How to know if your printer is clueless when you're clueless too?

FlightDeck

Active member
Hello all,

I'm a photographer who is a noob to the print side of the equation. I am trying to pull off some projects and predictably encountering considerable confusion regarding colour management. While I've got a good handle on the subject myself on the image processing side, I know very little when it comes to commercial presses, and am driving myself batty trying to understand my chosen print shop. Hoping this is the place to get sorted out :)

Here is the situation. I wish to have a photo book printed at a shop who uses an hp Indigo 5000 offset sheetfed press (I actually looked up what all those terms mean! :) ). They are requesting files in either sRGB or Adobe RGB, so apparently they do the CMYK colour separation themselves. They say they adopt the European ISO Fogra 39 colour space, and calibrate every 120 printed pages. For soft-proofing, they recommend using US SWOP Web-Coated v2. They apparently don't offer their own ICC profiles for this printer with their various papers. My images are in ProPhoto (that's a debate for another day...).

Okay, one step at a time.

1) Soft-proof (in Photoshop). Is it reasonable to use this *generic* profile (US SWOP Web-Coated v2) for any sheetfed press and with different paper options? In my limited understanding it would seem to render the entire colour management effort pointless, but what do I know.

2) Is it common for a commercial printer to withhold ICC profiles for their printer and paper? When pressed about this, I was told they consider it proprietary information. When dealing with photo printers, my experience is that the mark of a good shop is they will always have their ICC profiles available for you to use.

3) I assume the Indigo 5000 recognizes embedded profiles. What rendering intent will it use to convert from Adobe RGB to CMYK, so I may soft-proof with the same rending intent? The shop says Relative Colorimetric. Not Perceptual?

4) Does this system have the ability to accept a ProPhoto RGB file directly and convert it appropriately to CMYK?

5) How does the gamut map of this printer compare to Adobe RGB? Or ProPhoto RGB? I know, "it depends on the paper..." Where could I see a graph of this?

6) I am coming to believe that soft-prooing for CMYK while still in ProPhoto is pointless, as I still have to convert the file down to Adobe RGB before submitting to the printer. This may naturally incur some gamut "compression" thus altering a few colours, rending any soft-proof invalid. It would seem to me I should convert the files in question into Adobe RGB first (using whatever rending intent looks best), then softproof for CMYK in Adobe RGB. Does this seem best?

7) Their file submission software appears to work through PDF somehow. Near as I can tell it compiles the images and layout into a big PDF file and sends it to the printer. Is PDF a colour-aware format? Will Adobe RGB carry through in it?

Note I've asked all of these questions to the printer. To me, the answers all seem essential to ensuring I do the right things on my end to achieve the optimum colour output on paper. Their response was we've given you all the information you need, can't give you any more, it's what we tell professional photographers, etc. It leaves me feeling that trying to colour manage with this printer may be pointless. Should I find another printer?

Thanks and regards,
KDJ
 

sweatyclimber

Well-known member
I'd love to be more help, but that is a quite involved answer and my beer is sweatying. I can tell you of a great shop that was a photo processer and had the first digital fuji lab and has converted to a print shop w/ some photo business... they run an HP Indigo and I'm certain could help you and do a great job.

Accent Photo Imaging

See if they can help of those I know, there great!
 

meddington

Well-known member
I wish to have a photo book printed at a shop who uses an hp Indigo 5000 offset sheetfed press (I actually looked up what all those terms mean! :)


Maybe they should as well. The Indigo 5000 isn't a traditional offset press, but rather a digital press using liquid toner. While the quality is comparable to offset in many respects, it shouldn't be classified as such

They say they adopt the European ISO Fogra 39 colour space, and calibrate every 120 printed pages.


That's a very robust calibration schedule!

For soft-proofing, they recommend using US SWOP Web-Coated v2.


Not sure why they would recommend that when they claim to use Fogra39.


1) Soft-proof (in Photoshop). Is it reasonable to use this *generic* profile (US SWOP Web-Coated v2) for any sheetfed press and with different paper options? In my limited understanding it would seem to render the entire colour management effort pointless, but what do I know.


