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Weekly Chatter: CMYK Mystery Meat
Wednesday August 6, 2003

Section 1: CMYK Mystery Meat

Printers > Pre-press and halftone output > CMYK Mystery Meat

AuthorSubject: CMYK Mystery Meat †
Stephen Kennedy
Posted on Mon Aug 4, 2003 3:07 PM

Here I am stuck in the real world as both photographer and client on the same project, my Blackbook ad. Last year I submitted output film and a chromalin from a prepress vendor and the ad looked great.

On Friday I found out that the book is now printed direct to plate and that my submission of output film and a chromalin was not welcome. I asked for and was given a "profile" of the printer's press in Italy. They told me to submit my layout digitally according to the specs on their website. The file that they claim to be a profile, seems not to be. It arrived via email without an .icc or .icm suffix and can't be recoginzed by Photoshop in either OSX or 9.1. I tried adding the suffix but that didn't work either.

Well the Blackbook specs are so ambiguous as to be a joke and it seems that they are in essence just "suggestions", since the printer will convert to their specs later. I was also told that contrary to the specs people submit "any old way".


When I mentioned that the profile wasn't working, I was told to convert to Euroscale since it was being printed in Europe and that the printer would convert from there. By now it's my opinion that the production manager at the Blackbook has a limited knowledge of the entire process.

My question is should I submit in RGB and let the printer convert to their own profile, (if it exists)? This seems less desctructive than going from RGB to Euro CMYK then to printer's flavor of CMYK. I did a soft proof on my profiled monitor and the Euro CMYK looks fine. Am I making too much out of this by borrowing trouble? I just want the thing to look good.

Stephen Kennedy

Bruce Fraser
Posted on Mon Aug 4, 2003 3:13 PM

The technically correct answer would be to submit profiled RGB, but the information you've gleaned so far doesn't provide any evidence whatsoever that anyone downstream from you would know how to handle an RGB file, profiled or not, and a fair bit to suggest that they wouldn't have a clue as to how to treat such a beast.

I'd convert to Euroscale and send the CMYK...

If you want to email me the "profile" they sent you, I'll see if I can make any sense of itóbruce@pixelboyz.com.

Andrew Rodney
Posted on Mon Aug 4, 2003 3:43 PM

The PDF is pretty bad. They do say they want a proof from an Iris which tells us little.

Since they are going direct to press, they are likely using a proofing system like Kodak Approval. What you'd like to know is what contract proof will you be getting (note that they say if you don't like it, you can pop for $300 and get another; quite a mark up!).

I recall getting an Ad in the Black Book a good 12 years ago and it wasn't anything to write home about color wise. It would be nice if you could get more information about the process, especially considering how damn expensive a page in the book cost. This also sounds like a call to arms from other Black Book advertisers to pressure the powers to be to provide even an ounce of credible information.

Let Bruce check out the profile, that might provide some clues.

Andrew Rodney
Posted on Mon Aug 4, 2003 3:44 PM

-->The file that they claim to be a profile, seems not to be. It arrived via email without an .icc or .icm suffix and can't be recoginzed by Photoshop in either OSX or 9.1. I tried adding the suffix but that didn't work either.

Oh, I'll bet it's an old Photosho Sep table! That would be funny indeed (Ok maybe not funny, maybe telling...).

Stephen Kennedy
Posted on Mon Aug 4, 2003 3:54 PM

The production manager at Blackbook is seemingly uneducated in the whole prepress workflow. I told her that I didn't have a source for an iris print in my town. She then said that any "four color" print would work. When I asked why spec an iris she said that they didn't want something "junky".

I told her that my prepress vendor has an Epson 9600 but that it was 6 color. She said that "might" be ok. This is the type of question/repsonse that I have been dealing with for the last three days.

If I had Quark Express on my Mac I would have made the print on my Epson 2200. Instead I have to outsource it.


Andrew Rodney
Posted on Mon Aug 4, 2003 4:12 PM

Someone, somewhere has to have an idea how this is going to take place and yes, the people you are talking to are clueless. Getting an Iris or Epson proof isn't really going to help here since we have no idea how those printers are setup and what they are supposed to mimic. What you really need to find out is who's doing the contract proof if possible or at the very least, what kind of system is being used. You could have a custom profile built for that process (which even at $100 is well worth the money considering what the page cost you and how important the color has to be). Get 9 other WorkBook photographers and you've got a custom profile for less than a burger and fries.

Can you find out who's printing the job? The PDF says they are some of the best in the world. I can't see why that information could not be discovered. From there you can get a lot more information to target the conversions.

Feel free to send me this supposed profile if you wish as well.

As Bruce points out, you could just use the PS Euro coated conversion and it might be fine and dandy. But I seem to recall that a page in this book cost something like $10K and for that kind of money, I'd not want to guess.

