple's Print to PDF feature. We are current testing the embedded font issue and will post our findings here as they become available.

We hope that helps

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