Color management expert Kevin O’Connor joins the show to talk about color workflow! Topics discussed include prepping files for print labs, working within specific color spaces, and comparing the gamuts of various printers.
- Sending files to print labs – how to avoid oversaturation and get the results you want
- Working with various color spaces and switching between them
- How does color gamut affect skin tone reproduction?
Listen in to learn about prepping files for print labs, color spaces, and color gamuts
- For more from Kevin, check out his in-depth, three-part blog series Guide to the Perfect Color Workflow
- Listeners featured in this episode include Brian, Linda from Linda Boyd Photographic Artist Inc., John from JohnSheridanArt.com, and Tony from Digital Editions Atelier.
- Love the show? Have some feedback for us? Leave us a review on iTunes.
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Announcer: You are listening to the AskBC podcast! Your printmaking questions, answered by the experts!
Justin: In this episode, we talk about preparing your files for print labs, working-space profiles and color spaces, and comparing color gamuts of printers old and new.
What’s up everybody? It’s your host Justin, and this is episode 13 of the AskBC podcast! [00:25]
Today we’re joined by a special guest – his name’s Kevin O’Connor. Kevin is a professional photographer, a printmaking workflow consultant, and a regular contributor to the Breathing Color blog.
If you haven’t already caught his three part series in pulling a great looking print all the way from capture to printing, I would highly recommend it! I’ll post a link to that in the show notes, so be sure to stick around for that show notes link.
Hey, Kevin, thanks so much for joining us, it’s so good to finally have you here on the show. To give our listeners a little bit of context, can you go ahead and tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do? [00:56]
Kevin: I started out by studying photojournalism in college. I was in a class with a group of people, we all wanted to go to Brooks Institute, none of us had the money. So, we went to Cal-Poly in San Luis Obispo, which at the time did not have a separate photography program. And a group of us studied with two instructors who were both Brooks graduates, who ended up designing a course to study for us that essentially neared the Brooks curriculum. And all of us ended up being fairly accomplished photographers.
Course that was some time ago, since then I have primarily focused on people and event photography. I do a great deal of work with photographers who are new to color and are attempting to make their color predictable and consistent and reliable. I started out very early in color management – shortly after Apple had introduced Color Sync into its operating system. I worked at Apple for a while in part on Color Sync, and then I worked as a consultant and an [technology] evangelist helping people figure out that color was important, that in some cases color management was necessary and a requirement for legal purposes as well as for quality purposes. And I spent a lot of time helping various companies with their color – if they were producing color, and in some cases, working with software companies helping their software do color better. [02:24]
Justin: Perfect, thanks so much Kevin. Let’s go ahead and jump right in to the questions!
Announcer 2: Brian asks, “My colors seem to be good in Photoshop, but when looking at them in Windows they are way over saturated. Also, when I bring them into print lab to get them processed or printed, they are also over-saturated. Any thoughts or suggestions? [02:44]
Kevin: Yeah, this is an interesting question because there are multiple possibilities of the answer. It’s not clear – the question, if you mean that you’re looking at images in other parts of the Windows operating system, or a specific application running on Windows.
Generally speaking, however, the Photoshop team prides itself on having the best color management in the world, so it’s not surprising that you’re having good results there. I think the next step would be to ask your photo lab what their requirements require as far as color management, and then make sure you’re giving them exactly what they need.
For example, one of the quickest ways to make something look oversaturated is going to be capture images in sRGB color space, but then use an Adobe RGB profile to print the images. Some labs require sRGB images, some require Adobe RGB. If you send the lab that requires Adobe RGB a file that is actually in sRGB, then they automatically assign Adobe RGB to it and this will cause the oversaturation that you describe. [03:48]
Justin: Definitely. So it’s important to make sure that your color spaces are what they need to be, and that’s gonna vary depending on the lab that you’re working with, of course.
Kevin: Exactly. And I think, if I recall correctly, that we’re going to have an article shortly on choosing and using color spaces – drilling down into this in more depth so that you can see the differences easily and master it so that you can give everybody exactly what they need to give you the perfect print in return.
Justin: Definitely, yeah, I mean I’m sure people are listening to your answers here and kind of wondering what the heck it is you’re talking about exactly by sRGB and Adobe RGB 1998, etcetera, so, I’ll make sure we link up to that blog post in the show notes of this episode which I’ll give the link for at the end. And I’m sure that’ll be really helpful to see it kind of written down on paper. [04:32]
Any other thoughts or suggestions on that question, or is that pretty much cover it?
Kevin: Well, only that we should probably say that one of the other blog posts that’s already up talks about the absolute necessity of using a good display and making sure it’s set up in a proper work area, and then that it is both calibrated and profiled so that your color works correctly on it. And we always want to encourage people to do that.
Justin: Yeah, that’s a good note. I’ll go ahead and link up to that article that you’re describing in the show notes as well, just so we can cover it fully. [05:00]
Announcer 2: Linda from Linda Boyd Photographic Artist Inc. asks, “I am using Adobe CC and do not see North American pre-press 2, or anything close in the color settings dialogue. What should I use when preparing a file for print?”
