10 Pre-Press Tips For Perfect Print Publishing

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A lot of designers think CMYK is the way to go when designing for print. We will, of course, always use CMYK-based ink, but this does not mean you have to work with CMYK files. You can work with RGB images to perfectly optimize your print colors and save a great deal of time in the process.

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1. Use RGB Color Mode For Photoshop Images

For several of the following tips to work, you will have to create and save all of your Photoshop images and artwork in RGB color mode. If you’re a veteran designer, you probably think this goes against what you’ve been taught, which is to use CMYK color mode. Well, technology has come a long way, and nowadays RGB color mode is better because it produces a wider range of colors and allows you to use one image for several media, including print and Web.

Screenshot

Think of it this way: RGB colors (red, green, and blue) are created with light. That’s why your computer monitor and TV use RGB colors to produce its fantastic range of colors. CMYK colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and key, or black), on the other hand, are created by putting ink to paper. “Ink-on-paper colors” will never be as bright or saturated as the colors on your computer screen or TV, no matter how much ink you add to the paper. So, to get the widest range of colors possible, you need to save all of your Photoshop files in RGB color mode. Most of the time, you won’t even have to think about it, because almost every photographer will supply you with RGB images. All you have to do is keep them in that mode.

Screenshot
A 3-D map showing the range of the Adobe RGB (1998) color space, the sRGB (or small RGB) color space and the common newspaper CMYK color space. sRGB’s range is much smaller than Adobe RGB’s. Working in the Adobe RGB color space would result in much brighter colors. The range of the CMYK color space is much narrower. Especially for this newspaper, the white in CMYK mode isn’t white at all. It’s more of a dirty brown.

2. Specify The Right Color Settings

To successfully use an RGB image in Adobe InDesign, you first need to specify the appropriate color settings. Fortunately, Adobe has made it really easy for you to specify the right settings and quickly apply them across its Creative Suite. This is where Adobe Bridge comes in.

To specify a color setting in Adobe Bridge, choose Edit → Creative Suite Color Settings and then select your region: either “North America Prepress 2,” “Europe Prepress 2″ or “Japan Prepress 2.” If your region isn’t displayed in the dialog box, select “Show Expanded List Of Color Settings Files” at the bottom of the dialog box. After clicking “Apply,” the setting you have specified will be applied to Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and Acrobat.

3. Ditch Photoshop EPS Files And Use PSD Files Instead

After your images and artwork have been saved in RGB color mode and you’ve specified the right color settings, it’s time to start designing. Do you still keep a copy of your native Photoshop (PSD) files and save TIFF or EPS versions, which you then import into InDesign? If so, you’re missing out on some valuable opportunities.

If you’ve been using InDesign for a while, you probably already know that it honors transparency effects in PSD files, but that’s not all. When you import PSD files, InDesign also honors clipping paths, spot colors, alpha channels, duotone colors and vector information (such as Smart Objects). You can even access all the layers in a PSD file by selecting “Show Import Options” when you import an image or choosing Object → Object Layer Options after importing an image. With all of these time-saving opportunities, saving all of your Photoshop images in the PSD file format is a no-brainer.

4. Accurately Simulate CMYK While Working In RGB

Keep in mind that even though you’re importing RGB images with bright and saturated colors, InDesign actually shows you what the CMYK equivalent of each image will look like. So, how does InDesign make that color conversion properly? Well, because you’ve specified the appropriate color settings in Adobe Bridge, InDesign will use those settings to accurately display each RGB image when it’s converted to CMYK color mode.

InDesign even goes a step further and shows you exactly how the colors in a layout will appear when printed on a certain type of paper using a specific output device. Simply choose View → Proof Setup → Custom. Then choose an output device from the “Device to Simulate” pop-up menu, and select the “Simulate Paper Color” option. After clicking “Okay,” the color of your pages will change, and your images will appear darker and less saturated. So, to get a good idea of how your layout will appear when printed on coated paper using a sheet-fed printer, choose “U.S. Sheetfed Coated v2.” This feature is great because it gives you an accurate idea of how your colors will appear when they’re printed.

If you use Photoshop, you may be wondering, “Wouldn’t it be nice if Photoshop could do the same trick, so that I can see what happens to my RGB images when they’re converted to CMYK?” Well, of course it can. Just choose View → Proof Colors, and make sure that “Working CMYK” is specified by choosing View → Proof Setup → Working CMYK. When you proof colors, you’re not actually changing the color mode of the image, so you can continue working in RGB color mode while simulating CMYK. This is yet another reason not to convert your Photoshop files to CMYK.

Screenshot
The top part of this image is a “SoftProof” of how this RGB image will appear when printed in a newspaper. The bottom part shows the original sRGB. The dirty color is actually the color of the paper. As you can see, the color of the paper affects all other colors.

5. Selecting the Right CMYK Output Profile For The Job

There are many different kinds of paper, such as recycled and brownish paper for newspapers, glossy paper for magazines, uncoated paper for stationary and bright-white coated paper for high-quality brochures. As you can imagine, each type has different characteristics when it comes to printing. The recycled paper sucks up more ink, and if you don’t take this into account, your beautiful full-color photos will become too dark, and the ink will blur over the paper, creating an ugly brownish effect.

So, how do you optimize artwork for all of these different kinds of papers? Well, that’s the easy part. Standard CMYK inks have been tested on every type of paper to the extreme. The way cyan, magenta, yellow and black are printed on a specific type of paper is documented in an ICC profile. All you need to do is download these free “Color Profiles” and select the right one when you export a PDF using InDesign (Export → Output → Color Conversion & Destination). If you’re not sure what kind of paper your printer will use, simply ask them. Most printers would rather answer a simple question than clean up colors afterward.

The information provided by the color setting that you specified in Adobe Bridge is used by InDesign to determine how to convert RGB images to the CMYK color space when you output a document. By using InDesign instead of Photoshop to make that conversion, you gain the benefits outlined in the following point.

6. Use InDesign Instead Of Photoshop To Make The Final Color Conversion

There are several good reasons to let InDesign do the conversion:

  • Images are all converted at the same time instead of one at a time before you import each into InDesign.
  • You can reuse the same image for different purposes. For instance, you might want to re-use the image on your website for a brochure, magazine or newspaper. If you let InDesign do the color conversion, it will optimize your RGB images for whatever output device and type of paper you choose.
  • You can simulate how the colors in a layout will appear on different kinds of paper using the same RGB images.

When you use Photoshop to convert all of your images to CMYK before importing them into your InDesign layouts, you prevent InDesign from optimizing the color for different output devices and paper types. If you make the conversion to CMYK first and start designing later, you might unwittingly alter the “maximum ink” and other important color-related characteristics that were pre-defined in your Photoshop file when Photoshop converted your RGB image to CMYK.

As a result, when you work on the colors and contrast later, what you see on screen won’t be what you get in print because you have altered the optimal colors.

7. Download All The Profiles

Different CMYK Color Profiles are available for different kind of papers and print processes. Several organizations provide top-of-the-line ICC profiles, all of which can be downloaded for free at the bottom of this page. The most common are:

  • Newspaper: ISOnewspaper
  • Magazines: ISOWebcoated
  • Full Color Offset:
  • U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2
  • ISOCated_v2
  • ISOuncoated
  • Europe ISOCoated FOGRA27
  • (or the new one, FOGRA39)

8. Exporting A Perfect CMYK PDF Using RGB Images

Once you’ve downloaded and installed the ICC profiles, they’ll be available to InDesign. You don’t even need to select the right profile and assign it to your InDesign document. All you have to do is select the right ICC profile when you export the document to PDF (Export → Output → Color Conversion & Destination). Although you don’t need to assign the right CMYK profile, I would recommend it, because it allows InDesign to match the colors when you select the “Proof Colors” command.

After choosing File → Export and specifying Adobe PDF as the file format, select the “Output” category on the left side of the “Export Adobe PDF” dialog box. Choose the appropriate CMYK destination from the “Destination” menu, so that InDesign can optimally convert all RGB images to CMYK. Also, be sure to select “Convert to Destination (Preserve Numbers)” from the “Color Conversion” menu so that the colors you’ve created in InDesign will maintain their original values.

9. Avoiding Errors When Using RGB Images And Spot Colors

You can use RGB images even when producing a high-end brochure that has die-cut embossed areas and spot UV coating. All you have to do is lay everything out in InDesign and then use a spot color to define the areas that will be die-cut, embossed or UV-coated. Make sure that the spot color objects are placed on top of the RGB images and that they are set to overprint: choose Window → Attributes to open the “Attributes” panel and select “Overprint Fill.”

When you export the document to PDF, the RGB images will convert to CMYK, and all of your spot colors will remain unchanged. I recommend that you check the color separations in Adobe Acrobat to make sure that everything that needs to overprint has been set to “Overprint” (Advanced → Print Production → Output Preview).

Screenshot
The cover of a brochure for a well-known Dutch beer brand. Adobe InDesign’s “Separations Preview” shows the RGB image in CMYK. Scene 2 shows the parts that will be highlighted using a glossy ultraviolet coating. Scene 3 is the part that will be embossed. Scene 4 shows all of the colors combined. (The combined image looks a bit weird because the UV coating and embossed parts have been given a extra spot color so that the printer can keep them separate from the full-color artwork).

10. Share Your PDF Files With Acrobat.com

Now you have but one problem to solve: getting that high-resolution PDF to your client and the printer. Email won’t work because a high-resolution PDF is usually too big. Most printers offer an FTP website, but many clients don’t know how to use FTP. Fortunately, sending out large files is much easier with Acrobat.com, which is a free Web-based service provided by Adobe.

With this incredibly easy and free service, you get your own online storage where you can upload high-resolution PDF files. You can notify your client and printer via email that a PDF is ready to download. And the email even contains a preview of the PDF. If you don’t want Adobe to email your clients, Acrobat.com lets you create a short URL to include in your own email. You can create an online “vault” if you wish, but no log-in or registration is required by default for your client or printer to access the PDF. You can even share PDF files on your website or blog using the embed code provided.

Screenshot
This email is automatically generated when you upload a PDF to Acrobat.com. Feel free to take a look at the PDF file of this brochure (which I’ve downsized to 100 dpi). I’ve shared it on Acrobat.com. Click this link to see it: https://share.acrobat.com/adc/document.do?docid=6ba6d3e1-988e-4452-83bf-2fe0367491715

Further Resources

All of the color profiles and tricks in this article can be used throughout the entire Creative Suite: 1, 2, 3 and 4. ICC Profiles can be accessed from the following directories:

  • Mac OS X: …/Library/ColorSync/Profiles
  • Windows: …Windowssystem32spooldriverscolor

Owning a copy of Adobe Acrobat is not necessary, but the application comes in handy when checking the PDF files that you’ve exported from Adobe InDesign. Adobe Acrobat even lets you see which destination profile you have specified in InDesign by choosing Advanced → Print Production → Output Preview. Quark XPress users can use these same ICC profiles.

Keep in mind that experimenting with color can create undesired results if you’re not sure what you’re doing. I highly recommend speaking with your printer before altering your workflow because he won’t be expecting color-optimized artwork if you’ve never bothered to submit it before. Should you have any doubts about the colors in a design, ordering a color proof on paper is always a good idea.

Related posts

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(Illustrations by Frank De Man.)

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Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/04/16/switch-from-print-to-web-where-to-start/
  2. 2 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/10/02/the-ultimate-round-up-of-print-design-tutorials/
  3. 3 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/04/21/creative-print-typography-layouts/
  4. 4 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/02/11/award-winning-newspaper-designs/
  5. 5 https://share.acrobat.com/adc/document.do?docid=6ba6d3e1-988e-4452-83bf-2fe036749171
  6. 6 http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/detail.jsp?ftpID=3680
  7. 7 http://www.eci.org/doku.php?id=en:downloads
  8. 8 http://www.ugra.ch/index.php?session=29403&show=197
  9. 9 http://www.color.org/iccprofile.xalter
  10. 10 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/04/16/switch-from-print-to-web-where-to-start/
  11. 11 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/10/02/the-ultimate-round-up-of-print-design-tutorials/
  12. 12 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/04/21/creative-print-typography-layouts/
  13. 13 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/02/11/award-winning-newspaper-designs/

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Marco Kramer is a graphic designer who works in the Netherlands. He specializes in the technical aspects of the design process. As such, he refers to his position as Digital Engineer. Marco has been publishing articles about pre-press and design-related topics for eight years on his blogs DigitalEngineer.net and MacMojo. He has recently started publishing articles for an international audience.

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  1. 1

    Martin Bentley Krebs

    October 27, 2009 7:50 am

    Very well written and explained. My only disagreement is your opinion that RGB is “better.” I would still contend that in spite of all of the proofing devices available to show what your brighter RGB colors will look like in CMYK, there are print limitations that prevent you from producing those brighter colors with CMYK ink. To design without those limitations in mind is somewhat shortsighted.

    I understand that “technology has come a long way,” but there are still fundamentals at play here. An inherent knowledge of CMYK formulas that reproduce well when printed never hurt anyone.

    Thank you, though, for explaining the many advantages to working in RGB… perhaps this “old dog” will learn a new trick or two!

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  2. 2

    Is the assumption here that we’re talking about digital printing and not offset?

    -1
  3. 3

    My suggestion is if you want to work in RGB, then fine, but convert to CMYK before you make the PDF. You will always be sure that your file will print correctly this way.

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  4. 4

    Your author seriously needs re-check their facts if they think leaving photos in RGB is better. This reflects ignorance about the key differences of both colorspaces. It is too strong and generic statement.

    It would have been very important to stress the one scenario in which this is true: if someone who does not know the benefits of the CMYK colorspace (ie beginners). If you don’t know how to use curves or sharpen in CMYK, by all means leave them in RGB because simply going to PS and converting won’t make a difference, since InDesign or a RIP can handle it just as easily.

    However, if you know curves and the sharpening/contrast advantages that are available in CMYK, simply letting a program or a RIP with the task of converting images will simply do sub-par work.

    Claiming that RGB is “better” is also open to debate — it greatly depends on the intended goal and context if RGB, Lab or CMYK will produce superior results. Generally, yes, you have more colors in RGB. However, lots of colors in RGB are simply unprintable on a press, especially if you are supplied photos in the ProPhotoRGB colorspace, to a degree that is hard to demonstrate on the screen.

    Sincerely,
    Rene

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  5. 5

    I second Rene’s point. This is one of the better print tutorials I’ve seen on a web design site, but it is still overly simplistic. The gamuts shown in the animated gif at top is unrepresentative of the experience most designers will face. You may run a newspaper ad every now and then, but you will most certainly design brochures, business cards, and presentation folders much more frequently. These products will be printed by a commercial printer. A small printer won’t conform to any standard and you will need to contact them directly to get their ICC profiles. Use them. If you’re lucky, or if they’re mid-size or larger, they conform to GRACOL or SWOP. CMYK in the SWOP and especially GRACOL color profiles have regions that officially exceed the gamut of Adobe RGB in the cyan and magenta color areas. If you convert to CMYK in Photoshop, you can enhance these areas (most notably, skies) before you go to print.

