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Old 03-04-2008, 09:34 AM   #1
Ashlie
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Default Inconsistent color printing

When I get a proof from my printer, the actual printed pieces are sometimes slightly different. Typically this is not a big deal because it's not that noticeable. However, I have two full color pallet brochures that have really become a nightmare. I adjusted the colors on my end until the actual color proof from my printer was as accurate as possible. Then when we recieved the printed pieces they were a little different and in this case it was a big deal. One of our most popular colors is a dark gray and all the printed pieces came out in various shades of gray tinted green which changes the entire color. So there are two problems: 1. Proof doesn't match final printed piece and 2. There is too much variation in the printed pieces. Solution to #1 could be getting a pre-press proof which should be more accurate since it will come off the actual press. I am open to additional solutions to #1. I don't know what to do to solve #2. How can I get the printer to make sure the color stays consistant on all pieces? The only thing I can think of is to do a press check at every 5000 pieces or so but I don't know if this will even solve the problem. It is my responsibility to make sure these brochures are as accurate as possible so I really need some solutions. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
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Old 03-04-2008, 01:07 PM   #2
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Ouch!

Do you use a color management system? Is your desktop printer calibrated to some CMYK standard?

What software are you using to prepare the files for the printer? What do you send — a PDF or an application file?

What platform do you work on?

As for the variations within the print run, you should be able to require consistency. What does the printing company say when you show them the variations?

   
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Old 03-04-2008, 03:02 PM   #3
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You should be more aggressive with the printing company. If color is critical, definitely pay for a pre-press proof. This isn't off the press but will be output from a device which their press can match. Ask for a "contract proof". This way they will be contracted to match your proof, and you can refuse to pay if it is quite different. If they can't provide you with a contract proof, find another printing company. If you are the kind of client who is getting several things printed regularly, then they should work to keep you happy.

When we have several pieces that have to match, for example a kitfolder, business cards, and inserts for the kitfolder, they all get printed at the same time on the same press sheet to reduce colour variation.

If possible, replace your grey colour with a Pantone ink, which is easier for them to match, however, if you are talking about pictures of grey material or something then you can't do that.

Make sure all your colours are set to cmyk before sending out for printing. If you are sending rgb there could be a bad conversion on their end.

   
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Old 03-05-2008, 12:55 PM   #4
don Arnoldy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ashlie View Post
When I get a proof from my printer, the actual printed pieces are sometimes slightly different.
by "printer," do you mean "the machine that is sitting on your desk," or "the person to whom we send the files for reproduction"?

If you mean the second, there are accepted industry tolerances for how far the delivered piece can vary from the proof you approved. If you mean the former, there is very little possibility that the other printer could match your proof--it ias not really a "proof."

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Old 03-05-2008, 04:14 PM   #5
Ashlie
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I haven't had much success trying to calibrate my monitor and desktop printer. I am able to calibrate the monitor but not the printer. But my concern is not the output on my desktop printer, just the output from the print press. I use either InDesign or Quark and I always send him a high res PDF file. I use a PC. The printer is coming tomorrow to see the variations and talk about what we can do to solve both problems. He seems to agree that the colors should be pretty consitent throught the run. This whole color thing is truly a complete nightmare. It all starts with the photo which is never accurate. I don't have a proper studio or environment to take pictures in so it's a rough ride from the get go. Thanks for your response.
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Old 03-05-2008, 04:22 PM   #6
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We do get pre-press proofs from that output device currently and the final printed piece is just a tad different. Usually we don't care that much but on a Color Brochure we do want the colors represented as accurately as possible. We need to get a proof from the actual press so that we can see exactly how it will turn out on the press. We are willing to pay for it so that's not an issue. It's not possible to replace the gray color with a Pantone ink because the color images are pictures of the product. Colors are always set to CMYK. The printer is coming tomorrow to see the variation and to talk about solutions to this problem. Thanks for your suggestions.
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Old 03-05-2008, 04:29 PM   #7
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I am refering to the person to whom I send the files for reproduction. How would I know what the accepted industry tolerances are for how far the delivered piece can vary from the proof I approved? I would never assume that my desktop would give me an accurate proof but maybe someone else would, so good point. The proof I am refering to is the proof from one of those machines that is supposed to be calibrated to the press. The print guy brings it to me for approval. It always seems slightly different than what we actually get so I don't know what is acceptable in terms of the industry standard for the tolerances. Typically, it's not a big deal but with our Color Brochures it is a big deal so that's why I am trying to get it worked out. He is coming tomorrow to check out the variance and talk about solutions to this problem. I'd really like to know about those industry tolerances before he comes tomorrow if possible. Any advice on that would be helpful in dealing with him and in dealing with management regarding this issue. It all comes down on my head which is unfortunate because I don't seem to have much control of what actually comes off the press. Hopefully the printer and I can get it worked out. Thanks for your advice so far.
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Old 03-05-2008, 04:58 PM   #8
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Quote:
ashlie: I haven't had much success trying to calibrate my monitor and desktop printer. I am able to calibrate the monitor but not the printer.
What are you using to do the monitor calibration?

