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546 Views 11 Replies Last post: Feb 13, 2018 6:09 AM by DerrickHall RSS
Level 0 7 posts since
Jan 16, 2013
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Feb 7, 2018 7:07 PM

full-color illustrated book

I'm publishing a full-color illustrated children's book using InDesign.

 

The colors are vivid in the PDF, but the artist is disappointed in the proof because the colors are drab compared to her original artwork.

 

I tried to make my profile photo a comparison photo she sent me of CS proof and original art side by side.

 

I exported the cover and interior files as [PDF/X-1a2001] which is CMYK, right? I was so sure CMYK would make the colors as vivid as they are on the screen, so I'm pretty discouraged. Searching the forum here, some said RGB might work better than CMYK. If that is the case, what are the ID settings I need to use when I export the PDF? I've been using ID for less than a year, so please keep it on a simple and basic level. Thanks.

Level 5 12,889 posts since
Aug 22, 2008
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1. Feb 8, 2018 9:04 AM in response to: Mems
Re: full-color illustrated book

Unfortunately, this is not a "simple" issue, and it can be challenging to figure out exactly where things went wrong in the overall workflow (or for that matter, IF they went wrong -- some digital artists/illustrators who don't fully understand the world of print may have unrealistic expectations).

 

My first suggestion is to do a web search on "InDesign Color Management" and scan a few of the introductory level articles and online tutorials you'll find. Our designers spend two full days in a training on this topic, but you don't need to know all that -- your main objective is just to ensure that you are managing color in a way that honors and preserves whatever ICC color profile your illustrator assigned to the images that you're bringing into the page layout. Once you have that, it helps determine how to export that layout to PDF.

 

If the illustrator assigned an RGB profile, then exporting to PDF using the PDF/X-3 preset will maintain those color values and embed that specific RGB color profile in the PDF. The pre-press software can then strip that off and use it to convert those color values as closely as possible to colors that can be produced by the inks available to the press. However, be aware that there are RGB colors that can be produced on a screen using pixels of light (often very bright, vivid colors that digital artists just love) that cannot be duplicated on paper using halftone dots of CMYK inks. These "out of gamut" colors often come out looking "dull" by comparison to the original artwork -- and there's not a lot you can do about that. An artist who creates illustrations for print (and especially for print-on-demand) has to be aware of the associated limitations.

 

If the illustrator assigned a CMYK profile to the artwork, then exporting to PDF using the PDF/X-1a preset will accomplish the same as above with regard to getting the most consistent and predictable color output. (But using the PDF/X-1a preset to export RGB colors will convert the RGB to CMYK. With images such as photos, that's normally fine -- but with illustrations, there can be dramatic color shifts. Perhaps that's what happened here.)

 

If the illustrator didn't tag her artwork with a color profile, then you (and InDesign's color management system) have no way to know for sure what colors she really intended, and you as the designer have to make decisions about whether or not the colors as you see them look right to you, and if/how to adjust them.

Level 5 12,889 posts since
Aug 22, 2008
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3. Feb 8, 2018 10:33 AM in response to: Mems
Re: full-color illustrated book

If you have Acrobat, run a preflight on the resulting PDF and look at the colorspace info. It should include colorspace that matches the RGB color profile assigned to the RGB images. If it does, you should see better results this time. If it doesn't (if it's showing only DeviceCMYK), then the images were not tagged with an ICC color profile and the PDF/X-3 setting converted all color to CMYK. In which case, you know that either (a) the illustrator didn't assign a profile to the images, or (b) you somehow hosed that profile in your workflow.

Level 5 19,394 posts since
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4. Feb 8, 2018 10:39 AM in response to: Mems
Re: full-color illustrated book

Here is the issue, background first:

 

The CMYK footprint/gamut/color space is surrounded by a black line, the RGB color space is surrounded by a white line.  In every case, the CMYK color space is smaller than RGB.  Nearly all printed images are CMYK.  Some images might have additional colors to help capture highly saturated colors, neon colors, nuanced colors, etc., but being printed they are all reflected light . . .

 

In printing:

 

 

Some of the dots are not pure C, M, Y, or K.  There is some transparency in the inks, and it is possible for one color to overlap another and act like a filter: so that color is not reflective but transmitted light!

 

 

So what happens to color that are out of gamut (RGB colors that do not exist in CMYK)?  As you can see in the above image, most continuous tone images (like the photographs above, as opposed to graphics with solid colors), print okay.  If you had a HDR images (high dynamic range), with lots of saturated colors, or graphics with that use large areas of out-of-gamut color, as you an see in the RGB and CMYK color ramp and step wedge above, most of these colors are flat and muted.

 

You can work in CMYK and get great color, but you have to make adjustments.