    Additionally, if you are working in CMYK, you really can do more to the image by adjusting the black than you can in RGB. If you want to trust your conversion to an algorithm, be my guest. However don’t be surprised if you end up with a 1.37% screen of black in your highlights. What’s a better way to fix this? mess with all your RGB colors? Or just remove the black and preserve your colors? No serious photographer, color management / prepress expert, or publication designer would ever leave this to chance.

    Case in point, National Geographic. They have a full-time individual whose sole duty is to optimize images for print. This person is in constant communication with his counterpart at their printer. They work together as a team to ensure optimal image characteristics. Guess what color mode they work in? Don’t tell me you can’t tell a difference.

    Finally, there is one factual error. Except in rare instances, commercial printers don’t create color profiles based on the paper type. Their profiles are dependent on their platesetters and presses. You can however preview the paper color in Acrobat’s output preview by fudging around with the colors a bit.

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  6. 6

    Jeez, I speak as a pre-press Mac Operator – one way to look like an amateur and wind up your printer is to use RGB colours. You’ll lose their faith in you as a supplier of quality artwork and 9/10 you’ll be disappointed with the colour conversions.

    The majority of artworkers aren’t clued up about colour management settings etc. and to be honest alot of printers just want to run your files through their system using their settings.

    If in doubt don’t leave it to chance, ASK the pre-press/printers how they want the file supplied.

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  8. 8

    Outstanding tips. Greatly appreciated!

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  9. 9
  10. 10

    Interesting, have to try it !

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  11. 11

    very good ! Thanks

    0
  12. 12

    the use of Pantone colors is also very interresting. Once you learn how to deal with them, it’s a pleasure to work with. Of course, the colors are not made for photos. Nice post ;)

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  13. 13

    Whether to use RGB or CYMK is very dependent on your output media and its established work flow. For instance, those of us working on newsprint or systems designed for newsprint will still be using CMYK most likely. Using RGB is just as Martin noted… poor representation of the actual printed media and likely to screw up any color management system design to work around CMYK. And to eliminate EPS is another possible error in color management vs. PSD not to mention added file size for preview images that could have been 8bit for layout purposes speeding up screen refresh time which is really important when dealing with lots of images in say a car advertisement in a layout program like InDesign.

    These are good tips, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t think we can say they work on every situation because it all depends on the system in which the final work is output from and how they are used in their work flow.

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  14. 14

    This reads like an Adobe press release.

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  15. 15

    I’m confused. In my experience all printing companies require CMYK if you are printing on a traditional press.

    Even on a digital press like the Xerox iGen4 there will be color shifts due to RBG to CMYK conversion. Is there any press out there that prints true RGB? I don’t think so. (Please enlighten me if i’m wrong.)

    Also consider the costs. A digital press is considered a “brand new technology” in many printing companies it often comes with a premium. It’s important to consider your qty and available budget. If you are printing in high qty, you will often get a much better cost on a traditional press.

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  16. 16

    I agree that there is a benefit to RGB/PDF workflow but I also have to slightly agree with rpsms. I still use Quark and, although it’s gone out of fashion slightly, I still know quite a few people using it, and my printer tells me he’s still getting more jobs in it than in ID.

    While this is a good article I think it might benefit from being updated, either with a new title to reflect the focus on one publishing program, or with how to do the same things in the industry’s other major platform.

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  17. 17

    @Martin Bentley Krebs : +5

    It is not a great idea (all time) to work with your PSD file instead or TIFF, especially when you have many layers with different modes, and sure you should noticed time it takes to important these PSD images and it depends in the end of you habits and workflow.

    But great tips indeed. Still there’s a large graphic designers community using Quark XPress.

    1
  18. 18

    I agree with Martin. How can you be sure of what you’re gonna get if RGB has millions of colors while CMKY has thounsands?
    I can’t see another way to get exactly what you want but to work with CMKY all the way.

    0
  19. 19

    @ Synthetic Tone:
    You wrote: Poor representation of the actual printed media”.
    Almost every newspaper uses a PDF workflow (at least for incoming ads). As such using ISO newspaper color-profiles to convert your RGB-images to Newspaper CMYK is a great leap forward when you value the color of your artwork. As long as you have a decent monitor and calibrate it, you’ll do quite well in predicting the color of the printed ad.

    About the EPS: As long as you deliver a press-ready PDF it won’t matter if you used a PSD or not ;-) The only advantage will be to the user (that is you).

    “Is the assumption here that we’re talking about digital printing and not offset?”
    @Joe: It does not matter really. Everything gets converted to CMYK-PDF in the end.

    I’m confused. In my experience all printing companies require CMYK if you are printing on a traditional press.
    @Paul: Please understand all RGB-images get converted to CMYK in the final PDF the printer receives.

    How can you be sure of what you’re gonna get if RGB has millions of colors while CMKY has thounsands?
    @Breno: Thats where to soft-proofing comes in. InDesign can use the ICC-profile. Perhaps I didn’t make this clear enough in the article. InDesign / Acrobat and Photoshop can soft-proof the CMYK-colors. It will look EXACTLY the same like it would when you actually converted the image to CMYK.

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  20. 20

    @Marco I understand I have used Ps’ softproof a lot, but why waste time using a color profile that won’t be used? ( I mean that for artwork, designs, illustrations etc. not photos)

    0
  21. 21

    Away with the old and in with the new! This is an excellent, as well as extremely informative, article. To me this makes perfect sense, although I can see how many factors play into the overall scheme. Some printers just aren’t technically set up for this kind of challenge yet.

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  22. 22

    we touched on this in a fairly recent post by the same author. As I recall, he used himself as a citation regarding rgb workflow. When an author asserts something that is counter to a whole industry, he should have better cites IMO.

    In fact the only place I have seen similar assertions was in an adobe generated document about editable PDF preflighting.

    The real bottom line is this: whatever your printer wants, you give them. If it is counter to your experience you ask them a) “are you sure?/Did I hear you correctly?”; and b) “This is a learning opportunity for me: what has changed?”

    0
  23. 23

    excellent article! thank you

    0
  24. 24

    Wow. I didn’t know half of this stuff. Though, I hardly use inDesign anyway.

    0
  25. 25

    WOW!

    What a great article. Simple and to the point.
    I’ve been telling other Graphic Designers about your website, and now I’m going to send them this article.

    Thank you so much.

    0
  26. 26

    The RGB image format is an interesting technique, but what if the color of your designated RGB file doesnt print in the CMYK conversion you expected? i understand that you can view the CMYK PDF of the file, but i still feel without a printed proof, that technique is not a risk im gonna play with , especially with an expensive job. and i wouldnt want to waste time and money with the printers on an experiment …Plus, during proofs, you can always tell the printer to bump up the intesity to your CMY or K colors…. im interested for some extra feedback on this. what would you do ?

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  27. 27

    I think a problem may arise in using only RGB images when you collect and package a job through InDesign. Some printers still prefer the native file in addition to a high-resolution PDF. If that is the case, InDesign will collect the fonts and images…and they will be left in RGB mode (causing a possible headache for the printer).

    The article does present some new ideas which I plan to implement as part of my workflow. Thanks!

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  28. 28

    The RGB thing is misleading. Sure, you can do this, but it still comes down to the pre-press guys doing separations in CMYK. In the long run, NOT doing work for print in CMYK will cost you or your clients more money for pre-press work. Also, the colors on the final product will look much different than they do on screen. You could end up looking like an amateur. That’s fine, if this is what you want, but you should know this and your clients should as well.

    0
  29. 29

    Great article. A lot of the criticism in the comments ignores one important statement:

    “…RGB color mode is better because it produces a wider range of colors and allows you to use one image for several media, including print and Web.”

    If your purpose is to use one image for “print and Web”, then the article outlines how to get the exact proof of the CMYK output, and still benefit from the RGB color range that can be viewed on the web.

    0
  30. 30

    Martin Bentley Krebs

    October 27, 2009 10:45 am

    @James: The criticism you refer to as ignoring one important statement is, conversely, based on that statement. The author even confirms in the next paragraph that the wider, brighter range of colors available in RGB cannot be reproduced in CMYK, and that is exactly the point: why work in a virtual color format that cannot possibly be achieved in the real printed world? You have to know and understand the workings of CMYK in order to print something in it.

    0
  31. 31

    but why waste time using a color profile that won’t be used?
    @Breno: Well then use the color profile from your printer. If you can’t get that the standard profile Adobe, ECI or FOGRA provides will do just fine.

    @ rpsms: I certanly didn’t make any of this up. I wish I was that smart! Most of my sources are Dutch, Belgium and/or German. Here’s a PDF: http://www.marc-en-ciel.be/index.php?inc=01002&menopt=01000 (screenshots are English actually). And here is the website of a good friend of mine (and color-expert) http://www.colormanagement.nl/site/index.php?intl

    0
  32. 32

    Even though I believe I’m well versed in the design and prepress world, I can’t seem to understand why working in RGB (in Photoshop) is that important. Yes, it gives you a wider range of colours to work with. But at some point you have to run it through a rip to make press-plates… which is obviously in CMYK.

    So why is it better to work in RGB? You get the same endresult by working in a good colormanaged file right from the start right? At work we only keep the RGB-originals for web/online related stuff, but convert everything (the proper way) to a CMYK-colorprofile for print-related stuff. A rip will convert everything to CMYK anyway, and since a lot of our printwork is being printed all over the world, we like to keep the conversion to CMYK in our own control.

    Also, in RGB you can’t control the amount of black used, nor can you use PMS-colours when you make a custom Photoshop file. For example, if you need to replace the Cyan for a PMS 2995, you nééd to make the file in CMYK. Besides that, all images that are to be made print-ready, should as far as I know be converted to CMYK beforehand… but ónly if you know what you’re doing and work in a color-managed environment (calibrated monitors, good colorprofiles and such). On top of that, sometimes an image will be perfect in RGB, but looks “off” when properly converted to CMYK. There’s always a chance this will happen since only in CMYK will you properly be able to adjust the blacks and print-colors like the amount of Cyan. Paperchoices and printtechniques can also influence the need for a higher amount of any of the CMYK-group.

    I personally believe that all color corrections should first be done in RGB to keep the biggest gamut possible, and as soon as things are being made print-ready, re-check and re-do your images (if needed) in CMYK to get the optimal prínt-result.

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  33. 33

    You could create an entire site about prepress. And I am sure there are some out there. But I am not sold on the “Use RGB instead of CMYK” the point is to use colors that are printable, not just “more colors” that you can see on the screen. Send an RGB file to a printer will result in one of two things: The company sending the art back because it is “unusable” and it “does not confide in our requirements” or you will get some fresh out of college pre press tech who will bastardize the colors because they only have 20 minutes to get it to the printer.

    I’m usually a silent reader of your mag Smashing, and I think it is a great place for inspirationa dn direction. Don’t shake my faith boys.

    0
  34. 34

    Very good article Marco, i’m glad to see that you got it up on Smashing. This was very informational and useful.

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    @ Rene: Of course, sometimes, for some images it might be a good idea to sharpen, contrast or adjust the curves a bit more for CMYK. However the designer is always judging the end result of his image-tweeking on his monitor, e.g. in a RGB environment trying to simulate a CMYK-image. It is not at all that different from keeping the image RGB and soft-proofing or simulating CMYK. So by all means optimize, sharpen and make it perfect in CMYK. But understand you will have to do it all again *exactly the same* when you send out artwork again but for uncoated paper or a newspaper or magazine or even a website ;-)

    @Ryan: I showed rgb vs Newspaper because the ‘damage’ done to the colors is the biggest as newspaper has a very small colorspace. I could jut as easy show another CMYK-profile. But please test it for yourself. I used the standard colorsync tool for Mac OsX.

    “If you want to trust your conversion to an algorithm, be my guest.”
    I do suggest you softproof your work in P’shop or even InDesign and visually check what happens. You can optimize whatever you want before the actual *real* conversion in InDesign to CMYK-PDF.

    National Geographic is an outstanding magazine. I love their photo’s and articles and have nothing but the highest respect for their photographers and the circumstances they have to work in. But no so long ago those same high quality magazines refused to use digital photo’s because they were “inferior”. I would not want to be that guy doing the manual optimization of all images. Besides: Don’t they place the same images on their website?

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    “Send an RGB file to a printer ”
    “Don’t shake my faith boys”

    @ Orangetiki; please remain a silent reader or read the entire article before commenting. No one speaks of sending an RGB file to a printer.

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    Excellent post!

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    I have two question.

    The Pdfforge’s PDF Creator can really make PDF in CMYK colorspace?
    http://www.imageserve.info/img_store/2009/10/27/9/9fe9c7fe46461ff1eb9516b0aab60454.jpg
    http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator/

    And VeryPDF HTML Converter’s PDF output is RGB or CMYK? (Does anyone know this?)
    http://www.verypdf.com/htmltools/index.html

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    very good ! Thanks

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    the author is absolutely correct in his article, I work in prepress for quite a few years now, and also I work in RGB for pretty much everything I do, is it Magazines, Poster or brochures or whatever.

    What it actually means for your workflow is, RGB to CMYK conversation hasn’t to be done at the beginning of your work, it has to be done at the end (output pdf), and that’s where it belongs. With the prepress technology we have now, CMYK is not necessary anymore, as almost everything can be done in RGB.

    Don’t be afraid of RGB, it lets you make greater things than with CMYK, but with RGB, you really have to know Colormanagement and what to do with it.

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    Can’t agree more with Belifant: We started to use ecirgb as our working color space for print production a few years ago and don’t convert everything to CMYK at the beginning of the process. If you convert everything right at the beginning you loose color details that you might need later in the process depending on the output, and you’ll not get them back once converted (The 3-D map in the article shows this very good). As soon as you know the output media type you can start to (soft)proof.

    This article is a very good sum-up, way to go!

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    Just to clarify, I work exactly the way it is described in this article, and I pretty much work only in RGB. Still, I NEVER ever send out RGB data to a printer, whet ever it is PDF or packed Indesign data.

    What you do in a RGB workflow differently is to put the CMYK separation at the end of your process, not at the beginning.

    And, thinking of modern digital printers, they often have a much wider colour gammut than regular offset printers, especially hexachrome printers, so working and editing pictures in offset CMYK profiles will waste a lot of printable colours on the machine.

    Sorry for the writing mistakes, not an easy topic to write about as a not native-english speaker.

    @bigal: your statement is absolutely correct, in RGB workflow you have to know what you’re doing. But in RGB workflow you’re still doing the CMYK separation by yourself. If you wanna save yourself time and send RGB data to the printer, I also strongly suggest to check with them first and let them know you’re giving them RGB.

