"Darker" or "brighter" print (ink density?)

Bashv

Member
I'm not an expert in offset printing, so I would appreciate your opinion on the following matter:

As I've mentioned earlier on this forum, most of the printers around me are like "we'll-tweak-the-press-while-it-runs". I was able to find only one profiled printery (PSO/FOGRA certified).

When I sent them my work, they offered me to choose between a brighter and a darker print. Maybe they were refering to ink density settings or maybe I'm confusing something.

This confused me, cause I thought that if they're profiled for a certain standard, then everything goes 'full auto' and you don't make any manual modifications.

I thought that such modifications would mean overriding the standard (I mean a standard is a set of rules, isn't it?). But maybe there're some settings that fall outside of it. I was very confused and in the end I wrote them that I would prefer a brighter print.

But the contract-proof looked nowhere near to that. I was staring at it thinking: is this the way it should be?

The black was very black, but I expected something more "calmed down" like dark gray, as I see it in Acrobat's simulation. Previously, I've read that CMYK black is not supposed to look so black. Also, this test-print seemed too contrasty. I even joked that it looks like a photocopy.

We argued a bit (in a civil manner), but it lead nowhere. They were like: we do everything right, you need a $20,000 professionaly calibrated monitor to judge that and stuff like that.

Unfortunately, the communication with them was not that good, so I never understood why this happened and is this the way it should be or they messed up something.

One of them seems more polite than the rest, but he has never seen the contract-proof. I called the guy and I told him that I wasn't happy with it and I described it to him.

The guy was surprised. He claimed that he saw the final printed sheets (the ones from which the final product will be assembled) and he claimed that they looked good. What is "good" from his POV - I don't know, but to put it simple: what he saw there looked better than the contract-proof.

But this is another problem: if the final product doesn't match the contract-proof, that would mean that the printery is not working in accordance with it, which is unprofessional. Am I correct?

All in all, this was a total confusion.

Thanks for your opinions.
 

Cornishpastythighs

Well-known member
Just my opinion here.
Variation exists in eveything and offset printing has the most variation of the printing processes. Printing is never 'full auto' as you describe. In your post there are many references to personal interpretation of the printed result, 'too black, need it calmed down' etc
The printer can supply you with a set of light/dark tolerance samples that you both can agree is the max and minimum you can both accept with regard to ink density or spectro.
You have to give the printer a target to shoot for and know there will be variation around that target and how big the goal posts are depends on what you both agree upon and the printer capability of holding the target. Just my 2 cents worth
 

kslight

Well-known member
Above post is correct, though we achieve a baseline profile for our equipment that 99.9% of customers are happy with, and i assume that is how every decent commercial printer is, there is some personal interpretation…from differences in monitors, different paper, printing types, equipment used, color builds, lighting, humidity, electricity, etc - and in many cases when a customer is requesting something different they are deviating from the baseline. Something based on feelings more than being exact, say they don’t like the rosiness of a person’s face or they want to match a spot color logo but didn’t create with a spot color. Sometimes I call this process “color incorrection” because for one reason or another the customer has provided files that don’t match the output they expect.

That is all fine and I’m happy to make any adjustments within my power to make the customer happy. When this is done the only way we can be on the same page is with printed proofs that you sign off on, which gives me a target to hit when we go to run. Or you can provide a previous sample you wish to match. Without these we are just guessing what you want.
 

TJPrinter

Well-known member
Not sure about the $20,000 but you should be using a good graphics card and graphics monitor that has been calibrated by a measure device. The other option would be to use the Pantone Color Bridge, select your Pantone color and use the CMYK values that are given. If your proofs aren’t close to the colors in the Pantone Bridge then you can talk to the printer about what you’re looking for.

You can do the same for your black, use the Pantone Color Bridge. CMYK black not so black? Not sure what that means. If you selected the wrong values it’s going to be darker that just K.
 

Bashv

Member
Thanks everyone for your kind replies.

CMYK black not so black? Not sure what that means.

I find this in numerous books and online articles about prepress and desktop design, in many beginners' guides and such sources.

And you can see this phenomenon if you view the b/w content in Acrobat's Output Preview (the simulation that shows how it would appear on paper).

The black that looks strong in RGB will look dulled down and muted in the CMYK simulation. AFAIK, one doesn't need an expensive and calibrated monitor, measuring devices or color charts to notice this.

So if someone wants a more intensive black, he has to use rich black (with CMY added). Otherwise, the black will look like dark gray on paper. I don't mind that and in fact I like it, but ironically, the contract-proof didn't look like that.

