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Meet printer requirements by properly embedding color profiles

Added on Wednesday 27th of April 2005 12:53 am EST


Adobe Photoshop 7/CS

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


Photoshop, Color Settings, Profiles, Embed, GCR, SWOP


I’m working on a book and my publisher has requested that I do the following: convert all of my dialog box screen captures to CMYK using max black, and convert all of my images using medium black. They also want the SWOP profile embedded in all my images. I’m confused. Why do I have to convert my images separately, and why is it that when I try to embed the profile in my dialog boxes, it comes up with a wrong profile? Can you help?


Sure, we can help. It sounds like you’re on the right track. Let’s go over the different conversion methods, and then we’ll figure out what’s going on with your profiles.

If your printer is asking for the SWOP profile, they’re probably referring to U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2, which is the default CMYK Working Space when you use the U.S. Prepress Defaults color setting. However, you should double-check with them to make sure this is what they’re referring to. The first step is to set up Photoshop’s color settings. To do this:

1.          Launch Photoshop.

2.          Choose Photoshop > Color Settings.

3.          Select U.S. Prepress Defaults from the Settings pop-up menu. U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2 is then set for the CMYK working space, as shown in Figure A.



Using Gray Component Removal

When your printer is asking for max-black or medium-black, they’re actually referring to using the Gray Component Removal (GCR) method for converting your images. When GCR is enabled:

            Neutral gray areas as well as some areas of color will separate onto the black channel when converted to CMYK.

            The quality of gray balance is preserved better on the printing press.

            You can control the level of replacement, or the tonal range in your image that gets converted to black, using the different Black Generation options.

In your case, when you convert RGB files to CMYK, these settings control how much color information is translated to the black channel, as opposed to the CMY channels.


Access your separation options

You can access the Separation options through the Color Settings dialog box that we previously opened. Assuming you already opened the dialog box and have selected U.S. Prepress Defaults from the Settings pop-up menu, follow these steps to access the GCR settings:

1.          Select Custom CMYK from the CMYK pop-up menu in the Working Spaces section.

2.          Click on the Black Generation pop-up menu, as shown in Figure B.

3.          Select one of the options to control the level of Black Generation you prefer. This is usually decided on by your print vendor, as you have indicated in your question.



Medium vs. Maximum

So why can’t you just use the same setting for converting all of your images? Well, you can, but you shouldn’t. There are actually a few differences between the Medium and Maximum settings, as indicated below:

            Medium. By default, Medium is the Black Generation level for the U.S. Prepress Defaults setting. For this case, it’s the average setting that works best with most images. With Medium enabled, your images will separate the midrange neutral color combinations and dark areas of your image onto all four channels.

            Maximum. The Maximum Black Generation level maps out grays directly to the black channel. Probably not a setting you’d want to use too often, but in the case of converting screenshots, it’s an excellent choice, and actually the preferred one. It prevents black lines and text from turning out blurry if there’s any misregistration on the press, and it also omits any color casting in your dialog boxes.


Other Black Generation options

There are other Black Generation options to choose from, other than Medium and Maximum for creating CMYK separations.

            Custom. Choosing Custom allows you to set your own Gray Ramp Curve, allowing you to specify precisely how much black you want to use in your image. This setting is best saved for the expert user.

            None. Choosing None will prevent any black from being used in your image when you convert an RGB file to CMYK.

            Light. Choosing Light will use a minimal amount of black to replace CMY in just the shadow areas and is a commonly used setting.

            Heavy. Choosing Heavy will use a large amount of black to replace CMY in the majority of the neutral tonal range. Not a commonly used setting for color images, but it’s great for four-color grayscale images.




Convert color modes and embed profiles

You mentioned that you have two types of RGB files to convert to CMYK—images and screenshots—and you need to embed the same profile in both of them. First, you should separate your images in a way that’s intuitive for you to convert them. One option is to put all of your images into one folder, and screenshots into a second folder.


Convert and save your images

We’ll start with the images since there’s no messing around with changing color settings for these.


To convert your images and embed the SWOP profile:

1.          Choose Photoshop > Color Settings, make sure you have U.S. Prepress Defaults selected from the Settings pop-up menu as we discussed earlier, and click OK.

2.          Navigate to and open your first image. If you get a Missing Profile, you’ll have a choice to leave as is, assign a working profile, or assign a different profile. Unless you know for sure, leave it as is and don’t color manage. Then, click OK.



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