 

I would suggest:

 

Print on your desktop printer one of the worst examples from your book: not using the PDF/X-1a file.  Use the RGB art. Your printer is CMYK, but it will convert it. Use a matte photopaper if you can. paper.  How does the color look? If it's okay, then I would submit a RGB file (PDF/X-3, High Quality, PDF/A will preserve RGB.

 

If the print is not good, then I would work on the CMYK conversion as a deliberative thing, not something that you just do.

 

CS uses non-traditional process color (compared with Pantone Process Colors) and, I think, it uses perceptual rendering, which (very simplistically) tries to maintain the relationship of the color, whereas the other method of converting simply cuts off/re-maps all out-of-gamut color back to where the color is in-gamut.

 

So that's the short course.  ANd the shorter answer, unless you've got neon colors or deep saturated colors, submit RGB.

 

Given the spam here, come on over to  selfpublishingforum.  It's free.  Many of us who answer questions here are active there.

 

Walton

 

Bleeds,  free, 91 page guide to bleeds, margins, covers, and annotated CreateSpace guidelines. Prepress Glossary: free, 79 page, fully illustrated prepress glossary with annotations for  CreateSpace users Type & Typography: free, 112 page illustrated guide to designing books, typography, with glossary, and type specimen pages  Free: list of free PDF downloads; selfpublishingforum: spam free forum. Contact  for graphics, design, and typesetting help.

 

 

Level 3 434 posts since
Oct 16, 2014
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5. Feb 8, 2018 11:14 AM in response to: walton
Re: full-color illustrated book

You should get a patent on that four-cornered RGB color space.

Level 2 478 posts since
Sep 11, 2013
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7. Feb 11, 2018 10:49 AM in response to: Mems
Re: full-color illustrated book

With due respect to lighthouse and Walton

 

Write out one hundred times

 

"There is no such thing as perfect"

 

 

Cheers. Ed

Level 4 2,596 posts since
Feb 7, 2015
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8. Feb 11, 2018 6:00 PM in response to: ozed
Re: full-color illustrated book

It has been said that the enemy of good is perfection. However, the enemy of excellence is good enough.

Level 5 19,394 posts since
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9. Feb 12, 2018 6:45 AM in response to: Mems
Re: full-color illustrated book

Depending on the software you are using, lynda.com has great tutorials.  It costs about $30 a month, but is well worth it.  You don't need to pay extra to open their working files (some are free, most you have to pay extra for).  I generally create file of my own and work along with the lessons.  I also stop often, test what I'm being shown, and I take notes.

 

As for trying to understand color . . . I still don't, but everytime I answer a question I get a tiny bit clearer on it . . . take a look at Dan Margulis's books.  Photoshop 6 (which seems to have nothing to do with Photoshop anything, but everything to do with color and color printing), Photoshop LAB Color (if there is a real Wonderland, it's LAB) . . . Katrin Eismann's books on Photoshop, all good, and I think she wrote a book or two with Margulis.  My guess is that most of these books are out of print, but I've bought used copies for almost nothing.  Expert advice is expert advice.  Check out their books.

 

I have watched some great tutorials on YouTube, but there are a whole lot that are wrong, stupid, and counterproductive. Be skeptical.

 

Given the spam here, come on over to  selfpublishingforum.  It's free.  Many of us who answer questions here are active there.

 

Walton

 

Bleeds,  free, 91 page guide to bleeds, margins, covers, and annotated CreateSpace guidelines. Prepress Glossary: free, 79 page, fully illustrated prepress glossary with annotations for  CreateSpace users Type & Typography: free, 112 page illustrated guide to designing books, typography, with glossary, and type specimen pages  Free: list of free PDF downloads; selfpublishingforum: spam free forum. Contact  for graphics, design, and typesetting help.

 

 

Level 5 12,889 posts since
Aug 22, 2008
Currently Being Moderated
10. Feb 12, 2018 8:06 AM in response to: Mems
Re: full-color illustrated book

Mems wrote:

I'm taking all kinds of YouTube ID courses now

Terrific. As you do, make note of the background of the author/instructor and the stated objective of the course. Many of the online references, tutorials, courses, and blogs on these topics were developed by or for photographers. Most are written from the perspective that the ultimate desired output is a commercial quality photographic image, and that every step in the workflow downstream of Photoshop will support that objective.

 

I'm definitely not suggesting that you avoid those courses. Just keep in mind as you absorb the lessons that we're doing something different when we prep an image for insertion into book page layout -- in which the downstream steps include design software, export to PDF, handling of that PDF by a press RIP (including conversion to halftones), and high-speed output on plain paper for a print-on-demand book.

Level 0 5 posts since
Feb 12, 2018
Currently Being Moderated
11. Feb 13, 2018 6:09 AM in response to: Mems
Re: full-color illustrated book

Thanks a lot for the suggestions)

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