Whichever way you look at it one of the most important aspects of printing is colour. But wouldn't it be great if you were able to anticipate how that brochure which you spent so much time designing was going to look before it was too late and it was printed?
Ever wondered what those prompts in Photoshop that appear when you are opening new images asking "do you want to colour manage this profile?" It is so easy just to click "don't colour manage" and forget about it.
Ever been disappointed with how a print job that looked so vibrant on your gloss Mac display has gone all unsaturated and flat when it has been printed on that tactile offset paper that you chose?
Well, colour management is there to help you anticipate and create artwork files that are prepared in order to print in the best possible way.
Prior to the advent of PDF workflow the "black art" of colour management was very much the domain of the printer or the repro company. Scanner operators would scan the images and apply tweaks and secret tricks to allow for their own presses characteristics, designers and artworkers were not to be involved in this area at all other than to approve final Cromalins / Matchprints or wet proofs.
PDF workflow has shifted the responsibility of colour management from the printer to the artworker. This is where Adobe's Creative Suite and in particular, Photoshop and In Design and the in-built colour management options that are so often ignored, really matter.
Images that are captured on a digital camera or purchased from an image library are created as RGB files which then have to be converted to CMYK for printing. Even if you supply your preferred printer with RGB files they will have to be converted to CMYK at some point in order for them to be printed on to paper.
It is at that point of this conversion that it is possible to affect how a the images will print. Colour management lets you take control of this process and implement a uniform, consistent conversion.
In Creative Suite the default conversion tends to be US SWOP coated which means that if you select this option you are preparing your files for Specification for Web Offset Print (in the United States)! This profile gives a fairly reasonable conversion, particularly for printing on to coated papers but there are far more suitable conversions available which will enhance the end result.
For work that is going to be produced on coated stocks such as gloss, silk and matt coated papers then the ISO Coated v2 profile, also known as FOGRA 39L is the most suitable profile to use.
If your work is going to be produced on uncoated or offset papers then you should convert your images using the ISO Uncoated or FOGRA29L profiles.
Adobe CS5 and later versions have the appropriate ICC profiles already loaded in the drop down menus, but if you have problems finding them they can be downloaded from the European Colour Initiative website at
Using the correct profiles for the right papers will optimize the colour reproduction of your work. Jobs that have been colour managed correctly can often be identified as the images will appear sharper and more open, particularly in dark areas.
Using the correct files when printing onto uncoated or offset paper stocks can really improve the vibrancy and detail of images. Again, particularly in darker areas, enhanced details become much more apparent. A good example of this is the Orange Mountain Bike brochures that Four Corners has produced for several years using On Offset or Soporset paper.
At Four Corners our GMG /Epson based in-house proofing system prints high resolution inkjet contract proofs which conform to the ISO12647 standard and we are able to output colour proofs on to coated stocks that match the ISO Coated standard. We can also provide proofs that conform to the ISO Uncoated standard that are printed on an Offset-type paper that gives an excellent representation of how the job will print on an uncoated/offset paper without the need for or delay of making expensive wet proofs.
Once the proofs are approved, because the presses we use are also configured to the same ISO colour standards the print minder is able match to the proofs usually within very few make readies, saving on time, paper and energy. And of course the printed job will actually look very much like the proof that you signed off!