14 Replies Latest reply on Mar 5, 2010 11:59 PM by richerd143

    Proper color workflow with CMYK inkjet printer

      Hi, I work in an academic science group that has a networked HP DesignJet 800ps printer (postscript RIP). Unlike many inkjets, it appears to be a true CMYK printer - that is, our i1 Match software recognizes it as a CMYK device. We do all our printing in house - we don't have to worry about commercial printing or publishing, and our color management needs are basically confined to trying to have the printer's output match what we see on our monitors when we print photos in Photoshop or posters in Illustrator.

      Having previously worked only with RGB printers and in Photoshop, I am pretty much lost now as to how to set up our color management workflow. (And don't even ask about my colleagues. :-)) I've never had to worry about either CMYK workspaces or printers before. I want to keep things as simple as possible for the staff here, given that none, including myself, are graphics specialists.

      I've looked at the "Color Workflows for Adobe Creative Suite 3" document published by Adobe, and although it is very meticulous, none of the examples seem to match our situation. Specifically, all the info regarding CMYK printing involves working with commercial presses, which is not relevant to us.

      I would like to avoid making my colleagues work in different color spaces depending on whether they are working in Illustrator or Photoshop - ideally, I would like it if we could stay in RGB at all times. First question: Is this unrealistic given that we have a CMYK printer?

      No doubt I will have more questions, but I want to start simple for now. Thanks for helping me out - this is not my area of expertise.
        • 1. Re: Proper color workflow with CMYK inkjet printer
          Level 1
          Do you have a good profile of this printer? (actually, it would be a profile of the RIP/printer combo) If so, there's no magic to implementing color management with it. Basically, you work in an identified color space (like Adobe98), and then convert to the output space (the HP print space.) Most likely, the RIP will do this on the fly. The fact that this is a local CMYK device and not a commercial offset press is immaterial.

          >I would like it if we could stay in RGB at all times - first question: Is this unrealistic given that we have a CMYK printer?

          The only hurdle to overcome is the fact that the color gamut of your RGB working space will be larger (in almost all colors) than the gamut of the printer (particularly for this true 4-color printer.) So the question becomes, how do you handle the out-of-gamut colors (like those saturated oranges and blues.) It's very easy to set up a soft proof environment in which you can preview on-screen what will happen to those out-of-gamut RGB colors when they hit the CMYK space. (More details on request.)

          Basically, if you know how to implement color management in the RGB world, this won't be appreciably different. THe RIP is the only wrinkle. You have to know what you're doing to create a good profile of a CMYK device - ink limits, GCR and the like. Either HP will have a profile you can use, or you can hire a good profile to be made. If you're not an expert, I'd advise having someone create the profile for you.
          • 2. Re: Proper color workflow with CMYK inkjet printer
            (Aandi_Inston) Level 1
            > I would like it if we could stay in RGB at all times - first question:
            > Is this unrealistic given that we have a CMYK printer?

            Not only is it realistic, it's what color management is all about.
            Working in a standard RGB space is a strongly recommended way of
            getting good colour to print. (Though people do need to understand
            about gumut, as Rick says).

            I don't really understand why you are making a point of this being a
            "CMYK printer". Except for printers with no colour, and printers with
            more than four inks. ALL colour printers are CMYK - there is no such
            thing as an RGB printer.

            Aandi Inston
            • 3. Re: Proper color workflow with CMYK inkjet printer
              (Marco_Ugolini) Level 1
              Aandi Inston wrote:

              >I don't really understand why you are making a point of this being a
              "CMYK printer". Except for printers with no colour, and printers with
              more than four inks. ALL colour printers are CMYK - there is no such
              thing as an RGB printer.

              Aandi,

              As a general rule, laser printers have an internal CMYK engine in their drivers which ends up assigning the proper toner amounts released from each cartridge.

              Inkjet printer drivers, on the other hand, mostly use an internal RGB conversion engine, starting from which they end up determining the exact amounts of ink released from each of the print heads (however many of them there happen to be).