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    Printers print CMYK, not RGB. If you wait till the end of the workflow on a huge job and realise your work is all in RGB and has to be changed, you’re looking at a late print job, or one that gets printed badly.

    Many printers have older processes that don’t accept files with psd files in them. You’re better off going flattened tif for images, all in cmyk and 100%. Limits the possibility of error in production.

    It’s hard enough to print colors correctly, why make it harder? I completely disagree with this article, but thanks for sharing a different viewpoint.

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    Great article and even better comments coming through. Very informative.

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    @Nathaniel Flick
    Again, it’s only a change for your prepress workflow. In a RGB workflow, your printer gets the same data from you, a perfect CMYK converted PDF (usually). There’s no change in what you send to the printers, just in the way you created it.

    Once you get used to RGB, it’s making it easier and faster to work with.
    (That reminds me somehow on the Mac vs. Windows discussion :-)

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    Thank you for this article! As a web guy moving into print this article (and comments) are very interesting indeed! Keep it up SM.

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    A lot of people seem to like things old school and “the way we’ve always done things before”. Isn’t this very typical for “old dogs” when it comes to everything that speaks against what they once learned is the best and correct way to do it?

    I work with marketing communication and send stuff to a few different printers and magazines several times a week (ads, posters, brochures, roll-ups etc.). Besides that, I’ve been working as a freelance photographer for 9 years, so I encounter both RGB and CMYK “situations”. My predecessor at work always flattened every image, converted to grayscale, and saved it to a TIFF with the exact measurements and resolution needed, no larger, just to save hard drive space since we back then printed it in black/white anyway. That’s the way he taught me to do it with all photos when I started last year. Time for a knowledge update maybe? =)

    I agree with this article and have been using PSD-files in AdobeRGB in Indesign for a long time, since I often also shoot the photos. I never encounter any problems or complaints from printers or magazines with AdobeRGB-PSD’s in Indesign wether I pack the files or export the whole thing to a PDF. It’s about giving them what they need. Another advantage with using PSD-files in Indesign is that you can Alt+double-click the image in Indesign and edit it in Photoshop with all layers and paths intact, I do it all the time!

    To sum all of this up:

    1. Communicate with your printer/magazine and inform the person you send your e-mail to of what colour profiles you are using and how you exported/converted/packed your PDF/PSD/TIFF/EPS.

    2. Ask them for feedback and a reply to your e-mail, or give them a call, just to check so you know everything is OK. Simple, right?

    @Nathaniel: “You’re better off going flattened tif for images, all in cmyk and 100%.”
    Depends on how you look at it. If you work in CMYK from the start, sure, you’re safer color-wise. But flattening the image and not be able to edit it in PS with layers intact = not good.

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    I’m really surprised by the arguments given by the old school designers, I think they don’t really understand WHY it’s (absolutely) better to work in RGB, they say that RGB can poorly represent a CMYK model, but it’s EXACTLY the same representation that you’ll get in your monitor if you work in CMYK…

    And I read a comment that said something like “I know RGB has brighter colors but you can’t print all of them” but that is not the point… of course you can’t print them, but you’ll keep a lot more color information in your images, and for final printing you just convert to CMYK (either manually using specific curves or assigning a profile for any given output)

    And just one tip: When working on an RGB file on PS just pres Cmnd + Y to see how it would look in CMYK (it would look EXACTLY like in an actual CMYK file) So you can monitor whatever changes occur to an image in CMYK even if you’re working on RGB

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    Marco, I like this. I appreciate that you are taking the time to reply to comments. Let’s have a discussion about this then. I really wish SM would install the “subscribe to comments” plugin.

    You replied to Rene that the designer is “always judging the end result of his image-tweeking [sic] on his monitor.” Of course that isn’t always the case. On low-end jobs with tight budgets, your client may not want to pay for a proof. And in those cases it may not matter. But any time color is important, the designer would review hard proofs. Printed in at least CMYK. So I’m not sure where you’re going with that. If you see too much magenta in the proof, why make life difficult for yourself? Pull out magenta instead of red. By the time you’re checking the job on press and need to communicate with the press operator, it sure will be helpful to have an idea of what your image is made up of.

    You appear to have the impression that one would re-optimize art for printing on coated vs uncoated paper. What would the designer be doing in this case? In the worst-case scenario that the printer doesn’t compensate by applying a curve when printing on uncoated stock (I don’t know of one that doesn’t), you could just as easily apply that curve yourself through a dedicated profile that you apply when you write the PDF. No extra image optimization here. If you’re sending the same art to different printers, just use SWOP or GRACOL and use printers that comply with the standard.

    Regarding the varying gamuts. You couldn’t just as easily show any CMYK profile because you don’t have every CMYK profile. And most standard CMYK profiles do exceed sRGB in certain color areas. But I’ll cede you half of this point because I think you’re promoting Adobe RGB. SWOP can almost touch it in some areas and I believe GRACoL exceeds it a little bit but I don’t have any evidence of this offhand. BUT – a printer’s own proprietary profiles can certainly exceed the gamut of SWOP, GRACoL, and Adobe RGB (in some color areas). But you can’t test that in ColorSync without their profiles. Having the ability to further optimize images to make your piece stand out is extra work, for sure. But sometimes it’s worth it.

    So fine, you don’t want to optimize images. Your point that it is extra work to convert to CMYK in the app is valid, and you feel the trade-off of less control is acceptable. I personally am a perfectionist. In my mind, it’s worth the time to do it right for a superior product.

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    @Mr. M, @alfredo

    I’m certainly not an old school designer, I’m under 30. However I do have a degree in Graphic Communication and my Senior Project was a study of color gamuts in printing. I don’t mean to be argumentative here, but who is Marco and what are his qualifications to write this article anyway?

    I’m all in favor of PSD’s in InDesign. And I’m all in favor of doing most of the work in RGB, it would be a folly to convert to CMYK right off the bat. But I think it is a folly to blindly let an algorithm convert them for you. I GUARANTEE you will find weird crap like 1.37% black in some highlights in some places. Maybe you thought you had a solid fuschia area and it turns into 98.35% magenta. Obviously you want that to be 100% magenta. Up until CS4 the various Adobe programs didn’t even convert RGB to CMYK consistently from app to app! If you’re on CS3 you’re still rolling the dice, and of course CS4 is still based on an algorithm that works on averages. I’ve seen skin tones turn green thanks to an automatic conversion from RGB to CMYK. There is no perfect software algorithm.

    Of course your printers don’t complain about the way you send them art. They don’t care, they’ll let their RIP convert it. Let me tell you that not all RIPs are created equal. Even Prinergy 5 which is the latest, highest-end RIP from Kodak still doesn’t do a great job. I would actually prefer a Photoshop conversion over Prinergy and Prinergy uses the Adobe PDF rendering engine.

    I can understand you guys saying “it’s too much work for too little gain, it’s just not worth it.” But I promise you, if you spent the time optimizing your images in CMYK using the right profiles and you print with a quality printer, you will notice a difference. Like I said before, just look at NatGeo.

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    Use RGB images and let InDesign make the CYMK rip for you — that’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.

    Granted technology has come a long way and I’m sure InDesign *can* do it but there are reasons why CYMK should be used in print production.

    RGB (Red Green Blue) aren’t real colors — which means they’re not used in professional print production. They’re only used for monitor display. RGB also has a much wider color gamut than CYMK that can’t be fully reproduced in 4-color printing. This is also why any color correcting is done in CYMK mode and why simply converting an RGB image to CYMK can produce images that are out of gamut.

    Following this process, one would need to keep going back and forth between color correcting, previewing the image, and then back to color correcting to achieve the desired results. That’s a lot of steps to go through when you can achieve better results in Photoshop — and with fewer steps.

    I feel that the best way to get the results you need is to learn about the printing process, color separations, get some good info on color correcting and know how your project will be printed (digitally or offset) before you start working with images. This will give you much better results over time.

    That said, #3 “Ditch Photoshop EPS Files And Use PSD Files Instead” and #5 “Selecting the Right CMYK Output Profile For The Job” are good print production tips.

    Appreciate the links to the color profiles. I’m going to forward them.

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    Nice try Marco, but no thanks.

    ” … to perfectly optimize your print colors …” you have to go CMYK!

    Color-control (to get what you want to see) is one of the most important design-technique-elements. Use an RGB-image in an high-end annual-report, and it will be your last job. You have to convert the image ! To proof it, and to correct it in the proper way. BTW don’t forget to calibrate your monitor – essential! To get the perfect result you also need to go to the printing-machine – beside every ISO-guideline is something very special – it’s called: feeling.

    a veteran designer

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    funny that this post appears on the same date as the book announcement is sent to the people who pre-ordered..

    seems something like: “ok, we figured out how it is done, sent it to the printer, and wrote an article about it too” ;) ;) ;)

    nice article, but the color conversion would definitely spark some debate, i knew it when i saw it.

    my opinion is that Indesign does a really good job for conversion, but some people will want to do the tweaking themselves, they want to take control of what is printed (this is not a question of “but you can’t see those colors anyway when working in cmyk”), they just want to know just how it looks like when it gets printed

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    Thanks for the article, Marco. Having just finished reading through these comments, I imagine you must be getting fairly tired of responding to people who clearly either didn’t read it all, or did read it, and completely failed to understand it.

    Perhaps you should put a giant red banner at the top, “NOWHERE IN THIS ARTICLE DO I STATE THAT YOU SHOULD SEND RGB FILES TO YOUR PRINTER.”

    Somehow, I imagine they’d still miss it. I’ve a feeling they read the heading for #1, and dropped right down to the comments. If they can’t be bothered to even read the whole article, why waste your time re-iterating points you’ve already made in the body copy? Anyhow, thanks for all the great articles. Hopefully the kneejerk reactions seen here don’t affect your desire to write more like this.

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    I have never had to run a large print job like this or anything. I am Web Developer only. I hope to learn more about graphic design but I just don’t have the time. This may be incorrect but what I gathered from this article and comments is:
    If you know before you start the project you have access to (1) a high quality digital printer that will take your PSD or CYMK PDF, (2) you have access to Photoshop and InDesign, (3) communicate with the printer ahead of time to figure out what he can do, (4) you are willing to spend a few bucks for proofs and finally (5) are familiar with the printing process, color separations, have good knowledge on color correcting the method in this article will work great, especially for people new to the printing game.
    So essentially, people who are already good at printing the old way. To many chances for a newbie to screw this up.

    However if you are unsure of the quality of the printer that you will be using or the ability to print proofs when CYMK all they way is the SAFEST. Not the best, but the safest.

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    I’m going to use this work flow- for some jobs, but not for others. Doing one conversion at the end is fine for things where color isn’t that critical like directories and programs, and speed is usually part of the equation. If it’s something where the skin tones, skies, fabrics, jeweltones etc., need to be as accurate as possible I will continue to do the conversion earlier, mostly so I can tweak the color of the CMYK file to improve it after the conversion. It’s always easier to fine tune using 4 color channels instead of being limited to the 3 you have with RGB.

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    Yat again SM proves that it’s articles need to remain strictly in the amateur domain. This article makes huge assumptions and leaps of blind faith in adobe. I swear there should be a flashing caveat/warning about articles published on this site as they are all too often laughable and it should be made clear that this is by and large a hobbyist magazine. I wish newsdesk would remove the feed to your articles so I would never be distracted by such horseshit again.

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    I have to agree with Ryan (#49).

    There’s no way an RGB image can be optimised for print. For printwork you have to colorcorrect in CMYK to get the maximum out of your printable colours, not out of the maximum obtainable colors in RGB. Letting a rip handle the conversion is asking a blind man to pick a colour. No 2 rips are the same.

    I do believe that image-correcting should be done in RGB to have the widest colour gamut possible, but as soon as your optimising for print you need CMYK to handle and control the specific values of the printcolors (cmyk).

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    @ Ryan: These discussions are always welcome. It is much preferred above discussions by people who didn’t bother to read the entire article ;-)
    And you’re right. For important jobs I (or my client) sometimes wish to see what will happen on paper. But they don’t always have a budget or time to order a actual proof-print. It didn’t fit in this article but you can use these very same techniques to create a -guaranteed- colorproof using your own HP or Epson inkjet printer. As you might understand the color-range of an injet is larger than CMYK. As such if you download one of the standard TIF images containing a wide range of standard color-swatches and simply print those out you can send it in to color-specialized companies and receive an ICC-profile of your own device. With this the ‘color-behavior’ of your printer on that specific kind of paper is known and you can create your own proof-prints. These are good enough for your printer. A short colorstrip is also printed with info on how you’ve pinted this proof. (so your printer knows what you did. He can also use standardized tools to measure the colors of your proof. Tis is a bit of the short version but it’s called ISO 12647-2 if you want more info. I wrote about this a few years ago (in Dutch) but you can view images I talked about here: http://tinyurl.com/yz835lc

    And yes I do optimize for a different kind of paper. I don’t have to do anything except change my export setting. For uncoated less ink is required. Images would simply become blurry as the paper sucks up too much ink. You could also not do this and hope your printer will take care of it afterwards (with a Tool like CMYK optimizer or PDF Toolbox). But I prefer to do it with the original image as they will use data from the very same ICC profiles. So it’s better to do it at once. A printer can check if you did the right in Acrobat. The ICC profile you used is located in Acrobat’s Advanced → Print Production → Output Preview.

    About the CMYK profiles. No I don’t have every cmyk-profile, but I don’t need every one. I need professional printers that can at least confirm to the industry standard ones, coated, uncoated, newspaper, magazine and a few others. I print all around the world and those profiles are in fact everywhere. From Holland to China or Australia. Using these most-common profiles I can optimize perfectly for the most common groups of paper out there. Perfect color control. (Expect for the 1.x % black that sometimes might appear in images like you said). But then again, if a designer failed to optimize for the right kind of paper this 1.x% will totally disappear because the paper will suck up way too much ink. I wote about this also: “White? There is no white!” http://www.digital-engineer.net/archive/entry/white-there-is-no-white/

    @ Osjar: The icc-profiles are not created by Adobe alone. It’s just InDesign doing the conversion rgb-profile to cmyk-profile. Just like Photoshop. Like the way us designers have always converted to CMYK. You think Adobe will do a great job with Photoshop but not use this ICC-technology for their flagship InDesign? Besides there is an entire pre-press industry out there: Enfocus, Callas, Pistop, Proofmaster…

    Thanks for the good discussion, Ryan.

    For other readers: no rgb files get send out to the printers! Damn if you care so much about this than you should really start optimizing your artwork for the different kind’s of CMYK out there.

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    “This is also why any color correcting is done in CYMK mode and why simply converting an RGB image to CYMK can produce images that are out of gamut.”

