5 Replies Latest reply on Nov 19, 2009 7:28 PM by jethrodesign

    Best Color Space/Profile for Large Format Inkjet Output

    jethrodesign Level 1

      Hi, I'm hoping some folks with a lot of experience in large-format inkjet output can point me in the right direction here.

       

      We're starting a project that will produce roughly 5' by 3' full-color panels that will be output on 3M ControlTac Vinyl. These will be adhered to stainless steel stanchions (historic markers) that will be viewable up close at eye-level.

       

      UNFORTUNATELY, the printer for these panels will not be chosen until later in the project (it's a city-sponsored bidding procedure). So we don't have the luxury of speaking with them and getting a proper profile as we start now.

       

      So I'm hoping for any guidance in choosing a proper color space and/or generic profile that will translate well to the typical large-format printer/RIP. If past experience is any indicator, it will probably run on a Seiko or HP to get the high-resolution needed, but this was what we did a few years ago. Things change.

       

      The files will be InDesign CS3, and a most of the photography will be grayscale that is colorized in InDesign (using a 'foreground' and 'background' swatch). 'Occasionally', we will colorize the images in Photoshop using a gradient map.

       

      In the past, we have always just used US Web Coated SWOP v2, but I know there must be more appropriate solutions than this. We've always struggled with color on these, especially the very light tones.

       

      THANKS!

        • 1. Re: Best Color Space/Profile for Large Format Inkjet Output
          Printer_Rick Level 4

          I would set up the file as Adobe RGB. It can go to whatever color space the wide format print device uses. Many times these devices have very large gamuts, you don't want the restriction of CMYK.

           

          Did you get my post the other day about gradient map in InDesign? Your mentioning that here made me think of it.

          • 2. Re: Best Color Space/Profile for Large Format Inkjet Output
            John Danek Level 4

            I profiled an HP5500 using Wasatch 5 RIP.  Believe it or not, in my closed loop workflow, default PS4 CMYK, Colormatch RGB; vector Rendering Intent = Relative Colorimetric; Bitmap rendering intent = Perceptual; Use Black Point Compensation worked fine.  But, this brings up the importance of custom profiles.  Unfortunately, you're in an open loop workflow where your files will be RIP'd and PRINTED who knows where.  In general, I think it would be "safe" to use the above settings, except for RGB use Adobe RGB ( although you may even benefit from a 16-bit or 8-bit ProPhoto RGB because of the output device's color gamut ) and SWOP Coated Web v2 CMYK.  I tend to do all of the color conversions in-house and release CMYK files.

            • 3. So
              jethrodesign Level 1

              Thanks for the replies. Got kind of busy for a bit.

               

              So setting the document up as RGB?!? I understand how in a nicely color-managed workflow, this 'should' work well. It just makes us nervous as we've never done this before, and are so used to 'trusting the numbers' with these projects, as the usual printers are so clueless to color management.

               

              And I'm not sure how wide the gamut is on these, as they are printed on vinyl, using archival solvent inks, and with a matte laminate over the top. I would rather not produce a lot of colors that can't really be output in the end, especially with the troubles we've had in the very light tones (down in the 5%-20% ink color range, with usually no black). A swing of 2%-3% magenta in these areas has turned a nice, rustic looking sepia image PINK at times!

               

              But maybe we should rethink the process a bit. I have been in contact in the past with someone very on top of his color managed workflow with various different printers. He says he sometimes takes it into his own hands and creates his own profiles for certain printers that don't really know what they're doing. He'll send a target to output on the same conditions as the final, and then use his hardware/software to generate a profile for this. He says he gets very good results with this.

               

              So maybe we could try this, and take the control away from any printers. I imagine we would just need to make sure that they could at least calibrate their machine to a 'knowable' state before running our target, and then 'disable' any color management on their end (we're usually told their RIP handles all the color, though they don't know specifically how). Then output a target on the same material we'll be running the final job on, including the matte laminate, and create a profile from this. Then, lastly, convert our 'RGB' files to this final profile for output. In 'theory' this should work well, huh?!?