Kevin: The North American pre-press 2 setting is for one of the saved color presets that Adobe provides within Photoshop and the rest of the Creative Suite. This is accessed in the color settings window, which is accessed under the edit menu. Scroll down almost to the bottom and there’s a place to click on “Color Settings,” which is either “Command-Shift-K” on the Mac or “Control-Shift-K” on Windows.
When you do that, the color settings window that opens, it’s going to default to settings that are geographically specific. So, since I live in North America, the copy of Photoshop that I use defaults to North America pre-sets. If you’re not seeing those pre-sets, you have a copy installed that uses other settings as defaults for Photoshop. People in Europe or Asia will not see the North America pre-press settings.
However, the important thing to know here is that what we’re doing is setting up custom workspaces so that we’re always working in the best color settings in Photoshop for a particular destination.
What I would suggest is we have an article that will be coming out shortly and posted on the site that talks about this in great detail. I would suggest that you print the article out, because you want to be able to refer to it while you’re making these settings without having to flip back and forth between a web browser and Photoshop. And this will go into great detail about how to set up these windows for different workflows and how to save them as custom presets that you can flip between very quickly and very easily. [06:56]
Announcer 2: John from JohnSheridanArt.com asks, “If I receive a file in, say, sRGB to print, should I assign it to Adobe 1998 or use the existing color space always? When is it appropriate to assign or apply a different color space to a file you are given by someone else?”
Kevin: Well those of you who are old enough to remember, will know that at some point in the series Lost in Space, the robot which starts saying “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!”
Kevin: And that’s what you should be hearing in the background right now, because assigning a different profile to a file from the profile that was actually embedded in the file is extremely dangerous and must be done very carefully.
Almost always, it’s appropriate to use the profile that came with the file. The exceptions are only two that I know of: the first one is when the wrong profile is assigned to the file and embedded in it. And this is very unusual but it has been known to happen. Fortunately, this is very rare and we don’t see it very often. If you trust your display, because you’re working on a good quality display and you have calibrated and profiled it and you’ve got it set up in an area where the ambient light is not skewing color perception (all the things that are called out in an article on our site already), it would next be possible to assign different profiles to see if one or the other makes the image look better. But as I say, this is a very dangerous thing to do and it’s almost always not a good idea. [08:35]
Announcer 2: Tony from Digital Editions Atelier asks, “I own an Epson 9890. Since I do work for photo artists, I am considering adding a 79 or 9900. What percentage of wide gamma RGB can I expect to be able to print? I know it is relative to the paper I am printing on, but if I had some sort of chart it would be helpful.
Kevin: This is a great question, but the answer is very complex because it depends way too much on a particular paper and printer combination to be able to give you an average percentage that it’s going to improve. The best thing to do would be to look at a couple of screen captures that will accompany this blog post which show a couple of Breathing Color’s papers using Breathing Color’s profiles provided for free on the site. In each case, the paper is the same, but the printers are different. And you can see the difference between each printer and the color gamut it reproduces on the same paper.
In some cases, this is very dramatic. In other cases, not so much. However, even if I didn’t get a single bit of extra color gamut out of an Epson 7900 or 9900, I would still buy it and the reason is that the value of those two printers is that they improve the transitions by using those extra colors that are part of the ink set. One of the biggest surprises that most people have when they buy these printers are how much better flesh tones print on them.
It turns out that the orange that’s added to the ink set is used to smooth a lot of transitions in flesh tones, and if you look at it with a high powered magnifier, you can look down into there and see the orange work making these transitions so much more smooth and so beautiful. So I would encourage you to get the printer, because I think it’s the best one you can get right now from the Epson product line for printing on Breathing Color papers. [10:41]
Justin: Yeah, that’s perfect I mean, since he’s mentioning that he does a lot of work for photo artists, no doubt that the skin tones are going to be extremely important, so that’s a good note, that’s a good add onto the big question of gamut which, as you said, is kind of gonna depend on multiple different factors – the gamut capable of your paper and your printer and even your environment and such. [11:00]
Alright guys, that’s it for today’s episode. If this is the first time you’ve caught AskBC, I hope you’ve enjoyed it and gained some valuable insight from listening. If you’ve been around for a while, thanks so much for taking the time to come back and we appreciate your support and we appreciate you listening. Hopefully you find all of our effort and time put in to putting these episodes together valuable.
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For the show notes for this episode, you can visit ask-bc.com/episode13. Thanks so much for all your questions, guys. I really appreciate you being a part of the conversation, it’s so much fun doing these shows. I’ll send out a free Breathing Color t-shirt to each of you whose questions we chose to feature on this show, and if you’d like to ask a question for the show yourself, it’s super easy! Just visit ask-bc.com and it just takes a second to fill out the form, and if we choose to use your question, we’ll go ahead and mention your business name right on the show and we’ll send you a free Breathing Color t-shirt.
[End Audio – 12:18]
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