    This is absolutely not true. That’s the point of converting, you put the wider colors in the gammut of the smaller gammut. If you convert RGB to lets say a coated CMYK, all the colors will be printable on coated material.

    “Following this process, one would need to keep going back and forth between color correcting, previewing the image, and then back to color correcting to achieve the desired results.”

    Wrong again, with active and correct softproof, you see exactly the same on your monitor as in CMYK. You can try it by yourself, open an RGB image and duplicate it, activate softproof for both of them, then convert one to CMYK. It will look absolutely the same on your screen.

    @Ryan (#49)
    I agree with you to a certain point, some minor tweaking can absolutely be done in CMYK, like you said for example the highlights. But converting to CMYK in Photoshop or Indesign without any tweaking should give you the same result, as both use the same CMM.

    And major color correction should not be done in CMYK at all, you get really bad gradients, and you’re messing with the CMYK’s profile UCR/GCR, which will give you a CMYK file which is far away from what CMYK output it was originally intended to be. Leads to the necessary to make a CMYK to CMYK conversion at your printer, which we all know isn’t good at all.

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    Osjar: that’s the truth

    try this in a magazine… a real one; and you’re going to lose more than your job…

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    Two resources that should be mentioned also:
    * Ghent PDF Workgroup (www.GWG.org): they have – free – settings for PDF creation and PDF preflighting, for 13 different market segments. The GWG is an interational organisation promoting best practices in the printing industry. Setting files are available for the most common software applications used in the printing industry.
    * Adobe InDesign Live Preflight and the – once again free – profiles from VIGC, the Flemish Innovation Center for Graphic Communication (a not for profit organisation in Belgium). These profiles can be downloaded here: http://www.vigc.org/standard-preflight-profiles/ The VIGC Live Preflight Profiles are for the same market segments as the GWG profiles.
    Using both the VIGC Live Preflight Profiles and GWG profiles for PDF creation and preflighting will give you the highest quality assurance possible at this moment.

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    if you are SO worried about RGB, just output on an RGB device (lamda)…doy!
    you will never get the color gamut in RGB with cmyk, this is the whole reasoning behind global printing standards (swop, panton, Gracol ect.)

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    To all the critis: I understand this is difficult and even scary. My other comment is awaitng moderation (because of the links to ther sources) but all of these tips are used for real clients. I work for clients like PepsiCo, Nestle, supermarkets and others. I specialize in the ‘food’ business. If you think color is not important for these clients please think again. Besides this entire process follows specific guidelines as outlined in the ISO 12647-2 printing process. A worldwide standard for color. Like Belifant said: Tampering with cmyk files after you converted from rgb can be dangerous as well as the icc-profile already optimized it for the specific paper.

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    As others have mentioned and given the title of this article, point 1 MUST be “Talk to your Printer” Which is absoloutley the most important tip for perfect printing.

    Other than that I would like to thank Marco for writing this, Belifant for holding it down in the comments, and particularly to Ryan for holding up the CMYK argument with something a little stronger than “don´t send rgb files to the printer”.

    Between these three and their comments I have really got my head around the differences in colour space, and am able to make some reasonably informed choices, because that´s what it is in the end really isn´t it, choices.

    I´ll be rolling with a RGB workflow for my day to day, and a CMYK workflow for more colour critical work.

    cheers to everyone that ACTUALLY READ the article and gave some feedback.

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    Working in RGB-Mode and converting to CMYK later is a good choice.

    Just wanted to mention that it is important to choose the right RGB working space. For euorpean Designers the eci RGB color working space is a good choice, as it covers all CMYK color spaces -> less colors have to be transformed when changing to CMYK.

    Good article!

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    My other comment I wrote a while ago doesn’t show up. So here is is without url’s:
    @ Ryan: These discussions are always welcome. It is much preferred above discussions by people who didn’t bother to read the entire article ;-)
    And you’re right. For important jobs I (or my client) sometimes wish to see what will happen on paper. But they don’t always have a budget or time to order a actual proof-print. It didn’t fit in this article but you can use these very same techniques to create a -guaranteed- colorproof using your own HP or Epson inkjet printer. As you might understand the color-range of an injet is larger than CMYK. As such if you download one of the standard TIF images containing a wide range of standard color-swatches and simply print those out you can send it in to color-specialized companies and receive an ICC-profile of your own device. With this the ‘color-behavior’ of your printer on that specific kind of paper is known and you can create your own proof-prints. These are good enough for your printer. A short colorstrip is also printed with info on how you’ve pinted this proof. (so your printer knows what you did. He can also use standardized tools to measure the colors of your proof. Tis is a bit of the short version but it’s called ISO 12647-2 if you want more info. I wrote about this a few years ago (in Dutch) but you can view images I talked about here: tinyurl-dot-com-slash-yz835lc

    And yes I do optimize for a different kind of paper. I don’t have to do anything except change my export setting. For uncoated less ink is required. Images would simply become blurry as the paper sucks up too much ink. You could also not do this and hope your printer will take care of it afterwards (with a Tool like CMYK optimizer or PDF Toolbox). But I prefer to do it with the original image as they will use data from the very same ICC profiles. So it’s better to do it at once. A printer can check if you did the right in Acrobat. The ICC profile you used is located in Acrobat’s Advanced → Print Production → Output Preview.
    About the CMYK profiles. No I don’t have every cmyk-profile, but I don’t need every one. I need professional printers that can at least confirm to the industry standard ones, coated, uncoated, newspaper, magazine and a few others. I print all around the world and those profiles are in fact everywhere. From Holland to China or Australia. Using these most-common profiles I can optimize perfectly for the most common groups of paper out there. Perfect color control. (Expect for the 1.x % black that sometimes might appear in images like you said). But then again, if a designer failed to optimize for the right kind of paper this 1.x% will totally disappear because the paper will suck up way too much ink. I wote about this also: “White? There is no white!” (my own site is mentioned in the last part of the article)

    @ Osjar: The icc-profiles are not created by Adobe alone. It’s just InDesign doing the conversion rgb-profile to cmyk-profile. Just like Photoshop. Like the way us designers have always converted to CMYK. You think Adobe will do a great job with Photoshop but not use this ICC-technology for their flagship InDesign? Besides there is an entire pre-press industry out there: Enfocus, Callas, Pistop, Proofmaster…
    Thanks for the good discussion, Ryan.

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    Great article, caused quite a discussion too, haha! I’ve read a few comments but not all, I don’t have all year unfortunately! ;)

    I work in RGB, and then convert to CMYK . The exception is if I’m designing for print, and I know it’s going to be for print only, for example a business card with a spot gloss or colour, I usually work straight from CMYK – but that’s just my way of working and I’ve never had a problem with it.

    My best piece of advice I can give anyone is ask how your printers want the files delivered to them!. They all vary, even if they’re in the same industrial estate!

    EDIT: In response to Marcos last comment: I don’t usually set up my artwork for the printers, that’s what guy in pre-press is paid to do :) I send my artwork as CMYK + any spot colours, he then sets it up correctly for the kind of paper they stock – again, all printers stock different paper. Where I work part-time (factory work unfortunately), they have a warehouse full of paper, they probably stock 50 different kinds of paper, and to me half of them look the same!

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    My area of expertise lies online, but (and I’m almost afraid to use the word now, after reading all the comments) as a hobby I do an occasional ‘easy’ print job. I love it, it’s another world that I still need to learn a lot about, but to me this article has definitely been an eye opener as well as an inspiration. I definitely want to learn as much as there is to know about this strange world of paper :)

    Also, I cannot believe how many people scan this article and falsely assume that Marco is asking people to send RGB files to their printer. This is one of those sites where you are required to read the whole thing, people!

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    @Marco;

    I work in the packaging/food industry as well, for (dutch) clients such as Jumbo, Stegeman, Vacuvin and such, so I know how important colours are in that part of the graphic industry. :)

    We do all the color correcting in the first few rounds in RGB to get the optimal result. But as soon as we’re making prepress files (in both the package-industry companies I’ve worked) we change them to CMYK to do the final correcting, to keep all the details of the converting in-house. Finetuning the amount of cyan/black etc. an image has is part of the prepressing here, before it goes to a lithographer to make everything printready on a press-specific level. But we always want to keep the finetuning in-house, because of the massive amount of different printers package-designs go to.

    For example: if we feel that an image needs 5% black instead of 7%, we need the CMYK-workflow in the prepress-part.

    I absolutely believe an RGB-workflow has it’s purpose, but in order to keep full control of the color-output at the end of the line, I don’t think RGB-workflows should be used in the end of the workflow. Maybe in the “normal” printworld like magazines, but not in a printworld where every % of color has to be controlled by the prepresser/designer.

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    I’m really interested by Marco latest points. My experience is admittedly very US-centric. The standards I mentioned are North America, not world. Anyway yes Marco I am familiar with color management but your link isn’t working for me.

    Do other printers around the world not incorporate their own uncoated curve by default? This is usually done on the platesetter. However, I still disagree with the idea that an certain amount of deviance is acceptable because the “paper will suck it up.”

    @Belifant I’m not sure you know what you’re talking about. There are some CMYK profiles that have a larger gamut than some RGB profiles as I have previously mentioned. Also, GCR / UCR are in no way affected by the work you do in Photoshop unless you actively adjust the settings in Color Management. You seem to suggest Photoshop would cripple its own software and that thousands of photo editors who have worked this way for years have never noticed it? Also as I mentioned, up to and including CS3 the various Adobe apps converted RGB -> CMYK using different algorithms, even under unified color management. If you have the apps, try it out. Honestly, it sounds like you are just inexperienced with working in Photoshop in CMYK if you can’t even make a smooth gradient. That is basic stuff and there is no reason this would trigger a CMYK -> CMYK conversion, whatever that is.

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    Whilst I agree with everything the author said, its not always good practise. It also depends on how the printing company handles their files.

    I use many of the above methods, but sadly others don’t and I have tons of work pre-flight to make them ready.

    Great article.

    Mike

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  73. 73

    @Ryan
    When you convert from RGB to CMYK you apply a UCR / GCR to your file. When after that you go and play around with gradation curves and alter the amount of black for example, you actually changing what was intended to be bye that CMYK profile for that certain paper.
    Other example, not the best I know, but when doing color correction in CMYK, you could also go accidently higher on the total amount of ink than the paper could handle, for example on coated paper, going higher than a max of 320 or 330 %. This can’t happen in RGB. If you send an image to a printer with then maybe 360 % max. ink, they will do a CMYK to CYMK convertion, from your picture’s CMYK profile to their machine’s default profile. And you sure don’t want that to happen.

    I know there are CMYK profiles that are bigger than RGB, especially in yellow and cyan, but in general the RGB is the bigger one, so let’s not confuse the already confused reader here.

    And what I meant with the gradients is, in RBG you can make much bigger colorcorrections before you see a damage to your image, in gradients or shadows for ex.
    As I think you know what you’re talking about, you have to admit that you really can mess your CMYK image up if you do all the major corrections in CMYK.

    I admit I’m a bit out of practice with the GCR/UCR stuff, and also this is new to me that Indesign and Photoshop really convert visible different to CMYK, as they both use the same CMM to do the conversion (unless you change it).
    But, I do know CMYK and Photoshop well enough, as I used to work at a digital print factory at the RIP and print machines, before moving to prepress/graphics.

    Besides that, I think we’re more or less on the same page. Work in RGB and do your color correction and contrast or whatever, when you finished, convert to CMYK and make your final tweaking and print optimization if you feel it needs to. That’s absolutely a good way to go, especially on low quality paper like newspaper.

    Also just to clarify, I’m talking here only about digital images! No vector or logos of that kind, that stuff I leave in CMYK too usally.

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    “Also just to clarify, I’m talking here only about digital images! No vector or logos of that kind, that stuff I leave in CMYK…”

    Jep. Me to. Thanks for adding this info, Belifant.

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  75. 75

    When you have to be spot on with colour percentages, this method won’t work.

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  76. 76

    Martin Bentley Krebs

    October 28, 2009 5:11 am

    One last comment (from me, at least): This is really great that most people in this chain are providing backup to their input, which is absolutely essential to a civil discourse of knowledge. And it is my belief that every generation that comes along should be smarter than the one before it. But a word of caution (wisdom?) to those of you clanging the “new is better, old is stupid” cymbals: knowledge between generations should and does travel in both directions. Choose your information wisely, and apply it with your own hands — if it doesn’t work, try something new. But if it does work, let someone else know about it.

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  77. 77

    This is a very interesting article, and I plan on sending it to my printing reps for their opinion. The only problem I have with taking all of these suggestions verbatim, is that every print outlet that I use, utilizes a different workflow, different proofing systems, different settings in their rips for their respective presses. Although it is true that all print files end up as CMYK PDFs, that typically doesn’t happen on my end. We usually do not provide the print ready PDFs to the printer, we usually supply the native files (mostly ID now) with supporting lowres PDFs and marked up lasers. To completely abandon our workflow would mean that we would have to get all of our printers, both digital and offset to buy into this process. Plus, once you get a proof from the printer and the client has changes, you would have to repeat this process (which can be very time consuming) all over again, instead of just making the minor text edits throughout the documents and resubmitting the layout file.

    Just my opionion. But still a very informative article with great content for the future.

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    “When you have to be spot on with colour percentages, this method won’t work.”

    basically correct, even though Photoshop lets you see in RGB mode, what CMYK value you’ll get after convertion.

    But as we speak about digital images, shots, you don’t have to be spot on with the percentages.

    @vmaffessanti:
    When it is requested I also send the whole Indesign package, and in that case I also convert all the pics to CMYK, just to make sure. The key is, to do that convertion at the very end of your creative work, and not at the beginning when you get the images.
    And about all the different settings and workflows of printer, that’s what the ISO standards are for (at least in Europe). These standards are made for the printing industrie, and we as the print data supplier should stick to these standards (unless we get custom profiles of the print factory, but that’s often not the case). Every printer who calls himself a professional knows how to deal with these ISO profiles.

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  79. 79

    “I´ll be rolling with a RGB workflow for my day to day, and a CMYK workflow for more colour critical work.”

    exactly!

    Also nice to see how Marco’s RGB methods finally reached the rest of the world. Here in the Benelux and surroundings we are quite ahead thanks to GWG, MacMojo, Enfocus, etc…

    I use aRGB psd’s and use adjustment layers if some output needs some color tweaking (e.g. one for INP, one for IC,…), which can be turned on or of in InDesign when needed.

    Also the built in security concerning ink limits when using RGB is a great feature.

    0
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  81. 81

    Great article, good conclusion. I’ve been preaching RGB workflows for years now, and it’s about time the rest of the printing- and design industry is going to embrace it. No kidding, work in RGB folks! Manage that color in the right way and you’ll have so many advantages over a CMYK workflow, you’ll wonder how in Pete’s name it’s possible you didn’t switch to RGB before.