Absolute rendering (softproofing with paper simulation) using the US SWOP webcoated v2 profile will render a very yellowish white point due to the paper the profile is based on. If that's incompatable with your paper choice, it would be inappropriate. That said, the US SWOP Webcoatedv2 profile is a very competent profile and can and has been used in conjunction with commercial sheetfed color trandforms and softproofing succesfully for many years.



2) Is it common for a commercial printer to withhold ICC profiles for their printer and paper? When pressed about this, I was told they consider it proprietary information. When dealing with photo printers, my experience is that the mark of a good shop is they will always have their ICC profiles available for you to use.


A profile is really only good for the specific device that it generated it...so proprietary, yes. But this also makes it unlikely for others to benefit from it without utilizing said device, so it doesn't make sense for a business to protect it like a company secret.


3) I assume the Indigo 5000 recognizes embedded profiles. What rendering intent will it use to convert from Adobe RGB to CMYK, so I may soft-proof with the same rending intent? The shop says Relative Colorimetric. Not Perceptual?


The Rip in front of the 5000 most likely will recognize embedded profiles....depending on how their workflow is set up. The rendering intent is user defined and can be relative, percetual, absolute, etc. Whatever the operator decides. The client should have a say in this if they desire.


4) Does this system have the ability to accept a ProPhoto RGB file directly and convert it appropriately to CMYK?


Absolutely.

5) How does the gamut map of this printer compare to Adobe RGB? Or ProPhoto RGB? I know, "it depends on the paper..." Where could I see a graph of this?


The gamut of an Indigo 5000 in its default conditions is likely similar in shape and volume to US SWOP Web Coated v2.


6) I am coming to believe that soft-prooing for CMYK while still in ProPhoto is pointless, as I still have to convert the file down to Adobe RGB before submitting to the printer. This may naturally incur some gamut "compression" thus altering a few colours, rending any soft-proof invalid. It would seem to me I should convert the files in question into Adobe RGB first (using whatever rending intent looks best), then softproof for CMYK in Adobe RGB. Does this seem best?


Softproofing in CMYK when done correctly in Photoshop, is perfectly valid for a image tagged with ProPhotoRGB. Its hard to tell if you get different results from softproofing with an AdobeRGB tagged image. Your display is likely unable to display the entire AdobeRGB gamut, and certainly not the ProPhotoRGB gamut (more likely closer to sRGB, unless you specifically purchased and AdobeRGB gamut monitor), so the differences could be largely invisible anyway. Best way to check...try it both ways.

7) Their file submission software appears to work through PDF somehow. Near as I can tell it compiles the images and layout into a big PDF file and sends it to the printer. Is PDF a colour-aware format? Will Adobe RGB carry through in it?


If the creation of the PDF is handled correctly and the PDF has the profile embedded, and the workflow is set up to honor it, this can work fine. Given the response your printer is giving you, I'd be a little suspect that it would work as expected. Nice thing about the indigo is that it shouldn't be an expensive endeavor to get a sample print (a proof off the actual press) to gauge the result.
 

Tech

Well-known member
You're usage of ProPhoto which usually gets better treatment/result when printing to wide-format printers vs CMYK offset. This will be you downfall because no four color process will produce colors you expect.

You can softproof Prophoto > CMYK on screen, but that is assuming you have all the right equipments and proper lighting to judge your color accurately.

If you are really worry, request a few printed samples that are similar to your project before you proceed any further.
 

Sherbert

Well-known member
Howdy, If you really want the Indigo 5000 colour profiles and this forum allows attachments. I'll upload them for you =)

We have a 5000 here, and to calibrate every 120 sheets sounds a little silly.
 

FlightDeck

Active member
You're usage of ProPhoto which usually gets better treatment/result when printing to wide-format printers vs CMYK offset. This will be you downfall because no four color process will produce colors you expect.

You can softproof Prophoto > CMYK on screen, but that is assuming you have all the right equipments and proper lighting to judge your color accurately.

If you are really worry, request a few printed samples that are similar to your project before you proceed any further.

Thanks for replies everyone.

Tech,

Yes, ProPhoto RGB was an experiment I started last year as a comparison to my usual Adobe RGB workflow. The experiment ran a little long... ;) While it has had some interesting results, it's also led to some complications that I think are outweighing the benefits in my case, so I intend to switch back. The issue here is that the current project was already run as ProPhoto, so I have to live with it.