               

              ** And Printer Rick, I did look at the file you posted for converting grayscale images to color in InDesign. Very 'interesting' solution! Going to need to investigate a little more when I get a chance to see what's really going on with the color. Could work decently for certain images, not sure. You gain a bit of the 'depth' we were looking for, but appear to lose a bit of control. And to get a secondary color in the highlight areas, I suppose we'd have to layer the image over a light color block and multiply it, huh?!? The really cool thing, though, is that it supports the transparency, which is not possible when colorizing grayscale images in InDesign.

               

              THANKS!

              • 4. Re: So
                Printer_Rick Level 4

                Sorry for not responding sooner

                 

                jethrodesign wrote:

                 

                 

                But maybe we should rethink the process a bit. I have been in contact in the past with someone very on top of his color managed workflow with various different printers. He says he sometimes takes it into his own hands and creates his own profiles for certain printers that don't really know what they're doing. He'll send a target to output on the same conditions as the final, and then use his hardware/software to generate a profile for this. He says he gets very good results with this.

                 

                So maybe we could try this, and take the control away from any printers. I imagine we would just need to make sure that they could at least calibrate their machine to a 'knowable' state before running our target, and then 'disable' any color management on their end (we're usually told their RIP handles all the color, though they don't know specifically how). Then output a target on the same material we'll be running the final job on, including the matte laminate, and create a profile from this. Then, lastly, convert our 'RGB' files to this final profile for output. In 'theory' this should work well, huh?!?

                Absolutely a good idea. If possible find out what color space the printer submits to the device. It could be CMYK, or RGB. Then with a printed chart, a spectro, and profiling software, you can generate the RGB or CMYK profile as needed. You can output the InDesign file and convert to either one.

                 

                jethrodesign wrote:

                 

                Thanks for the replies. Got kind of busy for a bit.

                 

                ** And Printer Rick, I did look at the file you posted for converting grayscale images to color in InDesign. Very 'interesting' solution! Going to need to investigate a little more when I get a chance to see what's really going on with the color. Could work decently for certain images, not sure. You gain a bit of the 'depth' we were looking for, but appear to lose a bit of control. And to get a secondary color in the highlight areas, I suppose we'd have to layer the image over a light color block and multiply it, huh?!? The really cool thing, though, is that it supports the transparency, which is not possible when colorizing grayscale images in InDesign.

                Refer to attached. This may or may not work for you. Technically the foreground color is not created in InDesign but it is selected.

                 

                This works better than applying the satin fill in InDesign. For the color to look acceptable the image must be RGB. The work done in Photoshop is very simple and non-destructive. All white in the original image becomes transparent and color fills are stacked. You only have one Photoshop file, it is fully transparent, and various foreground and background colors are applied in InDesign.

                • 5. Re: So
                  jethrodesign Level 1

                  Wow, another very creative solution. I like thinking 'outside the box'.

                   

                  I'll explore further these two unique options for 'applying color' to grayscale images in InDesign and see if either would suit our needs. They both have potential. The new solution, though, requires adding 'color options' in Photoshop, and I think if we were going to do that, we would probably go all the way and just make gradient maps, as that wouldn't take a whole lot more time than setting up and adjusting the color option layers. We would still need to open photos in Photoshop to alter the color (well, at least one of the colors).

                   

                  Thanks again for all the help and resources. We're plowing away on all the scanning right now. Just ended up scanning at very large size and saving as grayscale JPEGs at the highest quality setting. These will be our 'master archive' files. Once have general layouts done, we'll probably batch resize and convert these to a more final size and file type for editing/retouching and colorizing. At this point we'll decide if we want to make them RGB and use one of the solutions mentioned.

                   

                  The idea of designing these to actually look good, instead of being totally paranoid about watching the numbers, would be revolutionary for us. We've been doing these for so long now, probably going back 10 years or more. A lot has changed in production and technology in regards to large-format output, and color management in general. I certainly HOPE we can get better color matching than we ever have previously!