Correct! The shops are to do what their clients tell them to; what their clients want/need else the shops will die out.
Half a Century ago, the BIG clients were ad agencies. The print shops had 4-(or 5-)color presses, the clients had Ventura Publisher, Adobe’s InDesign, Photoshop &c, all of which readily could ship CMYK files.
But who are the BIG clients of today? Instead of 50 clients with millions of prints, is their present customer base a million clients needing a run of 50 prints each? Of which very few know anything about CMYK at all.
So naturally, the print shop would like/prefer/hope that today’s customers please would adhere to the standard flow of the print shop.
Addendum: beginning altered since I misunderstood a quote. Sorry 'bout that
Are you not using any dtp software in between dt and the printer? Just to add my experience from working in publishing (designer) briefly 15 years ago was that offset printers would not do the pre press work unless you paid a lot. Hence you pretty much always had to deliver CMYK files. It was actually part of a test in job interview I did. I had to find errors, typographical and technical in a quark express file and resources. They had snuck a RGB file in there.
But i presume you’re not printing offset right? Wouldn’t make sense unless you have a very large run. Sounds like you’re printing with someone either old skool or very high end. Regardless you need their profiles.
Please note that color calibration is not the same a color profile!
Using these two terms interchangeably will lead to great confusion.
A chromaticity view of a device gamut can be very misleading, because gamuts are actually 3D objects. A chromaticity view is like looking at the shadows of the gamuts. To really see how two gamuts compare, you need to look at a 3D view.
I don’t think you are being very fair to the print shop - in the traditional workflow, it’s not their job to convert to CMYK, that’s the job of a pre-press shop. But pre-press has come under a lot of pressure in the modern age due to the customer wanting to skip that step, and either doing it themselves, or asking the print shop to do it. Note though that often the result is inferior to it being done by pre-press experts.
There are lots of different types of print shops. Some will be up on the latest technology and fully understand color management. At the other end will be shops that know nothing about color management - they just run a press, and the best they can do is tweak roller pressure or maybe the CMYK TVI curves during plate making. Or maybe they were the latter, and have acquired a digital press, but don’t understand much about it’s front end, and still think in 100% CMYK.
The litmus test is to ask for their press ICC profile. If it’s cheerfully provided or described (i.e. a standard FOGRA/ECI etc. profile), then they are (probably) color savvy. If they don’t want to know, then probably not. (Some big shops may be reluctant to give you a particular profile, because they won’t decide which press to run your job on until they get it. But in that situation they either have to do the final color conversion themselves, or run their presses to a standard, in which case they should have or be able to tell you which general profile to use.)
But if it was me, and the shop wasn’t being very helpful, but I still wanted to use them, I’d pick a FOGRA/ECI profile that best matched the type of paper and ink/press, and run with that.
Yeah I am in agreement with the various people suggesting to change the printshop. If they really ask CMYK files only for photos, then they most likely don’t understand much about the color process (even though working with it daily) and they just want not to take any kind of liability if something goes wrong with the color. This would not reassure me on the quality of their service, if I were you.
Seriously in our studio, printing is not our daily job (we are rather working on screen), yet we have done our share of printing, and nowadays most printshop accept sRGB images without any problem. Are you sure they ask you to provide mandatorily CMYK images and would refuse sRGB/Adobe RGB? Aren’t they just advising you to provide CMYK images and you took it as they would refuse anything else? If so, that is less of a problem (most printshop do so, yet still accept xRGB).
As for ensuring quality of color, there are no miracles. The only real solution is to ask for a hard proof. It will cost a bit more, but when you care really about your color, this is what you have to do. Providing CMYK images which you converted from your xRGB images won’t make you much good (too many parameters come into play, from the quality of your display, the calibration, the light, the chosen paper, the printer, especially since a lot of printshop don’t even give you actual profiles for the printer+paper but generic ones, and anyway seeing the end result on the actual paper you chose will always be different than seeing it on screen or on some self-printed paper). Instead just get a print proof (i.e. a sample printed on your chosen paper by the printshop), this is the way to go to actually check the colors and adjust what needs to be before actual printing the whole order.
Of course this is only meaningful price-wise if you do a lot of prints. If you print just a few calendars for a low price, then the proof might nearly double the price. But in such case (low cost), anyway you are probably not that much in need of such color check and the conversion made by the printshop will probably be good enough too. So that depends on the context of your project. There is not a single answer and there is no problem on being less demanding sometimes.
Only real times when working with CMYK colors is really worth it (as I’ve seen so far) is when working on designs, especially when you want to work on specific colors for which you were given specific CMYK mixes (for instance printshop often tells you of using a given mix to get a deeper black, rather than just using black ink), or maybe to use one of Cyan, Magenta or Yellow pure for some design. These kind of cases.
