Knowing what color specifications to use for print, video, or digital output saves time and effort. While most of the time infographics will be used primarily on the web, they are also used a lot commercially for direct mail pieces, trade show giveaways, and posters. Getting the right color matching across these different types of media can drive designers insane. Luckily here are some easy ways to prepress you work to keep it looking consistently great.

Some people refer to a color palette and a color specification in the same breath. That is fine, they are specifying the colors to use after all. Today though we are worried about making sure the colors we have on the screen print reliably on a networked printer device or with a commercial printing house.

Today I’m talking about both color presets, which control what color information is sent to a printer, and color profiles such as ICC.

Here Are Some Tips to Start You Off

  • When supplying a PDF to a printer, not mater what the color mode is, the preset PDF/X-4: 2008 (often now displayed as 2010 in more recent versions of Adobe products) will give reliable results when you have transparencies and want your work to look good on you screen and at the commercial printer
  • Start with RGB, then convert to CMYK
  • You can use the “High Quality Print” preset for sending a job to your networked printer
  • Make sure the environment you view printed work in is both well lit and evenly lit
  • Begin with the end in mind. Will the work be used somewhere that has dim lighting? Bright lighting? You don’t know? That should influence your final color and contrast choices.
  • Beware of blues with a lot of magenta in them. Purpling may happen. This is where a good commercial printer can help you by adjusting color on the press or recommending alternate choices for colors to get the look you want
  • Convert important colors to global colors
  • Check your spot color swatches before printing
  • Check with your printer to see if they have a recommended Adobe preset
  • Use the Adobe Color CC / Adobe Kuler to see what happens when you adjust colors using HSB, HSV, LAB, CMYK, and RGB
  • You can save a printer preset you use for a color printer on your network by choosing “Save Preset” in the print window
  • InDesign Secrets – great tips not just for InDesign users about hacking presets in Adobe:

Color Management – Color Ranges Differ Across Devices

Devices (including the human eye) don’t all see colors the same way or the same range of colors. This is why you can run into problems getting the result you expect from a printer. You can read what Adobe has to say about it here:

Warning – color management is not color correction. It is more about reliably interpreting colors and understanding the limitations of devices. It won’t help you find the perfect shade of turquoise for your front door. Believe me I’ve tried. Pay attention to the lighting in your environment and any differences between it and where the work will be used. Really! If a banner will be hung in a poorly lit area, you have to be extra vigilant about color shifts due to lighting and be wary about contrast issues. Trade shows are also notoriously poorly lit. Keep your computer desktop and neutral as possible and make sure you have a well lit space to examine printed work.

Color Workflows – Sharing the Color

So what does Adobe have to say about ICC profiles? What does that even mean?  We don’t design in a vacuum. Not only would that be smelly, dusty and cramped, we would also be lonely. We have to share files with other designers, clients, print houses, and even different devices. A color workflow keeps colors consistent in a file as it is passed around. Adobe originally shared ICC profiles as a free download, but they also come baked in to Adobe products if you have CS3 or above.


Color Specification Resources