The company in question initially says no samples are available unless you go to their city to pick them up. They have since offered me a test of the first 10 pages of the book ($25 shipped), no doubt due to the number of questions I've asked them. Not ideal, but better than nothing. Issue is, without the complete picture of their colour management approach, my making tweaks from a proof may be like shooting in the dark.

meddington,

I have to bail to the office right now, will follow up on your detailed reply then.

Thanks,
KDJ
 

FlightDeck

Active member
Maybe they should as well. The Indigo 5000 isn't a traditional offset press, but rather a digital press using liquid toner. While the quality is comparable to offset in many respects, it shouldn't be classified as such

I wonder if they misunderstood hp website's "near-offset quality"?


That's a very robust calibration schedule!

When I saw that it was my assumption that the Indigo 5000 has a built-in colorimeter that automatically meters output at certain intervals to adjust process control. Though I wouldn't consider that a calibration.


Not sure why they would recommend that when they claim to use Fogra39.

Yes, that confused me as well. The response I got was that their parent international company uses Fogra 39, which is what their website is based upon, howeover in north america they use US SWOP web-coated v2, which is what they suggested I use.


Absolute rendering (softproofing with paper simulation) using the US SWOP webcoated v2 profile will render a very yellowish white point due to the paper the profile is based on. If that's incompatable with your paper choice, it would be inappropriate. That said, the US SWOP Webcoatedv2 profile is a very competent profile and can and has been used in conjunction with commercial sheetfed color trandforms and softproofing succesfully for many years.

If I see this yellowish cast during soft-proof, then what good is using this profile? My project is of Antarctica, so the images are dominated by white highlights (snow, ice, penguin plummage), blacks/greys (sea, rocks, overcast skies, penguin plumage), and blues (sky, water, ice). (Occasional subjects includes bright yellows (parkas) and reds (kayaks).) But with so much of the images dominated by white and blue, a yellowish cast would make softproofing for colours a real bugger. And since yellow tends to look like "haze" (for my eyes), judging contrast and sharpness will be degraded as well, which is perhaps the main benefit why I soft-proof, in comparison to colour cast.


A profile is really only good for the specific device that it generated it...so proprietary, yes. But this also makes it unlikely for others to benefit from it without utilizing said device, so it doesn't make sense for a business to protect it like a company secret.

I'm at a loss on this as well. I'm certainly not experienced in this regard, however every guidance I've ever received from experienced photographers always say to get the exact ICC profiles for your lab's printer and paper, and that any reputable lab will be happy to provide those. If not, find another lab. I'm now wondering if this idealism is practical if every printer refuses to give out these profiles. Is this common? I see it as a business multiplier---if a client is forced to get proofs and profile on their own, a costly and time-consuming exercise, they're likely to leave for a lab that will give the profiles.


The Rip in front of the 5000 most likely will recognize embedded profiles....depending on how their workflow is set up. The rendering intent is user defined and can be relative, percetual, absolute, etc. Whatever the operator decides. The client should have a say in this if they desire.

RIP = ? I assume it's the front-end prepress computer on the printer. The issue here is they won't tell me clearly what rendering intent they use. Even if it can be argued that the generic colour profile is good enough for soft-proof, the rendering intent will be a pure guess for me. They've said I can use Relative Colorimetric, but given I had to ask 4 times and the way the answer was worded, I have no confidence that's what they use for certain.


Absolutely.

Interesting. If I could give them ProPhoto RGB and have them go straight to CMYK, it would make soft-proofing much easier (if I had more than a generic colour profile...). They refused to answer this question, falling back to "sRGB or Adobe RGB only" and "they're basically the same thing". :confused:


The gamut of an Indigo 5000 in its default conditions is likely similar in shape and volume to US SWOP Web Coated v2.

{smack!} Ah I didn't think to do that. Know of a link showing a plot of US SWOP Web-Coated v2 in LAB space? I could eyeball from that how it compares to Adobe of ProPhoto RGB (which I have), to predict which colour ranges are likely to be altered by rendering intent.

