We're a board game publisher about to send our first game to an overseas manufacturer. The game is composed of hundreds of cards with detailed, fantasy art, and we're excited to get this game finally out the door.
We sent the raw, packaged indesign (CS6) files to a local printer to see how everything would look before we have 3,000 copies of the game made overseas. The local printer used the same process that the overseas printer will, a 4 color high-end printer that is certainly impressive to people new to the industry such as ourselves. The sample cards they printed came out with fantastic clarity, but the colors are very muted. It's not a subtle change in color like I might see when toggling RGB to CMYK in photoshop for example. Instead, the colors on the print out look like someone slid a color saturation slider on the entire indesign file down by 25%.
When we print on our low-end inket at the office, the resolution is obviously poor, but the colors look great and match our calibrated monitors. When we export to PDF using "Press Quality", everything looks perfect on multiple computers here and at other locations away from the office. It's only the most important step, printing on a full-blown, commercial printer that the colors look so muted.
Here are some crude photos I took on my phone to help show the difference.
These photos have our office, inkjet printer cards are more colorful and the high-quality commercial printer cards are muted (sorry for the strange alignment, this forum is rotating the images for some reason):
Different cards here:
I've researched about swatches and color profiles, but all my experimenting hasn't produced any difference on my end. Therein lies the challenge, as I cannot duplicate the problem here at the office. The colors look great in indesign, great in exported PDFs, and great on our inkjet printed cards. Only when we pay a decent amount of money to the local commercial printer do we get these muted colors in our samples. And the local printer says their setup is exactly the same as our overseas manufacturer, which is terrifying. We've spent 17 months agonizing over all the details of the look of our cards for aesthetic purposes and game play so that players can quickly identify each card type by color. These muted colors will really mess the game up. We're pulling our hair out over here.
The local printer has offered to provide a color correction service for us, but at $100 an hour, that sounds like a lot for a new business like ours.
Is there some setting inside indesign that we are missing? Is there a way to replicate the muted colors on our end so we can at least troubleshoot this? Is there a method to turn up the saturation, if you will, for 4 color printing? Should we bite the bullet and pay the local printer an arm and a leg to color correct this? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
P.S. Also, if it helps, when we had the local printer digitally print a sample, everything looked far too dark, which they said was a side effect of the digital print process.