              So, although laser printers use toners loosely named C, M, Y, K, and inkjets also have cartridges named C, M, Y, K (plus others, depending on the system), it's the internal driver conversion mechanism that determines whether the device is "CMYK" or "RGB", though (and on that point I agree with you) there is no such thing as an RGB printer, strictly speaking.
              • 4. Re: Proper color workflow with CMYK inkjet printer
                Level 1
                > Do you have a good profile of this printer? (actually, it would be a profile of the RIP/printer combo)

                Hi Rick, thanks for replying. I don't have a profile at this point, but I can make one. We do have the i1 Photo package from GretagMacbeth, and I have profiled other printers before with it. So this is feasible. But I am still a little confused about how to implement this. i1 seems to be "leading" me to a CMYK reference file for profiling the printer, rather than the RGB reference file that I used for profiling previous (non-Postscript) printers. That was one of the triggers for my initial query.

                > The only hurdle to overcome is the fact that the color gamut of your RGB working space will be larger (in almost all colors) than the gamut of the printer (particularly for this true 4-color printer.) So the question becomes, how do you handle the out-of-gamut colors (like those saturated oranges and blues.) It's very easy to set up a soft proof environment in which you can preview on-screen what will happen to those out-of-gamut RGB colors when they hit the CMYK space. (More details on request.)

                Yes, details would be very helpful. Thanks.
                • 5. Re: Proper color workflow with CMYK inkjet printer
                  Level 1
                  Aandi and Marco,

                  I do understand that there is no such thing as an "RGB printer" in terms of the inks used. But my understanding from reading "Real World Color Management" is that non-Postscript inkets are usually referred to as RGB printers "because the vast majority require RGB signals as their input, forcing us to to profile them as RGB devices" (to quote the book). The printers that I've profiled in the past with i1 worked this way.

                  My confusion stems from the fact that the HP printer we're now using apparently does *not* function this way. Hence my question about whether this is an RGB or CMYK device, and whether this affects: 1) the color workflow we should use; and 2) what reference file I should use when profiling the printer with i1.

                  I hope this makes sense.
                  • 6. Re: Proper color workflow with CMYK inkjet printer
                    Level 1
                    Don Hutcheson has files at: http://www.hutchcolor.com/Images_and_targets.html that can help you determine for certain if you RIP is a true CMYK RIP. If it is, and I'm pretty sure it is, then you can use one of the provided CMYK targets that ships with ProfileMaker. I usually use the ECI2002 target for CMYK profiles. Of course, you'll have to experiment to find the corrrect ink limits and black generation for that printer. Usually substantially different from press conditions.
                    • 7. Re: Proper color workflow with CMYK inkjet printer
                      Level 1
                      > profile them as RGB devices" (to quote the book). The printers that I've profiled in the past with i1 worked this way.

                      As Peter points out in his post, it is most likely that your RIP is a CMYK RIP (most RIP's are.) If that is the case, you'll be profiling a CMYK device, not an RGB device (as you have in the past.) It is a totally different exercise to profile a CMYK device - ink limits and Kgen are variables that must be dealt with.

                      > Yes, details would be very helpful. Thanks.

                      Color management is all about moving from one device/color space to another device/color space while maintaining color appearance as closely as possible.

                      1) Based on the description of your workflow, step one is to create your original art in a well-behaved RGB color space (like Adobe98) while viewing it on a well-calibrated monitor.

                      2) If your final output is to be on the HP 800ps, step two would be to preview that art on your monitor as it would look on the HP. This is called soft-proofing - a process by which the art is viewed through the HP profile on-screeen so you can see what happens to all those beautiful, rich RGB colors when they're squeezed into the smaller gamut of the HP profile.