Softproofing in CMYK when done correctly in Photoshop, is perfectly valid for a image tagged with ProPhotoRGB. Its hard to tell if you get different results from softproofing with an AdobeRGB tagged image. Your display is likely unable to display the entire AdobeRGB gamut, and certainly not the ProPhotoRGB gamut (more likely closer to sRGB, unless you specifically purchased and AdobeRGB gamut monitor), so the differences could be largely invisible anyway. Best way to check...try it both ways.

Understood.


If the creation of the PDF is handled correctly and the PDF has the profile embedded, and the workflow is set up to honor it, this can work fine. Given the response your printer is giving you, I'd be a little suspect that it would work as expected. Nice thing about the indigo is that it shouldn't be an expensive endeavor to get a sample print (a proof off the actual press) to gauge the result.

I've since learned that what I'm dealing with is the Canadian franchise of an international company (Photobooks Insert_Country_Name). Because of this I believe they probably have standard equipment and training set-up used worldwide (much like a McDonald's), and their staff may know little more about prepress/press workflow than the buttons they are taught to push. I suppose I could always contact the parent company, who would be the most likely to have the "gurus", but it shouldn't take this much effort.

Maybe I'm out to lunch, but any advice I've ever read/received from photographers and "desktop publishers" is that the print house should be able to provide the specific colour profiles as well as the relevant colour management information (rendering intent, required colour space, etc.) in order for client-side prepress work and soft-proofing to be optimal with the shop-side prepress work and press output. Failing that, the whole colour management effort becomes negated, and very trial-and-error to get optimal let alone faithful results.

I suspect I'm dealing with "you get what you pay for". As this is for very low volume (10 copies-ish), I'm at the mercy of the mass-market photobook shops, whose normal customers are likely point-and-shooters with everything in sRGB and no post-processing of the images. The shop probably runs a bunch of automatic adjustments to punch them up a bit, and out it goes---precisely the opposite of what I need. Finding a decent low-volume photobook house with good quality, transparent colour management, based here in Canada (for lower costs), and reasonable prices is turning out to be much more difficult that I ever would have expected.

Thanks,
KDJ
 

meddington

Well-known member
When I saw that it was my assumption that the Indigo 5000 has a built-in colorimeter that automatically meters output at certain intervals to adjust process control. Though I wouldn't consider that a calibration.

Its a built in densitometer, and yes, at certain intervals during run time it will undergo a "color-adjust". Every 120 sheets shouldn't be necessary, and if it is, there's something wrong.


If I see this yellowish cast during soft-proof, then what good is using this profile?

It depends on the white point of the paper you intend to use. The USWebCoatedv2 white point is outdated. New profiles/data sets have been released. Gracol2006_Coated1, SWOP2006_Coated3 and SWOP2006_Coated5 have white points more closely aligned with commercial and publication printing stocks.




I'm at a loss on this as well. I'm certainly not experienced in this regard, however every guidance I've ever received from experienced photographers always say to get the exact ICC profiles for your lab's printer and paper, and that any reputable lab will be happy to provide those. If not, find another lab. I'm now wondering if this idealism is practical if every printer refuses to give out these profiles. Is this common? I see it as a business multiplier---if a client is forced to get proofs and profile on their own, a costly and time-consuming exercise, they're likely to leave for a lab that will give the profiles.


I don't think the exact profiles for a given output device are entirely necessary for every project. That's why standard profiles exist, and this also allows some leway to printers to channel jobs to multiple output devices. If a company is going to bother with using custom/proprietary profiles, it should make them available to their clients and/or allow for a conversion toward their custom profiles honoring the embedded profiles in the file at hand.




RIP = ? I assume it's the front-end prepress computer on the printer.

Yep.

The issue here is they won't tell me clearly what rendering intent they use. Even if it can be argued that the generic colour profile is good enough for soft-proof, the rendering intent will be a pure guess for me. They've said I can use Relative Colorimetric, but given I had to ask 4 times and the way the answer was worded, I have no confidence that's what they use for certain.

Again, this should be a decision that the client has a say in. Its quite easy to change the rendering intent prior to processing the file.


Interesting. If I could give them ProPhoto RGB and have them go straight to CMYK, it would make soft-proofing much easier (if I had more than a generic colour profile...). They refused to answer this question, falling back to "sRGB or Adobe RGB only" and "they're basically the same thing". :confused:

As you know, sRGB and AdobeRGB are not the same thing, though it is true that many images won't show huge differencs when converting from one to the other. sRGB does not entirely encapsulate even the USWebCOatedv2 profile, though again, because of monitor gamut limitations, this may be largely invisible. AdobeRGB doesn't have this issue. ProPhoto s so huge that other issues can arise. For the most part, these issues would be limited to images that were robustly editing within Prophoto, or synthetic images created in that colorspace.




