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Is it best to convert image to CMYK profile if printer has specified that they will print using a CMYK profile and they tell you what one that is. I've read conflicting reports about whether you should provide your prints with a CMYK based profile, sRGB profile or photoPro profile.

But it seems to me if your printer company has told you that it uses a particular CMYK profile (such as FOGRA27 Coated that my print company uses) shouldn't you always use that, and if they haven't, shoudn't you at least use PhotoProRGB instead of sRGB?

For example if you are working on a file in Photoshop and you do a SoftProof to sRGB and it shows lots of out of gamut colours, then you do a soft proof to the particular CMYK profile and it shows less and different out of gamaut colours (I have plenty of files like this). If you now export the file as sRGB its going to have to clip/modify those colours that were invalid for sRGB even if they are fine for CMYK. Then when the printer company converts the sRGB profile to a CMYK profile it has already has some incorrect colours and the problem will worsen when you then convert to CMYK to deal with the colours that the CMYK cannot handle.

These colours may not even be the colours that were shown out of gamout when you SoftProofed to CMYK initially because the conversion to sRGB will have converted the colours that sRGB couldn't handle so when map back to LAB the colours will not be the same as the original image. You could get round this by modifying the image so it doesn't show any out of gamout colours but you would have to modify it so it doesn't have out of gamout for not just the CMYK profile but also the sRGB profile even though the sRGB profile is not being used for printing!

Additionally saving with a CMYK profile will allow you to decide whether to use Perceptual or Relative conversion, you don't have this control if the printer company does the conversion.

Alternatively if they haven't told you how they would print by you can softproof to sRGB and make some adjustments to improve the chances of a good print. But wouldn't it be better to embed the a ProPhotoRGB as this will always better represent the colours in the original image allowing the printer company to do a better job of converting the print to whatever method they use. The only disadvantage to this method is you would have to export as a 16bit tif rather than 8bit jpeg because 8bits is not enough bytes to properly represent the PhotoPro colour profile.

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Is it best to convert image to CMYK profile if printer has specified the profile they will use

No.

First, an image should only be converted to CMYK or a CMYK profile if your printer requires it. Most printers -- especially most that a photographer will typically use -- are going to require an RGB profile. (I understand that you're printing to a CMYK device, but without that qualifier it's not a true statement.)

Next, as long as you're adjusting your image to print colors correctly with the CMYK profile then there's not really a reason you need to convert. That is, if you are soft proofing and fix any out-of-gamut warnings then you have created an image that will print as-expected to the destination device. The printer RIP should handle applying the profile at print time if necessary.

You should only think about converting to that destination profile after you've soft-proofed and fixed out-of-gamut warnings. Otherwise you are simply throwing away data to do the conversion, which means you are simply accepting whatever the profile shows you... which you obviously don't want to do.

But wouldn't it be better to embed the a ProPhotoRGB as this will always better represent the colours in the original image allowing the printer company to do a better job of converting the print to whatever method they use.

Yes! This is a fine approach! However, there's one important thing to clarify here: you expect the vendor you're working with to do the work of fixing out-of-gamut warnings. If you're not paying for this service, then they are almost certainly sending the image to their RIP for processing and printing without making any adjustments.

In summary: no matter what, to get the best results you need to bring the colors within the printable range of the device. Soft proofing and out-of-gamut warnings show you those problem areas. They need to be fixed.


On a slightly different topic, from all of your CMS-related questions I get the feeling you have very little understanding of how a color managed-environment works and the various processes required to see success. It's been at least 10 years since I've thought hard about color management, but one book that really helped me was Real World Color Management. While I have not read it, Color Management & Quality Output: Working with Color from Camera to Display to Print looks great, too. I recommend you do some reading.

  • Sorry I think something was lost in me trying to keep the title short, my printer does in the end require the image in a CMYK (FOGRA27) profile but I can choose whether to provide that or whether to let them convert it. Thanks for the answer but I dont think that you have addressed my key point which is even if I fix all the gamout warnings for FOGRA27 if I export as sRGB instead of FOGRA27 Ill need to also fix gamut warnings for sRGB so Im uneccessarily restricting my colours to those that can be mapped to sRGB AND FOGRA27 instead of just FOGRA27. – Paul Taylor Nov 19 '15 at 14:43
  • I do have limited understanding of color-management but I have some real-world experiences of some images not looking right at my printers and Im trying to get to the bottom of it. I have been reading some articles and books on the subject as well as posting questions and I think Im am now understanding the concepts, the trouble with books though is they tend to gloss over a few issues leavig me with gaps in my knowledge that Im trying to fill – Paul Taylor Nov 19 '15 at 14:48
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    Well, if you want to print colors that exist in a CMYK space but not in an sRGB space, then you're right, sRGB is too small -- which is why we often favor using Adobe RGB. Chances are that your FOGRA27 profile fits entirely in that profile. – Dan Wolfgang Nov 19 '15 at 14:50
  • "I have some real-world experiences of some images not looking right at my printers and Im trying to get to the bottom of it." Therein lies the trouble: without a complete grasp of the process and capabilities you don't see how it all works. Real World Color Management will tell you everything. Trust me. There will be no gaps. – Dan Wolfgang Nov 19 '15 at 14:52
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    Most of the things that held true in 2004 hold true today for colour management, a few menu items might have changed but not drastically. I'd recommend Modern Photoshop Color Workflow by Dan Margulis, who is 'the daddy' of digital colour management - it's a bit of an investment but if that book doesn't tell you what you need to know then nothing ever will. – James Snell Nov 19 '15 at 16:55

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