Andrew Rodney
Posted on Mon Aug 4, 2003 4:18 PM

-->My question is should I submit in RGB and let the printer convert to their own profile

The PDF clearly says they will not accept RGB data.

Stephen Kennedy
Posted on Mon Aug 4, 2003 4:24 PM


The printer is Montedori in Italy. I know nothing about them. Blackbook claims to have been printing direct to plate for the last two years. When I incredulously asked, "Why in the world did you allow me to submit film and a chromalin last year," I was told that they "just converted it."

No one from Blackbook ever told me about their direct to plate workflow. As you can see from their PDF spec sheet no mention is made there either. I'm kinda pissed that I spent the extra money for film and chromalin, but frankly the ad looked great to me. As it is now, I'm in pretty deep with my designer and prepress house and the cost of film and chromalin looks mighty cheap from here.

I used a web translator for the FPO color print:

For position only. Not color accurate

Italian translation-

Per la posizione soltanto. Non colorare esatto

I'm sure that by adding this my job will be converted flawlessly.

Stephen Kennedy

Andrew Rodney
Posted on Mon Aug 4, 2003 4:31 PM

-->The printer is Montedori in Italy.

That rings a bell. I think Gorman's last book may have been printed there (now I have no idea how many printers are in Montedori but can there be many)?

So know we need to know what printer, get an email address of the production manager and hope he/she speaks English.

You're the client and you're paying big bucks for this page. So pull some weight and demand you get some more information. You need to open a dialog with the printer or whoever will produce the contract proof. If necessary, go thorough last years book and see if you can talk to some other shooters who advertised (you might want to look for digital work since it's more likely these guys submitted or tried to submit the work digitally). Of you could just ask the people in NY.

IF indeed the Montedori printer was the same as Gorman's, I may have a contact here in Santa Fe (the publisher and AD) who might have some idea of the print conditions. And that "profile" you got could be telling. That someone, somewhere supplied you with this file is a good sign (of course it may have been created in 1993).

Andrew Rodney
Posted on Mon Aug 4, 2003 4:35 PM

So last year you sent the film, chromalin AND a file? You say the color was fine so you could go that route again and hope for the best. If you didn't send a file (just film and proof) I'd love to know how the printed the job direct to plate.

Stephen Kennedy
Posted on Mon Aug 4, 2003 4:43 PM


I just got off the phone with some Blackbook honcho. She said that this year is the first for direct to plate. This is the third version of the Blackbook printing history that I've heard. Anyway, it's obviously too late in Italy to get anything today. I'm sure this will drag out for the next few days.

Last year I submitted film and a chromalin only, no digital file as the photos were scanned from chromes. The ad from this year has EOS-1Ds digital captures.


Andrew Rodney
Posted on Mon Aug 4, 2003 4:55 PM

on 8/4/03 3:45 PM, IR - Stephen Kennedy wrote:

> I just got off the phone with some Blackbook honcho. She said that this year
> is the first for direct to plate. This is the third version of the Blackbook
> printing history that I've heard.

OK that makes sense and it scares me a bit too. You say you only supplied
film and proof so it makes sense that they used it (what else could they
do?). But now the assumption that the process used last time will be the
same is far more questionable.

Based on the run-around with Blackbook, getting someone in Italy in the
loop, even with a huge language barrier has to be better than what you're
getting from NY!

> The ad from this year has EOS-1Ds digital captures.

That really doesn't worry me in the least (assuming you processed the data
well). The Blackbook will not accept RGB and they seem to be under the
impression that any CMYK is fine which isn't at all so.

Are they NOT providing some kind of contract proof (NOT lose non color
critical proof)? I'd be shocked that they are not expecting you to sign off
on a proof they intend to match. Not at the prices they charge.

Stephen Kennedy
Posted on Mon Aug 4, 2003 5:07 PM

Blackbook will give me a proof (not really a contract proof) with only a thumbs up or down approval process. I agree that this is total BS and that I'm being treated poorly. I'm sure that most of the photographers that submit their ads just hand them over. The non-savvy production types at Blackbook are acting as if I want the keys to their apartment and dibs on what's in the fridge. Each request that I make requires more and more explaination.

No surpirse this will be my last year in Blackbook, their long term outlook frankly isn't that optimistic. I also advertise in Workbook and Single Image and they're a dream to work with.

The fact of the matter is that I make money every year with Blackbook. It's also a fact that I make even more money via my ads in Workbook.


Stephen Kennedy
Posted on Mon Aug 4, 2003 5:11 PM

> edit mistake

Bruce Fraser
Posted on Mon Aug 4, 2003 5:12 PM

I have to admit defeat on the Offset_Mondadori.dat file. It may have started out as an ICC profile, but it ain't one now! It's possible that it got munged going through some gateway or other. It's about the right size to be a CMYK output profile, much too big to be an old-style sep table, but right now it's a waste of 1.4MB of disk space, so in your communications with Italy you may want to seek some clarification as to what this animal is!