{smack!} Ah I didn't think to do that. Know of a link showing a plot of US SWOP Web-Coated v2 in LAB space? I could eyeball from that how it compares to Adobe of ProPhoto RGB (which I have), to predict which colour ranges are likely to be altered by rendering intent.

If you have ColorThink Pro, you could plot these out and compare gamuts, and even drop in images to see what colors might be clipped. if you don't have Colorthink Pro, it sounds like you'd enjoy it. ;)

I was mistaken on the default gamut size of the Indigo 5000. Its actually larger than USWebCoatedv2, and more like Gracol2006_Coated1...results will vary of course.

attached is a snapshot of our Indigo compared to the Gracol profile.
 

Attachments

  • Indigo5000vsGracol.jpg
    Indigo5000vsGracol.jpg
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FlightDeck

Active member
It depends on the white point of the paper you intend to use. The USWebCoatedv2 white point is outdated. New profiles/data sets have been released. Gracol2006_Coated1, SWOP2006_Coated3 and SWOP2006_Coated5 have white points more closely aligned with commercial and publication printing stocks.

meddington, many thanks for the extra details. I'll give this shop one more round of trying to get answers from them, and failing that I'll have to find another shop.

Thanks,
KDJ
 

Mark Flanders

Well-known member
Greetings,

Lots of good info here. Here is my take:

Your printshop is fine. They are trying to help you. Bring your originals, or send one or two, to their shop to color adjust their scans to match on their internal calibrated monitor. Ask for an indigo proof, and try not to fuss about color management details. It is not an exact science, even in a controlled, closed environment. DO NOT convert to CMYK and then back again to RGB. RGB is a much bigger gamut The Indigo RIP does and excellent job converting RGB of any variety to CMYK. (actually better than photoshop in my opinion) Also, the PDF workflow will be fine with the RGB.

The indigo has a lot of color control, so you should be confident that you can get what you want from it, especially if you do a press check. Have a little faith. They know what they're doing.

all the best,

Marko de Flandero
 

meddington

Well-known member
The Indigo RIP does and excellent job converting RGB of any variety to CMYK. (actually better than photoshop in my opinion)


Rip conversions are indeed fine, and not to detract from your points, but any differences would be from the CMM used, and I would doubt significant differences would occur between the two.

You could be correct in that the printer in question is perfectly competent.However, I would hope after discussing particulars that a prospective customer would walk away a little more confident and not feel a need to follow up with strangers on forum posts, know what I mean. ;)
 

FlightDeck

Active member
You could be correct in that the printer in question is perfectly competent.However, I would hope after discussing particulars that a prospective customer would walk away a little more confident and not feel a need to follow up with strangers on forum posts, know what I mean. ;)

Right on the nose. :rolleyes: I put the questions to them again a few days ago (which rending intent for RGB->CMYK, if I don't have a choice; and which "generic" profile they might recommend for soft-proof). Not yet received a reply. Things that make you go "hmm..."

I've pinged them again with a gentle reminder...

Thanks,
KDJ
 

encompus

Member
Great Discussion Everyone:

Here are my thoughts:

Soft Proofing in Photoshop from RGB to CMYK: I would never recommend ever using Absolute Colorimetric when soft proofing or converting RGB to CMYK because the point of AbsCol is to take the white point of the source profile (RGB) and use it as the white point of the desitination profile. RGB white points are not paper white points. Only use AbsCol when you soft-proof or convert from CMYK to CMYK and you want to keep the source profile white point and is it to proof.

The printer is unwise in using US WEB COATED SWOP V2 as the recommended profile for softproofing. As everyone else stated if they are using the FOGRA 39 Profile, you should be soft-proofing with that profile, or one of the fairly accurate generic Indigo 5000 profiles hp provides. IMO, they should be profiling their press and then letting you use the profile for soft-proofing. Giving an end-user a device dependent press profile is in no way a "secret" and will only establish credibility with color critical users such as yourself. Shops need to learn how to be ICC aware!

