5 Replies Latest reply on Jan 21, 2009 7:04 PM by pfigen

    Proper Workflow for Discrepancies w/ Various Press' Output

    It'sNotMyFault Level 1
      Hi, I'm trying to come up with a proper workflow for dealing with different printers who all have slightly different color standards and degrees of color management.

      We are a design firm trying to increasingly incorporate a proper color managed workflow and have better control and prediction of final output from various printers (mostly in the Los Angeles area). We have ACDs for monitors, calibrated to 5000k, 2.0G, 95cd/m2. Our in-house laser is not completely accurate, but we created a custom profile that gets it pretty close to what we would expect (compared to screen).

      I have been contacting more printers these days as we deal with them to try to obtain color profiles or settings for their particular presses ahead of time, but have really not had any luck here. And a lot of these are pretty large, well-respected printers - not small mom-&-pop shops. They almost always tell me that they strip all profiles when ripping files, and that their proofing and presses are all calibrated to the Gracol or G7 standard. This is because the majority of the clients sending them projects don't have a full grasp or implementation of proper color management techniques, so they have no choice in their workflow.

      So for us, we send almost everything as U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2, as this is what they are most familiar with receiving. But I want to be able to compensate for their particular color shifts, if I can determine them.

      So I have begun setting up an adjustment layer in my Photoshop files and tweaking this until the screen matches the proofs we receive. I then create another adjustment layer to compensate for this, and turn the first off when we send the files to them. It doesn't look good on screen, but produces the proper output (at least in theory, who knows what moves will be made on press).

      This is just getting difficult to manage and remember, especially if files go to multiple places. I also hate keeping duplicates of files, as it becomes even more confusing and difficult to manage.

      - Any tips or suggestions on how to better deal with this?

        • 1. Re: Proper Workflow for Discrepancies w/ Various Press' Output
          pfigen Level 1

          It's not surprising that you've had little luck getting profiles from your vendors, but when they say they strip out all profiles at the RIP, that's really irrelevant. You still need to know how to get to THEIR version of CMYK, and as you've seen, there is little or no standardization in the print world, even when they claim to be GraCol compliant. I've found too many who claim that but are not even close. If you know for sure they are, there are GraCol profiles you can download, but you'd have to test to see how good they are for your printers.

          Your Adjustment Layer compensation, to me, seems not all that accurate and kind of a pain in the ***. I'll bet you find times where you thought it was going to work and in practice it was still off. There are just too many things that an actual real profile can compensate for that are beyond the roll of a simple Curves move. Of course, it depends on how picky your clients are.

          You know, as we've spoken before, that I think you'd be best off making your own profiles for each vendor and separating on a job by job basis. It's not too bad if you are only using five or six vendors, and CS4 now supports Device Link Profiles, which might actually help.
          • 2. Re: Proper Workflow for Discrepancies w/ Various Press' Output
            Level 1
            >> they strip all profiles when ripping files... because the majority of the clients sending them projects don't have a full grasp or implementation of proper color management techniques, so they have no choice

            reads like they're the ones lacking the "full grasp"

            clueless "color expert" ignores our embedded profile, because he says, he has turned "color management off" and "doesn't use profiles"

            he tells us our file is bad because his print is bad, and he will try to correct our bad color and print another round of proofs...
            • 3. Re: Proper Workflow for Discrepancies w/ Various Press' Output
              Lou Dina Level 3

              Things are "slowly" improving, but there is a long way to go. If you are so lucky as to be able to select your own printer (without intervention of an 3rd party) you may have better luck. As director of marketing for a large corporation, I was able to select my own commercial printer, (I had a few, depending on the type and size of job), so I was in a great position. I generally worked ONLY with those printers that had a good handle on color management. In fact, for some of them, I built profiles and educated them, if I could find an eager prepress individual that I was able to work with. That is ideal...and the results were spectacular. My proofs matched theirs, and their press sheet matched their proofs. Imagine that!

              But, as Peter said in the previous post, this is not the norm. It takes time to find a good printer. To me a good printer has great process control, good pressmen, good prepress people, and gives you access to all of them. They will also give you samples of their printed materials, along with copies of the files used to print them. With that, you have a lot. Without it....well, it is hit and miss. Printers always claim to print to SWOP or Gracol standards, but often don't (otherwise, they'd lose the job).

              If the printer won't give me access to the prepress guy, I'm outta there. If they have a custom press profile, or even a custom proofer profile, I'll accept and use it, but if their proof doesn't match mine, it's time for a long talk. Speaking of which, GREAT communication is the key, and it needs to start early.

              I know I haven't given you a lot of specific information about preparing your files, but the above is critical, in my experience.

              Hope something here 'clicks'.

              • 4. Re: Proper Workflow for Discrepancies w/ Various Press' Output
                It'sNotMyFault Level 1
                Thanks for the info guys (and good to hear from you again Peter).

                Unfortunately, we do not have control over who prints most of our projects, the client does. But we do have a range of printers that are used on a fairly regular basis, and it's with these that I have begun to have conversations. And I have definitely been trying to get to the pre-press managers or 'color experts'. I'm usually able to talk to the right person, but again, they just either don't have profiles or aren't willing to give them out due to the can-of-worms they are afraid this would open with the many cilents they have that wouldn't know how to properly use them.

                It looks like it would probably be best to attempt to do like you guys have done and create my own profile for each printer, if it is an ongoing project/printer that would warrant the effort. This would probably be the only way to ensure an accurate workflow if they aren't willing/able to provide one.

                That being the case, I'm wondering what the needs and/or cost of this would be. I'm imagining I would have to have them output some sort of test chart that I would then have to have analyzed to create a decent profile. Unfortunately, we don't have the tools here to do that.

                - Is there a standard chart that I could try to throw on upcoming jobs?

                - Are there services/individuals that could analyze these charts and create a profile for us?

                - Would we calibrate to their proofing system, or have them send us a first-pull from a print run off their press using a similar paper to what we would want? Or both?

                - Anything else we would need?

                Thanks again for the help. If we can come up with a solution that is not too costly, we may be able to talk our clients into the benefit and ultimate cost savings in the long-run.

                I suppose then we just have to hope that the printers are consistent! I received a color test proof today for one project we do regularly. Their proofs, and printed pieces, always come back way too yellow. So this time I sent alternate versions of everything with yellow pulled (an adjustment layer in Photoshop, or altering the color numbers in InD). Looks like my adjustments produced the desired results, although the shift on photographs is much more noticeable than the solid tones created in InDesign. I use the same color settings for both PS & InD. Strange...
                • 5. Re: Proper Workflow for Discrepancies w/ Various Press' Output
                  pfigen Level 1

                  I can help you out with this stuff. Since you're literally right around the corner, maybe you should drop by or vice versa and we could at least try a test profile of the vendor you use most. We'd send them a target to print - usually on their proofer - depends on the proofer, measure the target, generate a profile, which is then used for subsequent conversions for them.

                  This is what I do over and over and it works very well. How well it works over time depends on the how consistent the printer and their proofing system is over time, but overall my luck has been very good.