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I know what you see on a computer screen, comes out darker in actual print form.
How do you figure that?
Are you unfamiliar with Colour Management?
- I first convert the images to either CMYK or Grayscale
You omitted to mention the CMYK and Grayscale Colour Space.
Is this the right process?
If you get then result you want then it is not »wrong« but it seems far from recommendable.
Ideally the print provider should either provide the proper ICC profile or, if it is one go the popular standard ones anyways, tell you which one to use and where to get it.
The image editing (at least the majority of it) for photographic images should be performed in RGB and the separation be done as a final step, possibly even in pdf export by the layout application.
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This sounds like a printer from the last century, before color management was invented. They should just give you a CMYK profile to convert to, done. I'd turn right around and go elsewhere.
There are two things to consider.
The darkening the printer refers to here is known as dot gain, caused by ink spreading in the paper. This makes the halftone dots larger than intended. Dot gain can be a fairly complex curve, which is compensated in modern CMYK profiles.
A CMYK profile is always press/paper/ink specific. The profile describes the final output given a certain input. Presses are calibrated to standards that vary regionally, so that they behave predictably. This reduces the variables, so that in practice, different CMYK profiles correspond to different paper types, in different geographic regions.
But there's one other thing.
If your screen is too bright, the print will be too dark. You need to calibrate your screen to get a visual match. You need to set monitor white so that it is a close visual match to paper white. This is important! You should "see" paper white on screen. It makes perfect sense: the color of the paper is not adjustable, it is what it is. So that has to be your reference, and you adjust your monitor - which after all is just a proofing device - to match that.
You can do all this in the monitor's OSD controls, it should be done before running any calibration software. Since your perception will be heavily influenced by your working environment, this is a purely visual process - just tweak until it looks right. Numbers are secondary to irrelevant (other than as reference)
If you do this with some care, what you see is what you get. You'd be surprised how close it's possible to get, especially if you also adjust the black point in the same way.