I spoke to a guy online, whose theory is that the printer pushed the black density in order to get a better black on the uncoated sheet ("better" from the printer's POV).

This guy explained me that if the press operators decide they want a "better" black running K only on an uncoated sheet, they might run more density.

In order to have a "better" black without the benefit of CMY, the printer will have to run more ink, which, according to this guy, means changing the press profile.

I don't know how trustworthy this guy is, but he seemed well informed.

black.jpg

This is a simplified example of the difference between RGB black (left) and CMYK black (right).

Instead of rectangles, it can be a b/w photo of a person or anything, but the effect will still be (more or less) noticeable.

You have to give the printer a target to shoot for
Or you can provide a previous sample you wish to match. Without these we are just guessing what you want.

I did give the printer a target to shoot for. I provided a sample I wished to match (the previous edition of the book). But it was futile. The printer dissmised it, saying that it was printed badly and that it looks "washed out". Note that it was printed in a cheaper unprofiled printery.

And when I was offered a darker or a brighter print, I clearly choosed the latter, but what I got on paper by no means could be described as "bright" (subjectively or objectively, it was black as night).

It is my fault that I wasn't prepared and decisive enough when I argued with the printer. I was confused and I was thinking that these guys are pros and they know better than me. But later I had a bad feeling that they messed up something and that I was a fool to let them get away with it.

Now it's too late to change anything, but I just wanted to understand stuff like:

- Why this happened

- Is this due to the ink density or something else

- Is this considered normal or this is a manual modification of the profile / standard

- How to prevent this from happening again

- If the final product looks different than the contract-proof, is that abnormal

- And stuff like that...

Thanks
 

Bashv

Member
Pantone Black. As opposed to job black or rich black.
I must admit that I'm confused now. I didn't use any pantones for the project that we are discussing now. Actually, I've never used pantones. Maybe this is a misunderstanding.
 

TJPrinter

Well-known member
I must admit that I'm confused now. I didn't use any pantones for the project that we are discussing now. Actually, I've never used pantones. Maybe this is a misunderstanding.
Keith1 isn’t saying to use a Pantone black, he is referring to process black used when printing CMYK. The black that is run for process color CMYK is not as dark as job black, so yes 100% K will not be as dark as a job black. Add the wrong values of CMY and now your black in richer or darker than just process black or (K).

The problem is when you don’t use any specific set of standards, being a chart or calibration you’ll always be guessing at how the final output will appear. This makes the job almost impossible for any printer to please the customer.
 

keith1

Well-known member
I'm going to take a wild stab and suggest perhaps that if you've been confused with the process, maybe you've inadvertently relayed this to the printer and confused them in turn.
No one here has seen a sample of what you've had printed. As Steve has requested, even a decent photo with proof & final result side by side would help. However based on your description of photocopy like appearance it sounds like the job has too much ink. Whether that was the printer's interpretation of what you wanted is between you & them to debate.
Uncoated paper will suck up more ink than coated and operators can sometimes run a little heavier to compensate.

The machine your proof was run off on is another question. It's a guide. I've never paid a great deal of attention to proof colour. An Epson is not a Komori and sometimes proofs aren't even on the same paper as final product. To me proofs functioned more to double check formatting, general layout — is this going to fold how it's supposed to etc.

And at risk of being chastised by the more techie members, my monitor calibration consisted largely of having a reasonably decent monitor — Dell Ultrasharp 27" 2560 x 1440, if you must know — and eyeballing (trust your eyes!) against a Pantone book and files I know and have printed. It's generally worked for me but my workload was never too overly critical either. There have been occasions that I felt the need to confirm screen colour against the output numbers. Not that often.

Side note: I once printed a job and my boss questioned the colour. I honestly couldn't see what he was on about. We debated for 4 or 5 minutes before he confessed that he was colour blind and had trouble distinguishing between red & green stop lights.

I guess my point is, if your past results have matched your screen pretty close and you've been OK with results, why would you be micro managing this printer rather than just sending the file and saying run it. Because it seems somewhere along the path things have become misinterpreted.
Of course the printer could just be trying to cover his ass after delivering a substandard job too.
Just a thought.
 

Magnus59

Well-known member
This is a simplified example of the difference between RGB black (left) and CMYK black (right).