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  82. 82

    I think this is an interesting idea, but there is a big flaw in the idea: Your offset printer comes back to you and says, “the magenta and yellow are great, but please adjust just the cyan about 10% darker and remove the black entirely.” You can’t do that with an RGB image.

    We also print directly to RIP from Illustrator and InDesign because we have much more flexibility using these programs instead of converting to a PDF. Many times we are printing a much more complex image than simply one flat image, and everything we do is high quality. There is no such thing as a “poor quality job” in our company, even if the artwork we receive looks terrible – we just output it as optimally as possible. We notice a big color shift in printing from these two to Acrobat as well.

    Finally, I’m concerned that we’re using a larger color space than is actually possible to print. One spends hours color-correcting a photo just to find that in CMYK, that bright lime green just turns to mud (for example). I’d rather know up front what the image is going to look like. Also, especially when you’re trying to eliminate a color (i.e. combining cyan and black for the same effect) to reduce press passes, it’s much harder to adjust in RGB and get the CMYK equivalent you’re looking for.

    BUT, all this said, it’s worth contemplating and discovering when this technique is suitably appropriate.

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  83. 83

    @april
    With activated softproof (which you also should activate when work in CYMK) you won’t see any bright RGB colors on your screen who can’t be printed. You only see CMYK colors, you see how it’s gonna look like in CMYK, softproof is simulating the look of your CMYK output.

    And I’m curious as I used to work in a similar environment, wouldn’t you do changes like + 10% Cyan, in your RIP? Why go back to prepress? Are we talking here about digital printers like inkjet?

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  84. 84

    one question about the option “simulate paper color” in indesgin:

    the simulated color is absolutely strange … it’s much too blue, it’s not approximately a realistic paper-color… no matter which profile i choose … do anyone have an idea?

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  85. 85

    what profile are you using to simulate? Your monitor is calibrated, right?

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  86. 86

    While I like the novelty of the idea of using RGB workflow, because it seems really convenient. I see some terrible flaws in it, and I can’t imagine someone using it in a professional pre-press environment.

    How can you adjust your CMYK colors when while opening curves adjustment layer you can only adjust RGB? Well… you can’t… You can’t also add 5% more Magenta because there is no curve for Magenta, or Black or Cyan or Yellow, only for Red, Green and Blue.

    How can you work on Total Ink Limit when you can’t operate on CMYK values?

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  87. 87

    @ vmaffessanti:
    “To completely abandon our workflow would mean that we would have to get all of our printers, both digital and offset to buy into this process”.
    Well no not really. All your printer needs is an up-to-date RIP. (Not older than say 5 years). He can dump the pdf right in the RIP and send you a color-proof. If you ‘okay’ it the same data gets send out to the press. Or you could do your own proffing if you have a inkjet you can calibrate.

    @peter;
    thanks. For the other readers: Before Digital-Engineer.net I ran a Dutch website called MacMojo. I interviewed a lot of authors from various InDesign / Photoshop / Illustrator books and even the famous Dov Isaacs from Adobe. (Who feels we should get our act together and start sending out PDF/X3 or higher RGB-PDf files with layers and transprancy intact by the way. (And this is the man that inveted freaking Postscript and PDF notheless! Nothing but respect!)

    @april:
    “Your offset printer comes back to you and says, “the magenta and yellow are great, but please adjust just the cyan about 10% darker and remove the black entirely.”

    If a printer request this it’s already to late. If I have absolutely tuned an image to perfection there’s no way in hell a printer will tell me to ad 10% cyan.

    I’m not looking to pick a fight; I am my own pre-press. And I will bring the ISO certified color-proof he can measure before he starts printing.

    @mops:
    It’s important to have a calibrated monitor and select the right gamma. (Apple’s standard -1.9 or something- is not good enough).

    @Bartosz Oczujda:
    Good question. But think about it: If your thinking about “how can I ad 5% more magenta?” you’ve really got it backwards. If a more red image is what you want you could have added it in the rgb already. Nobody really wants “5% more magenta”. As a disigner you have tought yourself to think in cmyk. But what you really want is a brighter image, more red, less or more saturation, and so on… You can change all this in the origional rgb-image. Softproof (or hardproof) the cmyk and your done!

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    @Bartosz Oczujda
    You have to think differently and have to know color correction in RGB and HSB.
    Why bother with CMYK values during your picture editing? That something the RIP should bother with, that’s something you have to worry about when it comes to printing, not during your creative work.
    If you want to ad more magenta cause your red looks orange for example, why not just use the Hue slider in HSB. It gives you a better result, cause you’re not changing the amount of ink in your red, only the location.

    And in RGB you don’t have to worry about Total Ink Limit, cause when you convert to CMYK after finished editing, it automatically won’t go over the CMYK profile’s Limit. It can’t go over, unless you make some color correction after the CMYK convertion.

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  89. 89

    Smashing magazine should stick to web design articles where they get things right.

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  90. 90

    @Bartosz Oczujda, correct. It’s not that difficult to understand but a it sure is ‘a bridge too far’ for a lot of readers. Perhaps I’ll suggest a follow-up to S.M. regarding just the color. (Also known as Certified Color or ISO12647-2). Where do you work? Send me a email okay?

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  91. 91

    HOLY CRAP!
    That’s a lot of comments I had to skip. Hope no one said this already, or I’m sorry to say it again, but, I work with RGB images day in and day out. Every single one of them ends up going to press. The reason I work on them in RGB is because we do a lot of color correcting, and color changing. There are colors that convert to CMYK just fine, but are completely unattainable through adjustment layers or any other method in CMYK. I also leave my files RGB until the last possible moment. However, I constantly check the info panel to identify my ink densities in CMYK. Very useful panel.
    This is a good article, and depending on the way you work, it can be a great benefit to you.

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  92. 92

    Alot of misinformation out here about this. Projected light vs Reflected light. Some completely miss this simple root concept.

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  93. 93

    I think many of the people commenting on the ‘madness’ of doing a last-minute RGB to CMYK conversion of images during PDF creation would be surprised by the number of big publishing companies that already work this way. Making it sound like an unproven (or even worse: unprofessional) way of working just proves you need to look beyond your own monitor a bit more.

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  94. 94

    It’s not terribly hard to understand why people got the impression that he was talking about sending RGB images to the files when I read:

    1. Use RGB Color Mode For Photoshop Images

    …in a giant headline, with no parenthetical “(Of course, you won’t be sending these to your printer.)”

    Seriously, read that first paragraph again. It’s not hard to understand why people jumped the gun.

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  95. 95

    Highly appreciated dude!

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  96. 96

    I am confused!

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  97. 97

    Abdulsalam Alasaadi

    October 28, 2009 10:24 pm

    this is what i really need. thanks alot

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  98. 98

    @JB: Can you understand the concept of RGB having more colors than CMYK? When you start doing your corrections in P’shop like cloning, adding / creating / combining artwork, I choose to do this inside the file with the greatest color information, e.g. RGB. I know not every detail will convert to CMYK. I Softproof and see exactly what you would when you convert. I can even print a proof on my calibrated monitor with a FOGRA control-strip if I have my doubts about color.

    Afterwards I can choose whatever CMYK I want when I need it. I can go to magazine-CMYK or coated CMYK. It’s all possible. Most of the time I don’t to optimze anything. The ICC-takes care of it.

    “the issue is YOUR COLORS WILL CHANGE and LOOK DIFFERENT”
    “YOU dont know what it will look like before hand, and thus, you need to go back and COLOR CORRECT it.”

    After more than 100 questions I am getting a bit tyred of repeating myselve, but here goes:

    I will know exactly what it will look like beforehand. That’s the entire point. (Softproof / Hardproof) Have you not noticed the images in the article? One of the images shows you exactly what an image will look like when printed in a newspaper. This is nothing new here. I’ve worked like this for years in complieance with professional printers worldwide.

    I don’t need to color correct. You are fooling yourselve if you think you can do better than an ICC-profile. Yes, you can ‘optimize’ all you want AFTER the CMYK conversion but you’ll mostly change what you see on your screen. For instance; you might not like the black after conversion and decide to up it or change the curve. However! And this is very important: Most of the time it won’t print the way you just “optimized” it. The conversion to CMYK has performed maximum optimization for the specific group of paer and all it’s characteristics already. Adding more to it afterwards will not help you.

    “This entire article is typical of someone who’s never been in the pre-press industry.”
    Re-read my comment to questions and just look around the web. Technology has evolved. And please: Buy an InDesign or Colormanagement book and turn on the light my friend. (this light will be rgb-based by the way).

    Now will an RGB workflow do everything better all of the time? No. But it will do most of your jobs better most of the time and save you a great deal of time.

    Because all of you have been so kind I’ve decided to write a follow-up on my own site using a real-life case. I will use my network of other print-professionals and training companies and will add other real-life cases as well. I hope to see you there somewhere next week.

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  99. 99

    @ Laurens; correct! (Well in Western Europe anyway. I don’t know about the US but I really can’t imagine they’d be far behind…)

    @jack parsons: Yes, but that is basically what needs to be done: No CMYK-conversions in Photoshop…

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  100. 100

    @Marco
    I admire your patience!
    I hope with your follow up people get a clearer picture of RGB workflow.
    But some people just don’t want to learn new things. ( And this is actually not even new!)

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  101. 101

    Out of curiosity, I checked with my printer about the recommendations in this article today. Do you know what he said? “I don’t know. What’s wrong with the way you’re doing it?” It made absolutely no difference to him.

    More importantly, it made no difference that I could see to my workflow either.

    Let’s take Tip #3. I typically use photoshop at the origin of every page I design. It’s also in RGB mode! When I think it’s ready, I flatten it, convert to CMYK, adjust the colors as necessary and save it as a TIF.

    (There’s a false premise in there as well. NOBODY uses raw artwork from a print design on the web unless they’re designing pages for 5000px wide monitors. I already have to resize (and, as a result, adjust) images from print to adapt them from the web.)

    Sometimes, it’s true, I have to go back from InDesign to that original (RGB!) PSD to make some changes. But you’re literally talking about saving moments out of a multi-day process for those of us who work on a monthly deadline. Sure, you could add up all of those moments and save… maybe an hour… in a year. I’m being a bit flippant about this, and I apologize, but I can’t seriously figure out how this saves any tangible time whatsoever. Is it a better way? Obviously, the shortest distance between points A and B is always the better way, so sure. But this special detour saves me about $1.00 worth of petrol a year.

    Spending a few hours, however, and collecting all of my frequently used layers and elements has probably saved days of man-hours over the course of a year.

    So okay, you’ve shown another way to scramble an egg. That’s cool, it’s always interesting to know how people do different things. It’s a fine bit of trivia but other than that, I don’t see the value. The time and energy it saves is negligible. (Actually, I probably waste more time opening that vile piece of bloatware named Acrobat than I would save using these techniques!)

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  102. 102

    @Marco
    I don’t need to color correct. You are fooling yourselve if you think you can do better than an ICC-profile. Yes, you can ‘optimize’ all you want AFTER the CMYK conversion but you’ll mostly change what you see on your screen.

    =====================
    Now I am offended. This is all I need to read to re-affirm you dont know jack about printing and color correction. I saw your website, and your friend’s website about color, and the color is horrible, muted and dirty looking.

    You are of the same delusions as some clients where they think “cant you just press a button to do that?” Color correcting is a skill, and there is no way a generic color profile can EVER correct as well as a trained color corrector.

    LOL @ this clown.

    -4
  103. 103

    @ marco – my monitor is calibrated, and everything else looks fine …

    I’ve uploaded a picture:
    http://www.bilder-space.de/show.php?file=29.109uEZGAW4edQrFYf.png

    above the grey line it’s without the paper color simulation, below the option “simulate paper colour” is enabled…

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  104. 104

    ” and the color is horrible, muted and dirty looking.”

    THANK YOU!

    Good you noticed my color! The color you find “horrible, muted and dirty looking” is actually the EXACT color value of the standard newspaper. This is EXACTLY my point. You sit behind your monitor ‘tweaking your colors to perfection” but you forget to take into account the color of the paper.
    THIS is what ICC-does not forget. White is not white. It can be just as dirty as the color of my site, which is newspaper-white by the way. This affects ALL the colors of your design.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment. Your are wrong and impolite, but your reaction helped me explain it.

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  105. 105

    As a sculptor I like to use play-doh to build my lost wax cast methods because there is a conversion tool that is available now that makes it “easy” and “better” to do so long as you follow every one of the 17 steps involved to get it right the first time. _ SARCASM.

    CMYK is the only way for press. The rest of it is just shiny new ways to sell you things that ultimately all lead back to CMYK.

    -2
  106. 106

    @Steven:
    CMYK is for printing, and that’s where it belongs! To the print process.

    RGB is the way for editing images, CMYK limits your possibilities in editing your image too much.
    Just look how many options in Photoshop are grayed out in CMYK mode. You’re missing a some very good features.

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  107. 107

    Sorry, but I’m a print professional in the business for 20 years and the idea that you should work in RGB color-space is absurd. Why would you want to work in a different color-space from the one that you will print with in the end? It make no sense at all. And anyone who believes that “big publishing houses” work this way are clueless as well. Most print workflows involve running some kind of pre-flight software on any .ps or .pdf files that come in. These pre-flight software programs will kick out any files that have RGB in them. And as far as working with psd images, give me a break, why work with a format that someone else might or might not have the software to open and use? PDF and .ps are the only way to go. My company makes the best selling software for the gravure printing industry, and we only accept tiff, .pdf and .ps.

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    • 108

      Anthony Liliefeldt

      March 17, 2013 8:19 pm

      You have missed the point. RGB is used for the artwork production end and later converted to CMYK since some features of Photoshop are not available in CMYK mode . . . unless there is something that you know and the rest of the graphics industry does not, in that case, never mind . . .

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  108. 109

    Marco (October 27th, 2009, 8:38 am)

    @ Synthetic Tone:
    You wrote: Poor representation of the actual printed media”.
    Almost every newspaper uses a PDF workflow (at least for incoming ads). As such using ISO newspaper color-profiles to convert your RGB-images to Newspaper CMYK is a great leap forward when you value the color of your artwork. As long as you have a decent monitor and calibrate it, you’ll do quite well in predicting the color of the printed ad.

    About the EPS: As long as you deliver a press-ready PDF it won’t matter if you used a PSD or not ;-) The only advantage will be to the user (that is you).

    “Is the assumption here that we’re talking about digital printing and not offset?”
    @Joe: It does not matter really. Everything gets converted to CMYK-PDF in the end.

    I’m confused. In my experience all printing companies require CMYK if you are printing on a traditional press.
    @Paul: Please understand all RGB-images get converted to CMYK in the final PDF the printer receives.

