Export PDF to true black in Finale, and a macro for all parts [updated for any PDF]


Note: Finale version 27.4 fixes this issue, for newly-created documents within Finale, if Use RGB is unchecked in Finale Print Options, in the Print: section. See this post for more information.

This post was updated on July 14, 2022 with new information about how to make an existing PDF into true black and white.

The official Finale user manual provides the following instructions “To create a PDF document from a Finale file“:

  1. Open the file in Finale.
  2. Choose File > Print. The Print dialog box appears.
    1. If your document contains linked parts, you are then asked to indicate which parts you would like to print. Select the desired parts/score and click OK.
  3. Click the PDF button in the lower left and choose Save as PDF.
  4. Give the file a name, select the destination and click Save.
  5. OS X creates the PDF and saves it to the specified location.

This is further reinforced in one of the Finale tutorials. Indeed, this is how I have been creating PDFs from Finale on Mac OS X and macOS for as long as I can recall – through the File > Print dialog and using Save as PDF.

The File > Print dialog in Finale

But every so often I’d have a strange issue where either the files I created and printed offsite would print in color, or even on my own machines, the printer would print using all four color drums even though I had specified “black and white” — and only with PDFs created from Finale, never with document created from Sibelius or other notation software.

I managed to work around the issue one way or another, but it turns out I wasn’t the only one with this problem. This has been a known issue for several years — “Printing” to PDF from the File > Print dialog resulted in files that were not true black output.

The solution/workaround: Export to PDF using the Graphics Tool

One reliable way to actually create true black output in PDFs from Finale is to use the Graphics Tool.

You must be in View > Page View in order to do this — and viewing the score or part that you wish to export (from the Document menu, choose Edit Score or Edit Part and the desired part).

Once in Page View, go to the Graphics menu (which will appear when the Graphics Tool is selected) and choose Graphics > Export Pages.

From the Type: dropdown, choose PDF. You can select All pages or a page range.

Click OK.

Sure enough, the results are appreciably different. This can be inspected using Digital Color Meter on Mac or other tools like within Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Result using Save as PDF via File > Print
Result using Graphics Tool > Export Pages > PDF

The major downside of this approach is that if you need to export an entire set of parts, it must be done one at a time. Unless… you have a macro…

Export Parts to PDF using Keyboard Maestro

Thanks to Finale user and Scoring Notes reader Doug Bakkum, I’m now the proud user of a Keyboard Maestro macro to automate the creation of parts using Graphics > Export Pages.

If you’re a Finale power user, you probably already have Keyboard Maestro, which can do everything from assigning simple keystrokes to all of your tools, to advanced macros like this one.

The first of many steps in the Export Parts to PDF macro for Keyboard Maestro and Finale

With Doug’s enthusiastic permission, I’m very happy to share the Keyboard Maestro script directly with Scoring Notes readers. You may obtain it by clicking on this link directly, and importing it straight into Keyboard Maestro.

Doug offers the following information about this macro:

I assigned the “tilde” key to call the macro. Once called, the macro asks you if the score is correctly transposed. If not, it stops. If OK, it then asks how many parts you want to export (“x”). Then, loops through the process “x” number of times. When done, it beeps and opens the enclosing folder in a new Finder window – and shows a notification.

I ALWAYS invoke it from the score – the macro assumes you are viewing the score as it starts looping from there – advancing (x=x+1) for each part. This could also be interpreted as a design flaw, as it forces the exporting to start with the first part in your piece. If you type in a large number – it simply keeps advancing to the next part/score till the number is reached.

The macro isn’t “smart” about score order… it only saves out the parts in the order they are listed in the “edit parts” dialog. So if a user re-arranges that list – the exported PDFs would be exported in that edited list order, not a true score order.

This part can be greatly improved by making sure the score is visible automatically or somehow allowing the user to pick specific parts to export from a checklist, popup, etc…

I just haven’t had time to add additional functionality of late. Maybe you (or anyone, really) can improve it with some great ideas!!!

Please let me know if you or anyone might improve on it – would love to see how it could develop into something a little more “bullet proof” to the average Finale user. A novice user might easily interrupt it while it’s running – causing an abort. And some of the KM scripting gets somewhat advanced.

Enjoy the macro – you may pass it along to anyone/everyone as needed. If someone adds functionality – send me the updates – would love to see it grow.

To that end, if you find the macro useful and find ways to make it even better or more powerful in the way Doug describes, please leave us a comment, below, and if you’ve updated the script, feel free to add a link to download it (be aware that adding more than two links in a comment will automatically be flagged as spam by our web site).

Of course, we also hope that the underlying issue is addressed as well, but, as is often the case with Finale, there is more than one way of achieving results. In this case, the result is superior for those users needing true black output, and, with the help of Keyboard Maestro, opens up more possibilities, too.

Update: Make any PDF true black

The above solutions work if you have the Finale software and can export the PDFs from Finale. But what if you need to convert to true black, but don’t have Finale, and/or don’t have the original Finale files?

The solution I finally found — after lots of searching — was within Adobe Acrobat by going to Edit > Preflight…

  • Choose the library Essentials from the dropdown
  • Select the “wrench” icon (Select single fixups)
  • In the Color spaces, spot colors, inks section, select the Convert color to B/W fixup:

Click Fix.

Acrobat will prompt you to save the file. You can overwrite your existing file, or, optionally, save a copy if you do not wish to lose the original file, in which case you should give it a different name than the original file.

You’ll find that the resulting file is true black.

You can use Acrobat’s Create Droplet feature to automate these actions and easily make it a regular part of your routine.

Yes, you do need Adobe Acrobat Pro for this, but if you’re that concerned about printing high-quality output, then you probably have Acrobat already.

I hope this additional information is helpful. As I often do, I’m writing this solution on Scoring Notes so that my future self can refer to it when I forget how to do it in a few months from now!


  1. David Gaines

    Very interesting….is this only an issue with Mac OS or also with Windows?

  2. Jon Burr

    This is great ! Thank you both !

  3. Antonio Spagnolo

    Great macro! Thank you very much!

  4. Jon Burr

    In CMYK printing, “true black” looks lighter on the page than “rich black,” which is a mix of all 4 drums. The RGB settings for the default black are probably intended to yield “rich black” when converted to CMYK for inkjet, or process, printing.
    For my own uses, I prefer not to be using my other color tanks when printing…. and this can be achieved by Printer Setup options when printing the PDFs from Acrobat.
    The option is in Print>[checkbox: “Print In Grayscale”] – but, it’s also necessary to press the “Printer” button, and check “Black and White” and move the Quality slider to “Best.”
    The extra color information can be converted at even the final stage of output. In my experience, it does no harm to have the (unconverted) rich black information in the pdfs output from Finale.
    In the world of Offest printing, “Rich Black” produces a darker black on the page, because there’s 4 passes of ink, with black being most of it, and a mix of the others to darken the ink.
    If you’re laser printing with black and white, the above procedure works fine.
    Digital Metering will tell you the intention of the color mix, but not give you an accurate picture of the output.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Jon,

      Great info (as always).

      In my case, I only ever print to a laser printer. We do have a Ricoh Color laser which has CMYK. But when printing music I only ever want to use the K. What was happening occasionally, even when telling the printer to print black-and-white, as you have, somehow that information was not transmitted to the printer, and it printed in “color“ which actually did look darker as you say, but also fuzzier and with a slight color “glow” because even if the alignment is off by a small amount you’d notice it. And then when printing these files using only the K as intended, it appeared ever so slightly washed out.

      Now, using the procedures described in this post, I don’t have this problem and it only ever prints true black which is nice and crisp and dark on the page. Good stuff.

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