Stephen Kennedy
Posted on Mon Aug 4, 2003 5:18 PM


Thanks for the profile autopsy. I'm sure that when I report your findings back to Blackbook they'll say, "Bruce Fraser, what does he know."

The quick solution would be to get Schewe to advertise in Blackbook; this nonsense would change in a New York second!


Robert Holland
Posted on Tue Aug 5, 2003 3:39 PM


I'm being asked to provide Iris or similar for Workbook this year. I think it's the same Italian printer too. Maybe the same specs will work? The specs Workbook provides are very detailed and can be set in PS color preferences. I found good pre-press houses and printers in my area but not Iris choices. I was surprised to find a very respected prepress was using Epson 10600. I thought ink jet was the concern since the "gamut" (proper term?) does not represent offset printing. According to the pre-press/print house I used they keep an Epson guy very busy assuring accuracy and they're happy with the proofs.

Anyway, got the proof back today which was done with required embedded profiles and it seems good. "Warmth" is a bit off but I can note that on proof. Now of course I wonder if the "warmth" is due to my monitor or their paper . . . .

I guess the control is nice in all this stuff. I just don't (personally)like doing it.


Andrew Rodney
Posted on Tue Aug 5, 2003 3:53 PM

This whole Iris deal worries me. First, an Iris is just a big, expensive ink jet so think of it like your Eposn. An Iris can be made to simulate another process (in this case some CMYK ink on paper process). But that doesn't mean out of the box, any old Iris can do this and that any old Iris is simulating the printing process you'll use.

I think whoever is asking for an Iris is looking for a "Lose color proof" and because it's a big expensive device that with a RIP that will gladly accept CMYK files (in what CMYK recipe?) they feel this is close enough. And it might just be. But let's understand what's going on here. Youl could send an RGB file to your Epson (hopefully with a good output profile), send that along with your digital file and I'm not sure they could tell the difference. I'm NOT suggesting you do this only that sending numbers to a printer doesn't insure that you'll get that on a totally different device like the press.

RGB files to an Epson results in most cases in a print that can't be reproduced on press. The color gamut is just too large. You can take a printer like an Epson and with a good profile for it, do a CMYK to RGB conversion and get that Epson to simulate very closely what the final CMYK device will print like. This is called cross rendering. But you need the initial CMYK to begin with and that CMYK has to be specific to the print process you'll ultimately print to. If we had that CMYK file, we'd be in good shape. The crux of this problem is we have no idea what flavor of CMYK to provide to this printer.

So what's necessary here are two things (and one is more important than the other):

1. We need a recipe for CMYK to take our digital RGB file and get to CMYK for this printer.
2. We'd like to have a hard proof (Iris or otherwise) to send along although this is far less important.

After all, if we had the correct CMYK numbers going to the printer (and we soft proofed on screen) plus we KNEW that the printer would take the correct numbers for the device and simply output the file, why do we need a proof?

I'd be more comfortable if we had a CMYK profile for the contract proof and that contract proof came back for approval and after signing off, we'd get that on press. Now maybe some Iris, somewhere is set to do this and the printer truly will consider it a contractual proof he will match. If not, why on earth make a proof that can't be matched???

Gary Smith
Posted on Tue Aug 5, 2003 3:56 PM

I've been providing images to a printer in Italy for a publication called Workbook. They told me to use EuroScale and my proofs from my 1280 closely match their proofs. I saw the first proofs last week. Their proofer colors were a little less saturated, and their blues were more magenta. I was satisfied, considering it is near impossible to get sound guidance from them.

Andrew Rodney
Posted on Tue Aug 5, 2003 4:04 PM

OK, so at least a test to the Epson would be this:

Take RGB data, convert to EuroScale CMYK.

Take EuroScale and convert to RGB for Epson (use good Epson profile). Set Rendering intent to Absolute Colorimetric intent to simulate paper of final device.

Be sure to trim away all the paper white that wasn't part of the image that was printed (it will be whiter).

Paper choice will be important here. A paper made for proofing is ideal.

Stephen Kennedy
Posted on Tue Aug 5, 2003 9:01 PM

Gary and Robert,

I'm also an advertiser n Workbook and have been since 1994. I've always submitted my own seps with a chromalin proof. Certainly it's no surprise that my ad always matched my proof since I supplied the film. It's also true that Workbook is in a class by themselves when it comes to production and professionalism.

I wanted to submit film and chromalin to Blackbook and still may be able to do it, since the production specs change every day.

Stephen Kennedy

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