    How can you be sure of what you’re gonna get if RGB has millions of colors while CMKY has thounsands?
    @Breno: Thats where to soft-proofing comes in. InDesign can use the ICC-profile. Perhaps I didn’t make this clear enough in the article. InDesign / Acrobat and Photoshop can soft-proof the CMYK-colors. It will look EXACTLY the same like it would when you actually converted the image to CMYK.
    ==============================

    I think that is where you are missing the entire point. WE KNOW it will be converted to CMYK. The issue isnt whether it will automatically convert to a useable press format, the issue is YOUR COLORS WILL CHANGE and LOOK DIFFERENT. We know it will look exactly the same when it auto converts to cmyk from rgb…the issue is YOU dont know what it will look like before hand, and thus, you need to go back and COLOR CORRECT it.

    This entire article is typical of someone who’s never been in the pre-press industry. I worked for 10 years in pre-press. Too many designers only worry about the cool effects InDesign offers and how well it works with all the other Adobe apps. They dont consider the end result of their product, and just hand it off to the printers to “print it out”. True designers work in the same color space as the end result (rgb for web, cmyk for print), and true designers color correct with calibrated monitors in dark rooms. I’m tired of being called “old school”. Its not old school, its the correct school. Much like the 3d artist claiming Poser is just as good as modeling your own character in Maya. LOL.

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  109. 110

    Its obvious reading many of the comments here from those supporting working in RGB as opposed to CMYK…..they have NO CLUE what an “out of gamut error range” is.

    You can view in Photoshop…..

    View > Gamut Warning.

    Why would CS4 still have a Gamut Warning feature if its ok to print in RGB?? YES< f course you will have some pictures and photos that arent an issue at all. The issue comes to the brightness and richness of certain images. One of the hardest images/photos to print are ones with fire in it, skies, and night scenes with bright lights. You will find they are converted to muddy looking photos if you work in RGB and send off to printer. If you work in RGB, fine….make sure you do check your Gamut often however.

    Its just proper technique to work in CMYK for print however. Its not about being an old dog or a young pup. Sometimes, the young pups need to listen to us old dogs because we have gone through the mistakes you are attempting to do right now. We have seen our mistakes in RGB when we forgot to convert a file to CMYK and watched how crappy it came out in the final product, and we had our arse reamed by the client, and then the boss/owner, and then your supervisor.

    3
  110. 111

    My Boss says that RGB is for watching Television!!!! Low Rez Monkeys

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  111. 112

    Wow, amazing article. I’m a photographer, web and print designer – and this info just saved me a lot of time and headache. Always nervous to be working on a screen when the images that are actually appearing on a physical medium. Brilliant, thanks Marco!

    -1
  112. 113

    Some people just don’t wanna understand the article and many other posts.

    NOBODY TALKS ABOUT SENDING RBG TO THE PRINTER!!!

    Read the article and the above posts!

    And to those who says you should work in the colorspace it’s gonna printed in, well, there’s not only one CMYK colorspace, there the problem already starts, especially if you’re not knowing in the beginning on what it’s gonna printed at the end. What you do then? Just use some CMYK profile, doesn’t matter which one? Ahhh so wrong!

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  113. 114

    I notice a lot of people find it hard to adapt to this RGB workflow, many won’t even hear of it because they were told different back in the old days. Then again they don’t tend to hang out in places like this to get updated on their profession.

    and.. isn’t ISO Uncouted now PSO Uncoated? :-p

    -1
  114. 115

    Finally ^__^

    I am really happy to see a big important media talk about the “work in rbg > convert to iso cmyk pdf” process.

    I use that for years now but everytime I have to explain why it’s a more logical workflow.

    and like #106 Belifant says, nobody talks about sending rgb to the printer, the goal is to convert your final file to a perfect cmyk pdf.

    1
  115. 117

    @frankenstein;
    Yes, we now also have PSO uncoated (based up on the Fogra44 data-set). These profiles get better all the time! I discussed this with mr. Henk Gianotten a few weeks ago. (The man who loves fonts so much Linotype named a font after him, lol! This RGB stuff is yesterdays news for him. He’s lightyears ahead of me with RGB/PDF flows and is often called in by printers or designers when something expensive went wrong).

    -1
  116. 118

    One thing that stands out in the comments of many so-called experts here is the illusion of being able to work in CMYK on a computer. The reality is that it is technically *impossible*. What you see on screen is always RGB (or rather: a subset of RGB, depending on the capabilities of your monitor).

    But there are even worse news for the “old school”: Internally, any serious colour-managed program uses CIE L*a*b as a colour space (i.e. a colour model that describes all colours the human eye can see), and there will always be a conversion of colour values from/to RGB via CIE L*a*b (and colour profiles) as soon as a monitor or a printing device is involved. Photoshop does it, InDesign does it, XPress does it, heck, the Corel Product line does it, and even Open Source products like Inkscape, CinePaint or Scribus do it.

    Some people posting here seem to think that “working in CMYK” actually means what it seems to say. It doesn’t! It’s an illusion or an emulation, to use a technical term that’s more correct.

    Technically you are always operating within different subsets of the CIE L*a*b space that are converted back and forth, but always with CIE L*a*b as the ultimate reference. How colour values are “translated” is up to the colour management and colour profiles, and if you don’t seem to have any colour management set up, your system will use a set of default values.

    I am fully aware of the fact that this is all a bit oversimplified, but everyone who thinks he can operate in CMYK mode (*what* CMYK?) has been fooled by the illusion/emulation software vendors have used to hide the technology behind their products. I don’t blame them for doing so, because designers and printing operators should focus on their jobs, not algorithms or physics. On the other hand, comments of “old school” guys remind me of medieval craftsmen who were able to build such impressive buildings like the many cathedrals in Europe without knowing much about mathematics or statics. All they had was experience (“that’s how it always worked”), but no real knowledge. Of course the world has moved since then. The Renaissance witnessed the rise of scientifically trained engineers who eventually enabled humanity to build skyscrapers.

    Getting back to the issue discussed here, we have the PDF/X standards for pre-press for a couple of years now. Since PDF/X-3 it is not only possible, but even recommended to use RGB images + colour profiles in PDF files!

    As for not using PSD files for PS or PDF export, the only thing I have to say is we’re living in 2009, not 1999. Does anyone really think InDesign, Acrobat, XPress, CorelDraw or Scribus don’t have mechanisms in place to make sure bitmap data are exported according to the PDF/PS specs? Think again!

    Bottom line: Medieval craftsmen should continue using their proven methods, because they somehow seem to work (although they actually don’t know why) and they can produce impressive results. But please don’t call those who know better and have provable facts on their side unprofessional. It didn’t work 600 years ago, and it won’t work now.

    4
  117. 119

    Marco, you will have hard time answering anyone’s questions and remarks :) Let me add mine: when you tell people to ditch Photoshop EPS files in favor of PSD format, how did you do that well-known Dutch beer brand layout with UV-spot and emboss plates? And made InDesign understand which is what? Just curious….
    Thanks

    1
  118. 120

    @val : You know, i think inmates have a similar fear towards soap! You must work in a real magazine to not be able to bend!

    @Osjar: You on the other hand seem to know it all. It seems all the mentioned specs and standards pointed out by an entire industry are horseshit and we should all just ignore it.

    VA

    -1
  119. 121

    No problem, Ivan. The other artwork is an Illustrator .ai sitting on top of the photo. I pasted photoshop’s clipping path in illustrator. (I could have added it i Photoshop but this was made with Creative Suite 1 and it was easier this way). Using native .ai files instead of illustrator EPS has quite a few advantages as well. (I didn’t use any transprancy but that is a big advantage: When you use .ai you can let InDesign do the flattening. If you were to use .eps you need to tell the Illustrator file what transprancy you want in it). The leters have been added on top of the normal letters inside InDesign in the right spotcolor.

    I’m off to Germany with my entire company for the next several days so I can’t comment the next few days. (I work for a smashing company, after Berlin, Belgium, Africa (!) we’re going to go party in Germany this weekend! Business is good! I’ll try to whip up a real-life case RGB-PDF workflow where color is quite important when I get back).

    -1
  120. 122

    Excellent job. I’m a prepress guy and an ICC Color Management consultant for many years. Working in CMYK is one of the most dangerous things designers can do when working with image files.

    This article does not recommend keeping your images in RGB but says to convert to CMYK with the appropriate ICC Profile. The profile will automatically set your TAC, TVI and proper black generation. Working files after CMYK conversion often results in bad separations which makes your job difficult or impossible to print properly.

    0
  121. 123

    Man, i don’t get it! Are we suppose to be designers or color scientists?
    I should only have to know as far as the tools needed for my trade require me to know… hã?!
    Well I started working in 1997, so i suppose i should be an old dog. Back then a designer should know color management because our tools could not communicate with the printer tools, thus we could not communicate with the printer! And we even used to hire prepress services to establish the bridge!
    My concern was to get something pretty on a mockup show it to the client and then make sure the printer could do it.
    This was where the problem began. The printer would then tell me to go back and tweek the end result to meet his needs. I new than that if i would comply to his demands he could print the job accordingly. This was a long and error prone process, not to mention expensive!
    So we as an industry all came together and said, there has to be a better way.
    So designers and printers and prepress gurus all put their thoughts on the table and along came ICC profiles and Color Management Systems and all the other things like PDFx and so on!
    I give thanks to it every day, for my life changed a lot since.
    I’m assuming we all read this book!
    So life goes on and there will always be those who feel they have been left behind. They can wine and bitch about it or they can catch up!

    These days all i have to do is a phone call, ask a printer if they support and comply to PDFx and what ICC should i use for a given stock or printing machine and that would be it. Should the answer be negative or “what?” I ditch the printer. As simple as that. There are no shortage of printers and if they cannot comply with the basic they should catch up.

    3
  122. 124

    JP said: “I’ve worked 13 years as a designer and art director and there is no way I’m letting software take complete control of my conversions.”

    orangetiki paraphrases JP: “there is no way on this green earth that I am letting an algorithm / program adjust my colors.”

    Guys, you are fooling yourself. Algorithms already *do* adjust your colours, otherwise you couldn’t do anything with Photoshop & Co. As I wrote there is a constant conversion from RGB to CIE L*a*b to RGB (or RGB that emulates CMYK, which is just another conversion done by software). In other words, you trust algorithms you don’t understand, but you have (like mediaeval craftsmen) somehow learned to predict the results, mostly by experience. Along comes a new, more sophisticated technology that you don’t understand either, but since you haven’t (yet) learned to predict the results (i.e. lack of experience), you reject it. Fine with me, as long as you can satisfy your customers. But please don’t bash the author of the article as clueless simply because he has a better understanding of the technology.

    3
  123. 125

    @marco

    well if all the writers for smashing magazine treat readers like you did me, I would be amazed that anyone would write here. Trust me “inspiration” magazines online are a dime a dozen.

    Also note that the reason for working in CMYK is to match what is on your screen to what gets printed. I know technically it is impossible ( if you don’t know why, read godzilla’s post), but when you work in CMYK in Photoshop daily like I do, I have to work in the channel palettes. Why Because I don’t always print on white. I don’t care what printing profile you have, what little tips and tricks you think you can pull off, you are NOT going to make color matches when your substrate colors change. That’s what i do day in and day out in the print business. Besides the point is if you send an rgb file to a printer, all your profiles aren’t going to mean squat because it isn’t what the printer has. They do the printing. Not you.

    -1
  124. 126

    Jables said: “Another point to add to that is Printers, especially when producing large amounts of product packaging (in my case), always want the smallest files possible that are print ready with the proper score marks, die dimensions, crops and color profiles. If you give them a BEEFY RGB PSD file attached to your InDesign document, with CMYK color profiles they are just going to laugh and say send us a clipped .eps file or vector work please that is properly converted in CMYK.”

    Sir, where have you been living during the last decade? The latest EPS version (specifiation) has been released in 1992! That’s an eternity in today’s technological environment. The format may still have some value, especially for file exchange, but it’s yesterday’s technology. Also, hardly anyone would send a .indd file alongside a “beefy” PSD file to a printer. Why would you do that? It’s almost asking for trouble, as you can’t be sure that the printer will have the same version of InDesign and the same plug-ins installed. Instead you send a PDF. InDesign or Acrobat will embed a flattened 8bit raster image in the PDF. You an even choose different levels of compression for images. Moreover, if you have a huge PSD file, it will be much bigger in CMYK, as it has to store 4 colour channels instead of three. It’s almost certain that an RGB file + ICC profile will be smaller.

    0
  125. 127

    @orangetiki
    Nobody, not even Marco is talking about sending RGB to the printer. Not even Marco does that.
    But if the printer guy know his stuff, you could send RBG (before doing prepress/graphics, I used to print, I was actually sitting on the RIP and standing next to the machine, so I do know both worlds).

    Are you in some special print business that you actually have to work on the channels, and not printing on white? Like clothes printing? I don’t really understand why you have to work in channels daily.

    -1
  126. 128

    Consider a process mix of Pantone 348C. Lets say it’s important to hit the color because it’s the logo of a big client. If you’re going to a press that recommends using US Sheetfed Coated v2, then 100,15, 98, 5 will be your closest match. If you’re going to publication running #5 Coated stock, that logo needs to be 100,23,100,11. If on the other hand, if you’re sending to newsprint, 85,15,96,10 is the proper separation to approximate PMS348C.

    A single set of CMYK numbers cannot have same color value when sent to different printing conditions. This unavoidable fact is the whole reason ICC Color Management was invented and RGB color work flows are so important.

    For more information about ICC Profiles and how to use them effectively, the bible of color management can be found here.

    http://www.colorremedies.com/realworldcolor/

    0
  127. 129

    Smashing Mag does a great job with their articles. Always well written.

    I have to agree with others who who are supporting the CMYK process. Although these days your RGB images won’t be completely ignored by a RIP as they were years ago there is still no better way to control color than to work in CMYK mode if that is going to be your output medium.

    I’ve worked 13 years as a designer and art director and there is no way I’m letting software take complete control of my conversions. Color is too important to overlook. When working for online color shift is just something you have to accept and you can rely a little on RGB’s huge gammut but the narrow gammut of CMYK coupled with the increased potential for reproduction accuracy make working in CMYK well worth it.

    Obviously a monitor is always going to display in RGB mode! I don’t think any designer promoting the benefits of working in CMYK would think otherwise.

    -1
  128. 130

    @belifant

    Actually yes I am in the screen print industry. I usually tweak channels directly because a lot of times I will have to make a single set of screens to print on three different colored shirts. Only the channels palette lets me see exactly how the inks will lay down on the shirt. Also at times esp with photographs certain colors will be out of gamut simply because of the nature of the screens. Rather then try to mask and adjust, it is ten times faster and that much more accurate to go into the channels palette and adjust myslef because JP said it best: there is no way on this green earth that I am letting an algorithm / program adjust my colors.

