The Designer’s Notebook

The Uncertain Vagaries of CMYK profiling



colourcalibLately we’ve been working with a myriad of suppliers who print a myriad of products. We’ve found out some interesting things regarding printing and colour calibration. The biggest thing it seems, (though unsupported by any empirical data) is that with the release of the Adobe Creative Suite 3, colour calibration is simply more important than it was with CS1 or CS2.

Here’s the catch: even suppliers that DON’T use colour calibration, or equipment doesn’t require it, will have their software set to some kind of default setting. If you send files optimized to a different ‘default’ your output will vary. The moral of this story is: match your file to the final output profile, every time. And yes it’s annoying to manage on every job, but it’s important.

The good news is that there some simple steps you can take to improve your calibration.

  • First, Talk to your printer. They should have a profile for you to use. If not, they will likely use a default, at least unknowingly;
  • First-and-a-half, if your printer supplies a colour profile, simply use it and go to step three, otherwise continue to step two;
  • Second, if no profile is provided, set up your colour management to use one of the defaults from the “North American General Purpose 2” set, choosing paper finish, and ink types;
  • Third, go for coffee, since you are probably done;
  • And forth, make a list of the profiles your suppliers use and remember to customize for each project.

As far as I can tell, very few printers in the Alberta area take profiling very seriously, so a default will be what most professional and in-house designers will need to use. It’s a tool that is under-utilized in our province, but most printers make up for it with accurate colour match-proofs so you can at least see what you will get on the press and make adjustments at the proofing stage.

Let’s get started!

We’d love to talk with you about your company and where you want to take it.