                      To do this, you go to View > Proof Set-Up > Custom, and choose the HP 800ps profile from the pop-up of all the profiles on your system. You can also choose from among 4 rendering intents - Relative Colorimetric, Perceptual, Absolute Colorimetric, and Saturation. Choosing the correct rendering intent is key - this willl determine how Photoshop deals with the out-of-gamut colors. Without getting into an explanation of what each RI does, the important thing is to choose the one that LOOKS the best on screen. There's no magic to it. In general, for photographic images, you'll be choosing from Relative or Perceptual. For vector graphics (which it sounds like you're doing), throw Saturation into the mix as well. Just try them and see which looks best.
                      Additionally, be sure to check "Black Point Compensation."

                      This will give you a good idea of what the final printed version will look like. While you're in soft-proof mode, you can edit the RGB file to alter the way out-of-gamut colors appear. In fact, there's no reason why you couldn't create your art from the beginning while in soft-proof mode. Using a well-built profile and a good calibrated monitor, you should be able to get an extremely close match between monitor and print.

                      3) When you print, be sure to choose the same profile/rendering intent that you used in Proof Setup.

                      Again, it all starts with a good profile. Good luck.
                      • 8. Re: Proper color workflow with CMYK inkjet printer
                        (Marco_Ugolini) Level 1
                        I don't think that Carl mentioned using any RIP. As far as I can tell, he is just using the printer's driver.

                        So, all he should be making sure to confirm is that his printer driver is either CMYK or RGB.

                        To this end, Carl, please do the following:

                        1) In Photoshop, create a new CMYK file (make it a 6"x6" square; the color space is irrelevant, so just pick any -- SWOP v2 will be fine);
                        2) Fill the whole canvas with C100, M100, Y100, K100;
                        3) With your marquee tool, drag a square area in the center of the image area (say, 2.5"x2.5" or so -- it needn't be precise);
                        4) Change your foreground color to C0, M0, Y0, K100, and fill the newly selected area with it. Once you do that, the selected area will look lighter than the surrounding. That is OK.
                        5) Print this file to your printing device using the same print settings that you would use for your color-managed Workflow ("No Color Management" in Photoshop's Print window, plus "No Color Adjustment" in the driver's color management settings).

                        Examine the printed page: if there is *no* perceptible difference between the two areas of black, then your printer driver is RGB. If there *is* a clearly-perceivable difference, then the printer driver is CMYK.

                        Good luck.
                        • 9. Re: Proper color workflow with CMYK inkjet printer
                          Level 1
                          "I work in an academic science group that has a networked HP DesignJet 800ps printer (postscript RIP)"

                          From his first sentence...
                          • 10. Re: Proper color workflow with CMYK inkjet printer
                            (Aandi_Inston) Level 1
                            If it's in Windows you are working, it's really very simple to decide.

                            The Windows printing methods are RGB only. Strictly. The only
                            exception to this is that when using a PostScript printer, the program
                            that prints can write PostScript commands direct to the printer; these
                            can be CMYK. In this sense Windows is barely involved with the
                            printing; it starts it off, then the program writes PostScript.

                            So, to get CMYK printing in Windows you need a PostScript printer and
                            you need a program (like Photoshop or InDesign) that can bypass
                            Windows and send CMYK PostScript.

                            I should be more precise than "a PostScript printer". Many printers
                            support different languages, like PCL and PostScript. That means there
                            is more than one driver for the same printer. Only the PostScript
                            driver could allow CMYK printing. So using a PCL driver for a printer
                            which has a PostScript label on it won't help.

                            Bottom line: PostScript printer & PostScript driver & capable program:
                            then you can print in CMYK.

                            Aandi Inston
                            • 11. Re: Proper color workflow with CMYK inkjet printer
                              Level 1
                              Thanks again to all for your suggestions and help. You have no idea how helpful this is to me.

                              (BTW, Aandi, we are a Mac-centric group.)

                              My plan is as follows:

                              1) First I'll verify that this is indeed a CMYK RIP. (I"m virtually certain it is, but can easily run the test that Marco suggests.)