    Honestly, when I see CMYK, I think of outputting. RGB means (to me) that it will never leave the screen. This is where I am pulling my My entire grief with this article is that if you KNOW where the final product is going, why are you changing color schemes or working in a color scheme just to change it later just so it looks better to you. To me it is akin to let me draw all of my artwork with the Pantone palette and then just print it to a desktop printer and demand that all my colors match. That to me screams inexperience and the arrogance of the author here just set me off. I don’t want to flame and please excuse me if I seem to be.

    2
  129. 131

    All I have to say is this is great. But I agree with most of the people posting here. CMYK is the medium used worldwide. There may be new astonishing technology and some great printers out there. But at what cost?

    When you work in a business like mine which is mass production of merchandise and product packaging across the globe your Marketing/Finance Director is always going to go down the cheapest road possible. That cuts out all the new fancy equipment leaving you with a very limited range.

    So CMYK is always the safest way to go. Also I would like to say that using the Adobe.com website to upload large files sounds great if you are a free-lance graphic designer but again in the business that most people are in they are not exactly going to share all of their files with the world especially if there are copyrights in the mix.

    Another point to add to that is Printers, especially when producing large amounts of product packaging (in my case), always want the smallest files possible that are print ready with the proper score marks, die dimensions, crops and color profiles. If you give them a BEEFY RGB PSD file attached to your InDesign document, with CMYK color profiles they are just going to laugh and say send us a clipped .eps file or vector work please that is properly converted in CMYK.

    So again while this is innovation the world could use, the print world is not ready for something like this yet, at least not on a mass scale. Except maybe a short-run printer. Most money making printers in this country or the next print on a large scale…even if they offer short-run printing, they make their money on CMYK and it will be like that for the next 10 years at least.

    Sign me up though when you create a cheap effective way to send large BEEFY PSD files without compromising your own artwork or your company’s copyrights while at the same time printing these files on a mass production scale on some fantastic press machines without pre-press complaining about size and compatibility. :)

    1
  130. 132

    It is sad to realize that the community i work in and belong to cannot respect, sustain or communicate with itself. And yet it excels in doing so for clients in its daily business!

    1
  131. 133

    For those who understand German, here’s an interesting article on RGB vs. CMYK editing in the Swiss “Publisher” magazine (and for those who don’t, at least some of the images speak for themselves):

    http://www.publisher.ch/dynpg/upload/imgfile1062.pdf

    -1
  132. 134

    @orangetiki
    Ah ok, interesting, not very familiar on that kind of printing, so I won’t say anything, even tough if I’d look into it, I might show how it could be done in RGB. For example just as an idea, if you’d create a custom CMYK ICC Profile, which includes also the background color, you could work in RGB on your image, and with activated softproof with that CMYK profile, you’d see exactly how the colors will behave in the printing process!
    But ok, just a suggestion, maybe in your case it is necessary to work directly in the CMYK channels, but you should have a look at it.

    But when you say you should work in the colorspace it is outputed, couldn’t it also make sense to say, you should do your work in the colorspace the image was created, as it’s the original colorspace where everything is untouched yet. Then, when you are done, you convert to CMYK, maybe make some minor adjustments, send to printer.

    @Jables
    You misunderstood the whole concept of RGB. The goal is also in RBG workflow, to deliver a perfect CYMK PDF/X for printing (usually PDF)

    @VA, Kevin Muldoon, Godzilla
    Absolutely correct!
    Before ICC and Colormanagment, doing colorcorrection and printing was trial and error!

    If you have a perfect Colormanagment setup, you can do your whole work you do in Photoshop in RBG, until it looks good on your screen, send it to your printer, and the printed image will look exactly the same as on your Screen, without doing any correction!
    That what we’re aiming for, and that’s what everybody should aim for!

    So also the CMYK guys should agree with that, unless you wanna make your own life just unnecessary complicated. I really recommend to have a look at it, maybe do a course, cause RBG workflow is what’s teached today, not by some kiddies, by some of the most respected and experienced people in the industrie.

    -1
  133. 135

    @Godzilla:

    The authors of these article were my teachers, they taught me all the Colormanagement / ICC / RGB stuff :-)

    -1
  134. 136

    Jables aid: “There may be new astonishing technology and some great printers out there.”

    The PDF/X-3 standard has been published in 2002, so it’s a bit of a stretch to call it “new astonishing technology.” The latest PDF/X version is X-5, published in 2008.

    0
  135. 137

    orangetiki said: “Besides the point is if you send an rgb file to a printer, all your profiles aren’t going to mean squat because it isn’t what the printer has. They do the printing. Not you.”

    You don’t seem to understand what a fully colour managed workflow means. It means you’re working with reliable device profiles from the beginning (i.e. monitor, scanner, camera etc.) to the end (the printing device), so that the software involved knows how to convert colours for each device in the process.

    Your dictum “because it isn’t what the printer has” is pointless in a colour managed workflow, as the printer will either standardise his equipment to conform to a standard profile or create his own device-specific profiles. For the former choice its even possible to get a certification.

    -1
  136. 138

    @VA

    “These days all i have to do is a phone call, ask a printer if they support and comply to PDFx and what ICC should i use for a given stock or printing machine and that would be it. Should the answer be negative or “what?” I ditch the printer. As simple as that. There are no shortage of printers and if they cannot comply with the basic they should catch up.”

    What a wonderful system you have in which you can dictate the use of printers to your clients. Good for you. Suppose it didn’t occur to you that many clients have standing contracts and relationships with printers that the monkey with Photoshop isn’t going to stand in the way of.

    Is this more “whining and bitching”, as you called it? Stay classy, baby.

    -1
  137. 139

    @ jack parsons:

    In a sense you are right. Its perfectly understandable that in some workflows the designer is caught between a rock and a hard place, the most likely scenario being a contract between a client and a printer with outdated technology but experienced personell that knows how to work around the shortcomings of the current equipment.

    Buying new hardware and adjusting to new technology is disruptive and expensive, hence, many, if not most printing companies stick to their workflows and their devices until change becomes inevitable. This is perfectly understandable. It’s also understandable that people who know by experience how to tweak colours in a way that mysteriously meets the needs of their clients (and I carefully chose the word mysteriously, because, as I’ve shown above, they are not aware of the technology behind it). Sometimes, this fiddling with colour values reminds me of not only feeding punch cards to a computer, but also of creating punch cards with the help of a screw driver at a time when no current computer can read punch cards anymore, and even floppy drives begin to look like ancient technology.

    -1
  138. 140

    Wow,

    why couldn`t you write this article one week earlier – than I could have been posing in college the hole day ;). We just had this stuff last week… very interesting! By the way, nice cartoons on the bottom ;)

    -1
  139. 141

    (Just got back from Germany, the land of FOGRA, the color-experts). Some very good comments have been added. Just to reply to the last few:

    And here we go to the core of the discussion: Using a true colormanagement-workflow and ISO-certifed is scary stuff for a printer. Because now the endresult can be measured using the control-strips. The Delta-E (or ‘how much the printer missed the average color’) is visable for everyone.

    My client isn’t really aware of all this. He just cares about his own colors. He wants the colors of his products or brochures:
    1. To have the maximum color-power.
    2. To match as closely as possible no matter what paper he selects.
    3. To match as closely as possible even if he decides to select another printer (or designer agency!).

    This is what color-management can provide.

    Regarding my treatment of you, Orangetiki: You comment without either reading or understanding the artcile. Somehow you do judge it’s content and declare ‘I have shaken your faith in Smashing Magazine’. I feel this kind or comment demanded a reponse like the one I gave you: “please remain a silent reader or read the entire article before commenting. No one speaks of sending an RGB file to a printer.”

    As anyone can see I respond with great detail to anyone having a questions, doubts or an open mind.

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  140. 142

    @ jack parsons
    Ok man, let’s keep it classy!
    We can generalize or we be specific. I can’t really be specific here for obvious reasons but as a general rule of thumb the first thing i say to a client that imposes his printer is that i cannot vouch for the end result. Usually the client doesn’t have a clue of what i’m saying so i try to simplify as much as i can the process or workflow and explain it to him that if a printer cannot comply to the standards, the results can be unpredictable and i cannot vouch for it. If he is ok with it, than we have a go, if not someone has to give. I usually ad that if we are to have a guaranteed quality than i need to work with trusted printers.
    So far all have understood my point and signed to both solutions.

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  141. 143

    One more thing, @ jack parsons

    With ICC profiles and PDF workflow, usually the client sees the same color as i do on my screen. So every soft or hard proof is certified. If the end result is off, than it is obvious who screwed up.
    Let me tell you that so far only one printer in Portugal told me he didn’t have a clue about ICC or pdf. At the time, and this was 2006, i worked around him now i can’t work with nor around him because his out of business, so i really thought that this working method was really settled in the industry, and that only Portugal was behind, apparently i was wrong.

    0
  142. 144

    @marco:

    “No one speaks of sending an RGB file to a printer.”

    I, for one, do, but I don’t say this will work all the time. In a fully compliant PDF/X-3+ workflow it’s even recommended to provide RGB colours plus ICC profiles (a PDF/X-3 file without included CMS settings doesn’t conform to the spec and is defective). The CMYK conversion will be done by a PDF/X-3-conformant RIP. If the workflow is properly set up, this is far more reliable than any tinkering with emulated C, M, Y, and K channels.

    0
  143. 145

    @ Godzilla: 100% correct. But I felt sending out an RGB document and CMYK PDF file would be a great leap foreward already ;-) I spoke with Dov Isaacs from Adobe quite some time ago in Amsterdam and an RGB PDF with icc-profiles, layers, transparancy and JDF is what they’re aming for. The printer can select the best cmyk-profile for the job.
    Right now I still comply to the Certified PDF norm (a.k. pdf 1.3, no layers, no transprancy, no icc tags).

    1
  144. 146

    very helpful post, thanks

    0
  145. 147

    My replies.

    1) i did read this article as much as marco tries to insist that I didn’t.
    2) when I said “shake my faith”, i did mean it as a joke. Maybe what you wrote took me by the foundations of what I know and shook them. so I apologize for that
    3) In my experience if you are not working in the SAME color profile that is intended to print (you know, what my first post eludes to) you will not get the same results as you see. There are issues such as running outside of the color gamut and actual printing methods. So saying hey work in rgb or anything you want because it doesn’t matter you might as well be saying the sky is falling.
    What if you did use a color that is out of the printing methods’ reach? then what? Your article didn’t have the backing up or the proof that everything will work. You are assuming printing techniques and substrates.
    Then again as I said I do print on a lot of different items such as clothing, nylons, etc. Sometimes unfortunately there is no color profile for an orange tee shirt
    4) Godzilla did hit the nail on the head that I didn’t mention: I was trained old school. VERY old school. My first art director worked with one of the first companies to coin the phrase Clip Art ( Harry Volk’s Clipbooks of line art ) and I learned from there.
    5)Sure no one knows everything but @marco’s reply was still out of turn. First thing you NEVER do is insult your readers.

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  146. 148

    @orangetiki: Thanks for the professional response, I appreciate it and this is a good comment I can work with. (I didn’t understand your first remark was a joke). I try to help people out in the comments, but there are always people popping up because they’re somehow insulted or feel threatened. I mistook you for one at first. As the conversation progressed I noticed you’re a pro as well, but in a different kind of profession. I did some screen-printing back in the day and I loved it. I’ve even interviewed a Belgium Screensprinter. I spend almost 3.000 word explaining all the screenprinting-details. (In Dutch but check out the photo’s: http://tinyurl.com/y8qut9t )

    As you know the article I wrote can’t contain every step of the way as it’s already very long. I do cover all the basics and try to show the way. It was because you wrote “Send an RGB file to a printer ” that I took for granted you had not read the article completely and just ‘fired a few remarks in the comments’.

    Regarding your questions in he last comment: “So saying hey work in rgb or anything you want because it doesn’t matter” Well thats not exactly what said. I do mention using RGB for the most common different kinds of paper. (not t-shirts or other kinds of materials). I also specify the most common kinds of paper, like: Coated, Uncoated, newspaper and Magazine.

    “What if you did use a color that is out of the printing methods’ reach” Well that is why the standard ISO profiles are so important. Every sort of paper and printing-process (coated, uncoated, offset and so on) has been tested to the extreme. (The every extreme!) As such the behavior of the colors can be predicted within certain limits. These limits are defined inside a data-set and a accompanying control strip can let the printer measure his own color and how much he is ‘off’ (or not).

    -1
  147. 149

    @ orangetiki:

    “What if you did use a color that is out of the printing methods’ reach?”

    Google for “rendering intent.”

    0
  148. 150

    I can’t thank you enough for this article. I was having problems with my images turning out dark with a particular digital print system because I was converting images to CMYK in Photoshop, then exporting to PDF.

    I just got back several jobs where I used the RGB .tiff and .psd files in the InDesign document, and let the Press Quality PDF do the conversions. The colors are identical now. Phew.

    1
  149. 151

    Wow, controversial article. An interesting concept for sure. I will try this method.

    I would always recommend people soft proof their final PDF’s in Acrobat Pro afterwards by going to: Advanced > Output Preview. This always gives me a very accurate view of how everything looks when printed.

    I have printed in RGB before for large-scale photo’s and digital print and have seen some great results. I like the fact all colour conversion is done at a single point, and should yield consistent results.

    But…

    1) If things don’t look right and you need to make adjustments to the colour of the images surely making these in a CMYK colour space is much easier (and logical)?

    2) Also what about ICL? (Ink Coverage Limits?) These cannot be accounted for in RGB and if converting to CMYK profile in InDesign cannot be set (as far as I am aware).

    3) Also particularly for blacks a RGB to CYMK conversion tends to create messy blacks (C:46 M:60 Y:58 K:40) which can give nasty results to your images. The only way to ensure a nice rich black is to create it in CMYK (C:40 K:100). A messy black could also cause headaches if you wanted white text on dark areas, by ensuring only 2 plates are hit you get crisper more readable text.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to bash this article in any way and the ability to have a single set of images to use cross-media is great. I just think people need to think each project through before committing to a particular workflow and the above issues are just a few things that spring to mind when considering this article especially for offset printing.

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  150. 152

    @jysta:

    Interesting points.

    ad 1) It seems logical, but technically it isn’t. Many people think adjusting the C, M, Y or K channel is the same as somehow manipulating the printing machine itself. That’s not true. Many people have accumulated experience that allows them to produce more or less predictable results by converting images to CMYK and working on the respective colour channels. Other people know where to kick when the motor of their car refuses to start.

    ad 2) You mentioned Acrobat, but not plug-ins like PitStop. In a colour-managed PostScript or PDF workflow you have more, not less options to handle ink coverage. Also, and this is a very basic example, an ICC profile for newspaper printing contains ink coverage data which are quite different from those for printing on coated paper.

    ad 3) Black is always an issue, agreed, but manipulating Black/K in an image adds several layers of points of failure (see, e.g.: http://littlecms2.blogspot.com/2009/08/back-in-black.html and http://littlecms2.blogspot.com/2009/08/black-is-black-ii.html). There are mechanisms in place to control the issue, and if you are working with solid colours, creating a rich or warm black in CMYK mode is always an option, provided you _and_ your printer know what you’re doing.