Instead of rectangles, it can be a b/w photo of a person or anything, but the effect will still be (more or less) noticeable.
There is no black in RGB, if you are supplying files in an RGB colourspace with blacks defined as 0R:0G:0B, you will end up with a rich black depending on GCR/UCR in the profiles used to convert to CMYK.
It OK to supply images in RGB, however, you are leaving it up to the printer to separate to CMYK using the profiles they believe are appropriate for their workflow. This will vary between printers.
If you want control over how your files will be separated, supply in CMYK, and ensure you view with the correct profiles selected as your monitor is displaying in RGB.
 

Bashv

Member
Can you post a photo comparing the contract proof vs. press sheeted?

I'm sorry, but I can't, cause they didn't even allow me to take the test-print home. It was just a single sheet.

Is this normal - I don't know...

The only thing I can offer is this rough simulation that I made in Photoshop. If this is a court, this is how I would describe the event.

Please download the image if you need to zoom in. This image is not from my actual work. I just picked it up online to use it for this example.
reconstruction.png

I'm going to take a wild stab and suggest perhaps that if you've been confused with the process, maybe you've inadvertently relayed this to the printer and confused them in turn.
No one here has seen a sample of what you've had printed. As Steve has requested, even a decent photo with proof & final result side by side would help. However based on your description of photocopy like appearance it sounds like the job has too much ink. Whether that was the printer's interpretation of what you wanted is between you & them to debate.
Uncoated paper will suck up more ink than coated and operators can sometimes run a little heavier to compensate.

The machine your proof was run off on is another question. It's a guide. I've never paid a great deal of attention to proof colour. An Epson is not a Komori and sometimes proofs aren't even on the same paper as final product. To me proofs functioned more to double check formatting, general layout — is this going to fold how it's supposed to etc.

And at risk of being chastised by the more techie members, my monitor calibration consisted largely of having a reasonably decent monitor — Dell Ultrasharp 27" 2560 x 1440, if you must know — and eyeballing (trust your eyes!) against a Pantone book and files I know and have printed. It's generally worked for me but my workload was never too overly critical either. There have been occasions that I felt the need to confirm screen colour against the output numbers. Not that often.

Side note: I once printed a job and my boss questioned the colour. I honestly couldn't see what he was on about. We debated for 4 or 5 minutes before he confessed that he was colour blind and had trouble distinguishing between red & green stop lights.

I guess my point is, if your past results have matched your screen pretty close and you've been OK with results, why would you be micro managing this printer rather than just sending the file and saying run it. Because it seems somewhere along the path things have become misinterpreted.
Of course the printer could just be trying to cover his ass after delivering a substandard job too.
Just a thought.
Ironically, my past results have matched my screen better when I was printing in some cheaper unprofiled printeries. Hiting the colors was a real nightmare (it never worked), but at least the grayscale content looked acceptable.

In that sense, this super-duper certified / profiled printer did exactly what I didn't want. It's the 1st and last time I'm using their services.

And I doubt that this is due to misinterpretation - the example that I posted above can't be described as "bright" by any standard.

Also, you say that the contract-proof is not that important (or that's how I understood it). This makes my confusion even worse. So basically, the final product is not necesarily going to look like the contract-proof?

But in any case, thank you for your input, everything is useful in the learning process. And it is interesting that, like some other people that I spoke to, you too locate the problem in the ink settings. At least we have a suspect. So you are refering to that ink density thing? It does look dense.

Keith1 isn’t saying to use a Pantone black, he is referring to process black used when printing CMYK. The black that is run for process color CMYK is not as dark as job black, so yes 100% K will not be as dark as a job black. Add the wrong values of CMY and now your black in richer or darker than just process black or (K).

The problem is when you don’t use any specific set of standards, being a chart or calibration you’ll always be guessing at how the final output will appear. This makes the job almost impossible for any printer to please the customer.
Thanks for your input, TJPrinter. It is true that I have lot to learn, but I must correct you that I didn't use any CMY for the b/w content. That's not what caused the problem. It was just K.

There is no black in RGB, if you are supplying files in an RGB colourspace with blacks defined as 0R:0G:0B, you will end up with a rich black depending on GCR/UCR in the profiles used to convert to CMYK.
It OK to supply images in RGB, however, you are leaving it up to the printer to separate to CMYK using the profiles they believe are appropriate for their workflow. This will vary between printers.
If you want control over how your files will be separated, supply in CMYK, and ensure you view with the correct profiles selected as your monitor is displaying in RGB.

Thanks, but I didn't send any RGB content. My problem is not caused by that.

I understand the RGB concept, but I said "RGB black" in layman's terms, cause it would be too complicated to say "this color is R: something, G: something, B: something". Just imagine such discussion. That's why people simply say pink, green, black, even though we know that they are produced by an interaction of red, green and blue (or smth like that).