The Indigo Front End RIP, which can be Harlequin or Creo are both fully ICC aware. However you mentioned you are building a PDF. Do they recommend a PDF Preset? If you use or they recommend X-1a be aware that it will convert all RGB content to CMYK and it wont embed a profile. I recommend using PDF-X3 because it will keep all RGB and embed source profiles. I teach this in my seminars for X-Rite. As far as the rendering intent the RIP uses, you are absolutely right that if they don't tell which RI they have set as default then you how can you do an effective softproof. Perceptual and Relative Colorimetric both do very different gamut mapping - it totally negates the act of soft-proofing if you cant dictate what rendering intent they should use.

As far as the RIP accepting embedded profiles, it really depends on their settings. I am not sure about the Harleguin but I know on the Creo there is a setting to either accept an embedded "source CSA" (which is their way of saying "icc profile") even though a CSA is a color space array and technically not an ICC profile but thats a different story, and the other option is to ASSUME all incoming RGB is characteristic of a particular RGB profile, so if there is a mismatch, it still assigns that particular profile anyway. The moral here is if they recommend Adobe RGB be safe and send Adobe RGB - their ignorance and misunderstanding the of settings were probably set by the installer.

Regards,

Marc
 

meddington

Well-known member
Soft Proofing in Photoshop from RGB to CMYK: I would never recommend ever using Absolute Colorimetric when soft proofing or converting RGB to CMYK because the point of AbsCol is to take the white point of the source profile (RGB) and use it as the white point of the desitination profile.

Yes, but that's not the way Photoshop handles the softproof. In Photoshop, you select the device to simulate and the "simulate paper color" option emulates the device you select, not the rgb source. So your rgb->cmyk softproof is handled logically. Note that this does not emulate an absolute conversion from rgb->cmyk, where upon selecting edit/concert you preview suddenly jumps brighter, and upon conversion you then will have to re-select the proof conditions to simulate paper color. Give it a try.

Regarding US webcoated swop v2...as I said before, this is a bit outdated due to paper shade, solid colorants and gray balance/tonality, but not by much. Its a very competent profile by all respects.

Also, FYI, the harlequin rip will honor embeded profiles in PDFs as the creo rip.

mike
 

meddington

Well-known member
If you use or they recommend X-1a be aware that it will convert all RGB content to CMYK and it wont embed a profile.

PDFX-1a does have the ability for embedded profiles, but it may also simply reference the output condition...depending on how one generates it. It can be used perfectly legitimately, but not with rgb, as you stated.
 

FlightDeck

Active member
PDFX-1a does have the ability for embedded profiles, but it may also simply reference the output condition...depending on how one generates it. It can be used perfectly legitimately, but not with rgb, as you stated.

If only I knew their PDF implementation... Got zero answers on that front, so all I can do is assume their custom PDF-producing design software is colour-aware and carrying through my embedded colour profiles. It's certainly a big unknown.

Regarding the generic hp Indigo 5000 profiles mentioned above, can I find those in the public domain somewhere? Or would I instead need to contact hp's commercial support section and explain my case (as I'm not an hp commercial customer, only a client of one).

Thanks,
KDJ
 

meddington

Well-known member
Regarding the generic hp Indigo 5000 profiles mentioned above, can I find those in the public domain somewhere?

Here's one (attached). Note for semimatte stock using default exp05 LUTs (I've always found the default LUTs weak in the highlights).
 

Attachments

  • HP5000SemimatteExp05.zip
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FlightDeck

Active member
Here's one (attached). Note for semimatte stock using default exp05 LUTs (I've always found the default LUTs weak in the highlights).

Thanks! Now I just have to figure out what paper option(s) they have... :rolleyes:

So I've done some research and discovered some interesting things, which probably go a long way to answering my original question in the subject line of this thread. This company provides a software application to design photobooks. This software generates the output PDF which goes off to their lab for printing. By poking around in its guts I've discovered that this photobooks software is produced by DigiLabs, and licensed to what I gather are a wide variety of shops wanting to sell photographic printed products. So the company I'm dealing with is only a licensee for the software they are using, which explains why they couldn't answer many questions concerning how it works.