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  151. 153

    Good questions. CMYK optimizer is used by a lot of printers (often without the knowledge of graphic designers). This allows printers to change the CMYK values, TAC, UCR, etc. to better match their needs or paper. Pistop is ‘the mother of al pdf-editors’ (review of ’09 on my site) and ‘PDF Standardizer’ can also adjust color values and convert to other ICC profiles.

    Regarding black: I never use ICC-profiles for logo’s and other vector-based (logo- or identity) elements. They would indeed convert to full-color black because of the cmyk-to-cmyk conversion in profile when exporting…

    @Godzilla: Thanks for the links!

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  152. 154

    Very interesting…. new approach…must give it a try…… Ravi

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  153. 155

    Reading some of these comments made me feel I was back in 2001 or something! The RGB workflow has been reliable and robust and in use by far more publications than you might realize over the past decade. InDesign just makes it easier than ever. Yes, there are reasons to convert to CMYK first, but in most publications, RGB makes more sense.

    I made a few more comments on this blog post at InDesignSecrets: http://indesignsecrets.com/this-week-in-indesign-articles-number-14.php#comment-479684

    (That’s not meant as spam; I just didn’t want to repeat it all again here.)

    Thanks,
    David Blatner
    co-author “Real World Photoshop”, “Real World InDesign” and others

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  154. 156

    FWIW: A really good reason to have a RGB-workflow is that there is an increasing chance that the printing may be NOT done in pure CMYK… How about Hexachrome or similar 5 and 6 colour systems. Not to mention developments with enhanced inks.

    And in response to a lot of comments that state that one cannot do CMYK-corrections on a RGB-image: CMYK and RGB are complementary. If you have ever worked with old-fashioned scanners (or, god forbid, had to work with separate filters on a stat camera) you may have noticed that the colour-filters used are red, blue and green. And lo-behold. look at the Color Balance sliders in PhotoShop: Cyan to Red, Magenta to Green, Yellow to Blue. Have the Adobe-engineers gone mad? Or do they in fact have a basic knowledge of how colour works? I know the answer…

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  155. 157

    To me this article/thread sums up how screwed up some art creators can be and how simple CM assumptions are dangerous. I manage prepress for clients like Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Weiden+Kennedy, etc. and they understand this vital link to success. All their native art (PS, INDD, Ill) is supplied to the printer in one common color space, GRACoL. It’s the one color space most good North American offset printers are adopting as their own
    Personally I’m fine with creating art in RGB at first for maximum color depth but then always saving out from its native app as GRACoL. It cuts out any possibility for error.

    We are not in an age yet where a singular file (PDF) can be supplied without worry of last minute correction cycles. Besides its unrealistic to think there won’t be at least one round of corrections before final approval.

    PDFs to me are great for FPO proofs unless a client states thats the only option.
    But remember when metal is spinning on a $500-600 an hour press its an ugly place to be when something wrong is discovered on a press check and you realize you cant make that change with the supplied PDF that was used.

    I’ve had too many over-simplistic theories (and its obvious when reading this thread) as to how to handle color and time and time again their model keeps changing when it actually comes to churning the job through on time with desired results. Today’s print market doesn’t always allow for that extra 3 hours of custom prepress work and designers for the most part won’t supply the necessary information regarding how to handle their job let alone hard copy.

    I’m well aware of up front color servers like Alwan and I know they can be a great tool especially in its handling on RGB conversion. But like someone who earlier commented, what happens when you’re asked to make a particular color move while the pressman are waiting for new plates. A needed custom 10% Magenta cutback isn’t just that when the dvl is always rebalancing the color.

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  156. 158

    Regarding your questions in he last comment: “So saying hey work in rgb or anything you want because it doesn’t matter” Well thats not exactly what said. I do mention using RGB for the most common different kinds of paper. (not t-shirts or other kinds of materials). I also specify the most common kinds of paper, like: Coated, Uncoated, newspaper and Magazine.

    http://www.eusb.de/view.php?filename=43gts_00003.jpg

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  157. 159

    It’s been a while since I stopped by to read the comments, but Eric’s remarks require a reply. You know Eric, I never need to do color adjustments like ‘custom 10% magenta cutback at the press’. If you’ve supplied a file that requires this you’re basically screwed. Color management done right can prevent last minute changes.

    Also, this part of your comment contains a false assumption:” It’s the one color space most good North American offset printers are adopting as their own”. One of the most important parts of color management is the fact that there is no ‘one-cmyk-color-space’. There’s one for *every* kind of paper; coated, uncoated, newspaper etc. Sending everything out “optimized for standard coated” will result in non-optimized colors as the paper works with the ink.

    Where color is most critical (usually food and or clothes) we send out certified colorproofs. When a control strip is printed next to the artwork everyone can rest a sure there won’t be any last-minute press color changes.

    good news by the way: The US is catching up and is setting up an audit & certify program with ISO 125647 standard. More info here: Welcome to the ‘Certified Color’ Party America! http://tinyurl.com/ycs75yj You know one of the good things about Europe is we’ve had to come up with a standard as we are so diverse.

    Oh, nice client list. I work for clients like Pepsico, Nestlé (Mars, Kit-Kat), L’Oreal and may others. Color is very important for them as well…

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  158. 160

    @ Eric:

    GRACoL is _not_ a colour space. It’s a set of data included in an ICC profile. Saying “I don’t use RGB, but only GRACoL” is not even comparing apples and oranges, it’s comparing apples and cars ;)

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  159. 161

    Little remark:
    If you have a calibrated monitor (I use Apple Cinema Display) and a Mac with Snow Leopard, then you see your work in LWF Gamma 2.2.

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  160. 162

    Some food for thought:

    I have been a graphic designer working in the print industry (be it newspapers, magazines, brochures, you name it) for 25 years now, so I guess I could be one of the old dogs mentioned in the comments above.

    At the moment, I work a lot for clients who have supplements, special reports and so on… published in The Times or other papers, thus using the appropriate ISOnewspaper26v4 ICC profile in that case.

    The Times guidelines and instructions for using their ICC profile are very clear: “ALWAYS work on your images, colour correct them etc. in RGB mode, then convert them to CMYK only at the very end of the workflow, when you are 100% happy with the result. NEVER do any alteration to a CMYK image once the ICC profile has been applied to it.”

    This is coming from the guys at The Times, and I don’t think anyone (including the self-proclaimed old dogs) can suspect them of being a bunch of unprofessional or clueless amateurish people compared to the rest of the print industry which some gurus here claim to be a part of…

    I also have to check that all artworks sent by the clients advertising in the supplements comply to The Times specifications which they are sent beforehand. Most of the time these artworks come from so-called established and professional design and advertising agencies…

    I insist on ‘so-called’ as in 90% of cases, they consistently get it wrong and guess what happens: I have to convert the artwork of these CMYK ‘purists’ back to RGB in order to have the correct ICC profile applied so it can get properly printed.

    Of course I don’t get paid for the extra work I have to do to fix their mess, but it would take me more time to explain these ‘professionals’ how to do it properly rather than doing it myself…

    And you would be amazed if I told you who these incompetent agencies are, believe me!

    Though not as experienced as I am, Marco is 100% right: RGB workflow (with soft proof activated) is the way to go. At the end of the day, ICC profiles haven’t been invented just for fun and everything gets delivered to the printers in a state-of-the art CMYK respecting their specs to the letter, when properly used.
    On the opposite, fiddling with images in CMYK during the workflow is asking for trouble, and always an accident waiting to happen.

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  161. 163

    @harryposter: Thank you for the detailed insights!

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  162. 164

    Wow, there are so many dinosaurs posting on this page…anyone still using CMYY for images, whether in Quark, InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop, are quite frankly burying their collective heads in the sand. Move on.

    If you don’t know by now why you should be doing it (RGB image workflow), think very hard about whether you are truly qualified to play with color at all. Seriously, that is how backwards the “CMYK is better than RGB” argument has become. Ten years ago, I would have agreed with some of the comments on this blog.

    Look up Dov Isaacs sometime, and read his mantra about keeping ALL files at the highest level of abstraction. He should know; he is the principal scientist from Adobe for PDF; better known as the godfather of PDF.

    And before you ask, our company was the first magazine publisher in the world to go 100% RGB image workflow, and it scares the living you know what’s out of me thinking of the CMYK only days.

    Please don’t confuse primary colors (C, M, Y, and K) in vectors; ie pure colours that are not meant to be converted to any profile, versus bitmap images that MUST be converted to the correct profile. As for softproofing, how else are you editing your files if you are not doing so with the output intent in mind. That is why hard wired CMYK number in an image are a complete nonsense when you are correcting it, if you are not simulating the destination.

    How many people still use SWOP, or Chromalin on this thread? Ouch for you if you still do.

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  163. 165

    The way I work is I first clean up an image in adobe RGB.

    Then turn on proof colors and use masked adjustment layers to desaturate and curve out any gamut problems. Group those together and label according to the destination profile. Depending on project there might be fixes for 2-4 profiles per psd. None-destructive, and if you happen to need to make EPS files for any reason you can just batch with convert profile and toggle visibility on the desired adjustments group while getting a coffee refill.

    That’s how I do it anyway…

    With almost any CMYK profile you will need to do some fixing to avoid gamut problems. You can leave the actual conversion to the app that’s exporting the PDF, but you sure as hell need to fix it before or you will have fun results, especially with the ISOnewspaper26v4.

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  164. 166

    In my classes about how to prepare the PDFs we are working with the reading of this article, this is a very good point, thank you very mutch!

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  165. 167

    Hmm,

    i’d have to say that working in RGB is great. I would however disagree that making any changes in CMYK is asking for trouble.

    First many are pointing to other companies on how they work and their workflow. Thats great, it works for their particular paper, TAC limitations and imagery. However, if you’ve ever tapped into the power of using calculations to customize your black plate and do specialized color separations, then of course you use CMYK, and you most definitely dont let indesign do your conversions. Sure for a lot of projects its fine, but if you need to control the process for every images, its not the way to go.

    Just because this workflow works for some people doesnt mean its the best. And just because this is a new way to work (which it isnt, people have been working in RGB for years) doesnt mean that other methods shouldnt be used.

    Simply put, calculations can control the black plate giving you tight control of your color separations. You do this in the CMYK mode. I do work in RGB but i definitely dont just blindly let Indesign do the conversion.

    For the most of my work, i would say however that RGB and a good conversion is all one needs. However I always want to look at the results and adjust. Maybe add contrast. Pop the highlights because I know the paper isnt very bright. Take a bit of yellow out of the 1/4 tones.

    Good luck everyone.

    The beatles.

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  166. 168

    Thank you so much, If I did not find this I don’t think I could have met my deadline. Color management I get!

    Before reading this I was using CMYK and even with all of my color management tricks (device calibration, using bridge, placing psd files, etc) my colors were still not matching when exported. Now they do!

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  167. 169

    I just saw this article today, in 2012, and I have to say most of it is pure rubbish. Particularly the one of dumping EPS for PSD – that’s a ridiculous piece of advice. What it should be is dumping EPS and using PDF instead! Well if you have no vector elements at all, then PSD or TIFF is perfectly fine and better than EPS, but if your photoshop file contains vectors then PDF is definitely the better option.

    Very poor advice, I expect better from Smashing…

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  168. 170

    I think most people here know they are not seeing CMYK on the screen but i can say anytime I convert something from RGB to CMYK I notice fine detail changes in the shadows and sometimes banding problems in gradient areas. Although you are still seeing it in RGB there is still a significant difference in color shifting of vibrant colors. I have job security because of articles like this as I get artwork in all day long from fancy shmancy firms that is all mucked up like this and like it or not most of the printers I work with all over the country will refuse the art with RGB files linked. Maybe they are “old school” but I get back what I am expecting from them. Interesting article but I just don’t have enough faith in the auto conversion to trust the results.

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  169. 171

    Should I still be exporting as pdfx1a? It seems that most paper prints I get back nowadays are way too dark. The thing is, a reasonable percentage, including large format prints (banners/billboards/vehicle wraps) are PERFECT using the same export settings. I am at my wits end trying to get a decent print these days. Am I the only one?

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  170. 172

    Remember black is a color too. Working in RGB to edit a photo before converting to grayscale is the only way to go. You have so many more options.

    I am old school been in this business for 45 years. Remember two things are certain: death and change. All you guys need to reread step number 8 and find out from your printer which profile they use for the paper your job will print on. Some of you may even need to read it out load as so many comments skipped many need to know procedures. I know, it’s too simple for a “designer” but the printer knows his equipment so follow his lead and don’t second guess him.

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    • 173

      Oh, by the way, did I mention that working in RGB gives you more options for CMYK too? The conversion to either grayscale or CMYK works for us.

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  171. 174

    Hi, Looking for some support.

    I have designed a manual of 20 pages entirely in Illustrator thanks to the multiple artwork capability of latest versions.

    But of course illustrator do not compaginate as indesign. I sent to the printer and apparently they try to open the file again in illustrator and pum big mess.

    So can I save the illustrator file as press quality PDF, import each page and recreate the book in indesign and then Export as PDF again for offset printing

    Thanks in advance
    Gab

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    • 175

      Hi, answer first to Gabriel: I suggest you export/output your illustrator data as a press quality PDF. If you had to work in individual pages, just combine it all to one PDF (most likely in Acrobat Professional (not reader) or there are good free or nearly free programs that do it for you e.g. Adolix). If nowadays your printer can’t handle pdf files without going round the world, please look for another printer!! Most printers work with pdf editing software such as Enfocus Pitstop and output to plates or digital using some sort of PDF workflow program (Agfa Apogee, Heidelberg Prinect, Kodak Prinergy) to impose pages, Quite Imposing 2, costing pocket money makes quite (sorry pan) a reasonable job.

      referring to other posts earlier on the RGB/CMYK, please make sure YOU work and output to cmyk without ICC profiles. Litho requires it, Digital doesn’t care about it quite often for the following reasons:
      unless you use hexachrome or keep some colours as spot colours, you will get a nasty flat result with some RGB colours, hence the gamut warning triangle when you want to use certain colours in some versions of Photoshop (haven’t checked on PS CC). Reason: CMYK gamut is smaller than RGB (ignoring the fact that RGB is for screens etc) if you like as ananlogy car and lorry: yes you can carry some heavy stuff in a car but that’s what a lorry is better suited for.
      If you need to use Pantone colours as CMYK use the PC ones you find in photoshop (Quite a Box of trix is by default set up to use same)
      BTW been in Prepress for 20 years and seen some what I described

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