Sorry to all (Bashv-hope you find this funny as that is my intent) but I just HAD to post this . . .
Thanks, that was funny :) But my story is very different to that clip. I mean this guy treats the client like a spoiled princess, she's allowed to make drama and all that. I couldn't do that. In fact, I think that I was not decisive enough when I argued with the printer. I wouldn't even call that an argument.
 

keith1

Well-known member
It's the 1st and last time I'm using their services.
Wise decision by the sounds of things. Also by the sounds of things it doesn't sound like you'll have much success getting them to reprint.
Re proofs. A proof doesn't come from the same piece of equipment that the final offset print job does. Sure it can be a darn close match. But a $50 home inkjet can be pretty close too (sometimes). As noted before, it's a guide. Better to run out a proof to check rather than 50,000 copies before finding out your formatting somehow went to shit or you misspelled 5 words in the same paragraph.
You should have been given a copy to do with as you pleased if you had requested it. But, you may have had to pay extra for that second proof. It's typical and understandable that the proof you sign off on stay with the shop. The proof with your signature saying it's OK is the only one that counts. No shop will part with that.
Understood that you don't have the proof to upload a photo of. But how about a photo of the finished piece? Just so we can all see what you're on about. We're curious.
 

tngcas

Well-known member
Keith1 isn’t saying to use a Pantone black, he is referring to process black used when printing CMYK. The black that is run for process color CMYK is not as dark as job black, so yes 100% K will not be as dark as a job black. Add the wrong values of CMY and now your black in richer or darker than just process black or (K).

The problem is when you don’t use any specific set of standards, being a chart or calibration you’ll always be guessing at how the final output will appear. This makes the job almost impossible for any printer to please the customer.
There's two blacks in cmyk that you can choose in InDesign for example: 0% 0% 0% 100% and registration black - 100% 100% 100% 100% - 95% of customers want registration black and not black. They want it to be that rich black.

Everything else is personal preference. You have to also remember that everyone's vision and color spectrum is different so colors are very hard, personalized and completely subjective. What seems obvious to you is not obvious to someone else so it can escalate into frustration very quickly. If you're wanting a specific color you need to provide that color in some sortof physical format so they can attempt to hit it within reason (the reason why paint chips exist). Otherwise, your monitor and someone else's monitor and/or personal vision is not going to match ever.
 

Magnus59

Well-known member
There's two blacks in cmyk that you can choose in InDesign for example: 0% 0% 0% 100% and registration black - 100% 100% 100% 100% - 95% of customers want registration black and not black. They want it to be that rich black.
No, please don't ever select the Registration Black for printed elements, and especially not for offset printing.
If you want a rich black, make it 40C 100K or if you must use all 4 colours 40C 20M 20Y 100K
Anything over 300% is going to cause problems, and if you do this for a job printed on heatset web, it could be potentially life threatening.
 

keith1

Well-known member
registration black - 100% 100% 100% 100% - 95% of customers want registration black and not black. They want it to be that rich black.
I second Magnus. Rich black and registration black are 2 entirely different things for different purposes. An automated pre-press properly set up would probably kick registration colour back as an error if you tried piling that much ink onto a sheet. Think taking a dump for 3-4 days without flushing (while on the subject of sheet ;)
40C 20M 20Y 100K (Magnus again) is commonly used. I generally use 45C 25M 10Y 100K because I like to be different. You can also fiddle between amounts of cyan/magenta/yellow if you require a more brown black as opposed to a blue black. I think you can see this illustrated in the Pantone swatches as I recall.
Registration black is used only for registration marks. When plates are made the marks will be there in each of the 4 colours - and in perfect registration!
Some printers don't even want registration marks on submitted files. No printers want the colour bar extras. No need to get into that.
 

Magnus59

Well-known member
Some printers don't even want registration marks on submitted files. No printers want the colour bar extras. No need to get into that.
Pitstop action list "Remove Printers Marks" is great for getting rid of those pesky colour bars & whatnot :)
 

tngcas

Well-known member
No, please don't ever select the Registration Black for printed elements, and especially not for offset printing.
If you want a rich black, make it 40C 100K or if you must use all 4 colours 40C 20M 20Y 100K
Anything over 300% is going to cause problems, and if you do this for a job printed on heatset web, it could be potentially life threatening.
LOL - I was just pointing out that in InDesign those are the two "default" black options. Maybe the offset printers should make a coalition and talk to Adobe about not making those the two "black options"
 

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