So basically, if you license this software from DigiLabs and have a printer (or a printing partner), you're in business. Given what I've read on the DigiLabs website, their licensing is prolific---it appears MPix uses them as well, so no doubt some here are familiar with DigiLabs software.

The DigiLabs photobook software is DigiLabs 3.2.8 Nexace, authored by Nexace (so perhaps a programming subcontractor). The software produces "ready-to-print" vector PDF files. The software itself is built on an open-source PDF engine called iText, specifically "iText 1.3 by lowagie.com (based on iText-Paulo-153)". It produces v1.4 PDF files (Acrobat 5.x). All of this is meaningless to me, other than it highlights that Photobooks Canada (the company I'm trying to order from) would have absolutely no idea how it all works, unless they've done an incredibly thorough training program (which I doubt) or call upon an efficient tech support contract with DigiLabs (which I also doubt).

It also tells me that Photobooks Canada has to integrate this DigiLabs software into their prepress operations, meaning the workflow of taking the software-produced PDF and processing them for printing on their hp Indigo. Given the only products they sell are these photobooks and a couple poster sizes (they appear to have no other printing business, unless it's under another name), and they are part of an international company and appear to be a national franchise, then I assume the printing end is also set up by someone other than the people running the shop, likely a subcontractor, perhaps hp themselves. So this also tells me that, again, in the absence of some unusually in-depth tech training or a very effective tech support pipeline (and the will to use it), they would be generally unable to answer the questions I've been sending their way. I think I'm dealing with start-up folks who bought a turn-key franchise, not an established printing house that's expanded into the on-demand publishing market.

Seems to explain everything.

I could probably contact DigiLabs directly to determine how colour-aware their photobooks PDF software is. Dealing with the print-side is more problematic, though the parent Photobooks Int'l company may be able to help. Overall though, I'm doing a lot of legwork for what is a relatively small personal project, and certainly not establishing a reliable supplier should I wish to pursue more/bigger things down the road. Perhaps I should begin shopping around again to see what else I can find in Canada.

Having said all that, in the likely event I encounter this DigiLabs photobook software again at other providers, can anyone here speak to its particulars in a colour-managed workflow?

Thanks again,
KDJ
 

Mark Flanders

Well-known member
Greetings,

(Please forgive me if I slip too far into rant mode. All due respect all around.)
In my opinion you are making way too many assumptions and being unfair to the print shop. Having automated on-line software which produces a 1.4 pdf is not a big deal, and the more you imagine all this technical detail and experts, the more off-base you drift. Your printer is not a turnkey start-up with a bunch of know-nothings simply because they are failing to baffle you with BS on color.
The reason many commercial printers recommended simple a RGB/SWOP approach is that it is predictable. Complete Color management in commercial printing is a holy grail, for now. (I know that's asking for trouble on this forum, but there is some truth to it from a practical standpoint.)

In the printing plant, the first thing to calibrate is the primary press to it's proofing device, so that when the customer signs off on a proof, it is can be accurately reproduced. So a press profiled and proofing device calibrated. Good so far. Next is at least one top quality, calibrated monitor so one can view color with some reasonable accuracy. Now your file comes in with every detail of color management dutifully selected... and the proof and print doesn't match! It must be because the printer doesn't know anything! (The customer exclaims) So, under deadline pressure, a prepress tech goes through your files testing each setting, to discover after an hour or so, that your paper selection of "uncoated" is being proofed through their "uncoated" hot folder on their RIP (Raster Image Processor) and the result is too much magenta. Or maybe you sent the file which you set up for a different shop on a creme colored stock? Or maybe your monitor wasn't calibrated, or any number of other things. This is why many prepress techs quietly remove embedded profiles, or have their workflows override them.

I expect to be "corrected", but at the end of the day, even color consultants "tweak it until it looks right."

My practical advice? Get a one-off proof and and adjust your monitor to match it. Then adjust color and resend files if need be. If you don't have the budget, send a deskjet proof that you like and ask them to do the best they can. Printers will bend over backwards to help you if you don't drive them crazy.

all the best,

Marko de la Flandero
 

Sherbert

Well-known member
We do not honor embedded profiles on our Indigo 5000, its alot easier to have Colour Management at a device level instead of it being in your customers control. Which isn't always going to be right.
 

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