Of course there may be other reasons from time to time, I’m sure of it.
But in common cases when printing photos, there are no good reasons to force CMYK on you.
Bottom line: if your printshop forces you to provide CMYK for photographs prints, I would doubt the shop skills and would suggest to check the competition too.
To be fair, those guys have been around forever. So it’s probably just the latter (they advise CMYK but reluctantly do the pre-press job themselves.)
They do provide a proof as part of the project, but the price is prohibitive for the volume I’m doing (~30 calendars at 14$CAD/copy is around 500$ with tax!). So I ended up buying my own paper and will print with a friend who has connections inside a school with good printers… This brought me into a whole other universe of actually finding good cover paper, but that’s a whole other thread in itself.
Great to check go/no go, but pretty useless in fixing it if it is wrong, or in getting it right the first time. And diametrically the opposite of the traditional print workflow, where YOU would provide the proof (typically a Chromalin, back in the day), and they would try and adjust the press to best match your proof.
But the modern approach is not to twist the press to each job, but to run it consistently to an industry standard (ISO, GRACoL, SWOP, FOGRA etc.) so that a profile is a reasonable representation of what it is doing, and convert the original with that profile.
(Note that uptake of the modern approach is not uniform - Europe is in the vanguard, but print shops in other parts of the world may lag far behind.)
Yeah ok so this was the information I was missing. For a small job with a small distribution (just 30 calendars, I guess for friends and family?), obviously taking a proof may be too much.
Even when doing pro job, often you may go for the very cheap printshops which you get nowadays (one — a customer or yourself — doesn’t always care much about color, just wants something good enough), especially if you do like 1000 business cards for 50€ or similar price for pamphlets or whatever (print can be very cheap when getting common/simple formats). Getting a proof would double the price for a doubtful interest.
It’s true, especially when you go with the cheap printshops. Prices can be so low that everything is mostly automatized, I’d guess. For such prices, making any tweaking for customers may not make much sense. This being said, if they make an obvious mistake, they could still tweak and redo. I had the case at least once (we were printing game boards on flexible materials and they had to redo twice at their cost, because they made mistakes with our files, though it was not about the hard proof, but even the finale boards, which is even worse!). It’s a bit off-topic, yet shows that even some lowcost printshops would tweak their system when professional enough.
When you go for more expensive printshops though, it can be a whole other deal and the proof may really lead to tweaks from the start. We had once a project where we discussed with a printshop which was specialized in photograph books and similar projects. We had actual physical meeting with actual people taking time with us, showing us papers to touch, and samples and stuff. We didn’t go through with this project in the end, but from what I saw, I would expect that there “proof” really meant proofing the project and making tweaks before printing if necessary. Of course the price of the service was definitely not the same. This was definitely not low-cost anymore.
So I’d really repeat that it depends on the scope of the project. If you want quality, and a meaningful proof and making sure you get the result you want, then you can. Yet you’ll have to pay the price for this. If you want quick and cheap, you also definitely can (with good quality even! Just don’t expect too much but don’t settle for crap either). There is not one answer and both choices are valid.
I will take your word for it. I may be too young (or maybe not doing enough prints; as I said, it’s not what we do daily) to have known such a workflow.
Which is most likely much better anyway (at least in theory), as it will lower the prices obviously. This being said, this is also why I was talking of printshops giving generic profiles in my earlier message. Nowadays many printshops will just tell you to use the same standard profile, whatever the paper you chose (or they tell you one same profile for all glossy papers and another for all matte papers). So I doubt a bit the accuracy of using these profiles to soft-proof accurately on your screen (assuming a well-calibrated screen, etc.), though I am not an insider. So maybe I miss something.
Edit: by the way, if you have information on how this workflow would still be work well for proofing colors (other than very approximately), then I am all eyes!
In any case, I think we mostly agree. I just wanted to add my piece to the discussion about the interest (or not) of providing CMYK files to a printshop.
So a quick update on that project (until I find the time to make a proper showcase)… my self-print endeavor ended up taking much more time than expected. Full-duplex printing failed because of the paper’s thickness, which meant I had to sit around the printer a lot, doing “odd/even” flipping to get double-sided printing. There was some paper jamming which ruined a bunch of prints.
I was able to salvage 14 out of the possible 15 prints (plus extras) by spending an entire afternoon babysitting that machine. After binding, I ended up with a ~9$/copy cost, but that’s not counting my time.
That is not worth my time, so I gave that print shop a go: I ended up with a 14$/copy print that looks great. They took my sRGB PDF without problems and did color corrections on the first page that looked too bland compared to my original print, which I find was a nice touch. I will definitely do business with them again. So kudos to Mardigrafe and thanks everyone here for the feedback!