What monitor do you have and which printer?

Generally, you don't calibrate the your (desktop) printer rather you use the monitor calibration as a step in the process of using color management which (theoretically) will allow you to send data to your (desktop) printer so that what you see on paper matches what you see on the screen.

Bruce Fraser once explained color management using the idea of a dictionary and I've always found it an apt analogy.

If you think of your monitor, your computer system, your software and your printer as all speaking different languages, what color management can help you to do is to create translation "dictionaries" so that each part of your system understands the information being sent to it from other parts of your system.

Soooo...in calibrating your monitor, what you are doing is creating an entry in this "dictionary"--you are getting it into a measurable, known state and that "dictionary" information is stored in a monitor profile. I use a Colorvision Spyder 3 Pro to calibrate my Nec 20" LCD monitor (LCD2090UXi) and I have saved the monitor profile that I created and it's loaded whenever I boot my system and the video card is actually adjusted by the monitor profile in conjunction with the Spyder3 Pro software.

The next part of the process is using color management aware software--Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Corel Painter, Draw, etc--and setting up the color management options as appropriate so that when you send data from your computer system to your (desktop) printer, there are a series of translations that will occur so that the color you see on your monitor is translated into for example, Photoshop's working working space (many people use AdobeRGB) which is then translated to your printer's paper profile and you get a good screen to print match.

One of the tricky bits is how to handle that printer paper profile. For my Epson 4000, I tell the Epson software not to color manage the data I send to the printer because I'm telling Photoshop to handle the translation of Photoshop's working space profile to the printer's paper profile because Photoshop actually does a better job of translating than the Epson 4000 driver does--particularly as I use non-Epson papers and have had custom paper profiles created.

I don't know if any of the above helps you at all but let me know how you are calibrating your monitor and what monitor and printer you have and maybe I can offer more specific suggestions...

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Old 03-05-2008, 07:45 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ashlie View Post
I am refering to the person to whom I send the files for reproduction. ...I would never assume that my desktop would give me an accurate proof but maybe someone else would, so good point.
Good--but, as you surmised, I needed to check.

Quote:
How would I know what the accepted industry tolerances are for how far the delivered piece can vary from the proof I approved? The proof I am refering to is the proof from one of those machines that is supposed to be calibrated to the press. The print guy brings it to me for approval.
Maybe Peter, or one of the other press guys here will jump in with more exact details--but it shouldn't vary much.

Quote:
Typically, it's not a big deal but with our Color Brochures it is a big deal so that's why I am trying to get it worked out.
There is a difference in standard between "pleasing color" and "critical color." I make a point to telling the print rep if a job has a particular color that's important (like the color of a piece of equipment).

Quote:
He is coming tomorrow to check out the variance and talk about solutions to this problem. ... Any advice on that would be helpful in dealing with him and in dealing with management regarding this issue.
Let him know that a.) the printed pieces he delivered vary from the proof you signed off on to such a degree that b.) your bosses are pissed, and that c.) you hope the two of you can work something out that will allow you to continue your business relationship.

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Old 03-06-2008, 02:38 PM   #10
Robin Springall
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Ashlie, Welcome to the real bane of printing: colour accuracy!

Three steps, assuming that you're printing the job in process rather than having spot colours:

1. Make sure you're using a sensible colour workflow, and that your print firm supports it: it's no good adopting the latest ISO FOGRA 27 colour profile at your end if your print chappie isn't using FOGRA 27 inks! Find out what he's set up for, then adjust your workflow to suit. Don't do anything bonkers like shoving RGB at him, of course.

2. Any kind of digital or optical proof is no substitute for a press proof (aka a wet proof): if your runs are high enough to warrant the cost of a wet proof, then I reckon you should go for one. That's the second thing to do.

3. You need to get your printing firm to commit to a Delta E of 1 or 1.5. Delta E is a measurement of how the colours vary from what they should be. Old-fashioned standards were typically Delta E of 3, for heaven's sake, but the human eye can easily distinguish a Delta E of 1 (I have no difficulty in seeing Delta E of 0.5, particularly with blues). If they won't commit to 1.5, tell them in the nicest possible way to sling their hook!

   
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