                              2) If it is CMYK, I will profile it with i1 using the ECI2002 target (which comes with my i1 software). I've already calibrated my monitor, BTW.

                              3) When setting up CS3, we will choose the North American Prepress 2 settings (which is Adobe RGB for RGB and SWOP v2 for CMYK).

                              4) We will work in RGB mode in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, but view our art while soft-proofing as per Rick's instructions, using the HP800ps profile.

                              5) Then we print using that same profile.

                              Makes sense?

                              Thx.
                              • 12. Re: Proper color workflow with CMYK inkjet printer
                                williamsacott12

                                The first step to a successfully calibrated studio does not begin with the computer. The space within which you view your computer screen can make a big difference and it’s important to be aware of the factors at play.

                                Light levels are a primary concern. The main thing to keep in mind is that you are trying to avoid screen glare, fluctuations in light, or any unusually bright sources of light; whether from a lamp, window, online marketing etc. All can affect the dynamic range of the monitor and alter your perception of the images on your screen. Ideally your workspace is lit by a consistent artificial source (not pointed directly at the screen) and is not overly bright or dim. Spaces lit primarily by daylight can be especially problematic given the large variation of both light intensity and the color cast of the light. Not everyone can achieve optimal settings of course, but you want to try and maintain consistency at the very least. Designing with your laptop on a sunny beach — for example — will probably not yield the most predictable results (although we’re all for experimenting!).

                                An additional step you can take to ensure ideal lighting conditions in your workspace is to paint the walls with Munsell 8 Gray. This paint is specially formulated to have a flat spectral response with no color bias. Unlike other hues, this type of gray will not affect your perception of other colors in the spectrum. It creates a “pure” and neutral viewing environment. You may have noticed this color on the wall of photo studios and print shops. Additionally, changing your desktop color to a shade of neutral gray will help for the same reasons.

                                • 13. Re: Proper color workflow with CMYK inkjet printer
                                  John Danek Level 4

                                  In most cases, the printer comes with standard "Office" drivers, suitable for use printing Word, Powerpoint, Outlook, Excel, etc., documents, as well as web docs which are all RGB based colr space files.

                                   

                                  Postscript printers come with a software "RIP", which essentially convert file languages into printer language with color ramps included for color matching.  In this scenario, you'd be "emulating" a printing press for purposes in proofing.  It's also considered an "open-loop" workflow.

                                   

                                  Your academic environment is a bit different than your typical proofing design workflow and is considered "closed-loop", whereas, you are not proofing or emulating a press.  There really isn't any color matching except for trying to match the monitor.  This gives you a bit of an advantage in that you can "create" your own profiles without the concern for color accuracy.  You could almost bypass the RIP process altogether and just use the "Office" driver.  The option would be to experiment with the several RGB profiles available and see which one comes closest to the monitor based on whichever paper you prefer.

                                  • 14. Re: Proper color workflow with CMYK inkjet printer
                                    richerd143

                                    When I took the same image as a 16-bit file and applied the same filter, even though the edit was extreme, since I started with 65,536 shades, even if I ended up losing 80% of my data, I’m still left with over 13,000 shades. When I finally convert to 8-bit in order to send the file to my lab, I still have plenty of steps for smooth gradations. Notice that now there are no visible bands in the sky and I have an image I can print.
                                    Now I have to decide which color space I want to be in. By the way, isn’t it amazing what Topaz Adjust did to my “boring” image?

                                    If I’m printing out to a professional level inkjet printer capable of 16-bit printing, I’ll leave the image as a 16-bit ProPhoto RGB file and print as-is. This will give me the best color and tonal range. If on the other hand I’m sending this file to my lab for printing, they need an 8-bit sRGB image. When I soft-proof in Photoshop for this conversion and turn on the gamut-warning, I see that a lot of the color in this image needs to move in order to convert from ProPhoto RGB to sRGB.i am a student of exam 70-640.and i hope i can pass this exam.