Help! Questions regarding color proofs :-)



  • Hi everyone.
    I am one day away from sending in the final art for my next book for approval. Really excited.

    I received a couple of test prints yesterday from the editor. The editor has chosen two types of papers for test printing - coated, and uncoated. The color is really nice on the coated paper, but the coated paper is glossy, and the editor prefers to used uncoated paper for my artwork. The uncoated paper, however, made the color a bit dull. I wonder what would be the best approach to handle this issue. Should I:

    1. Use layer adjustment (contrast, or vibrance) to increase the color contrast? if I do this, I probably need to bring the images to the point that they look a bit oversaturated in order to have them look fine on uncoated paper.
    2. Tell the editor the color is a bit dull to see if their production team can help out?
    3. Look into the soft-proofing function in photoshop.

    Does anyone familiar with the soft-proofing function in photoshop, By the way?

    Any tips on handling communication in the color proof stage?


  • Moderator

    I think just talk to your contact and tell them what you think. As part of the team you want this to be the best it can be and they would probably appreciate the input. Also, they may already have something (a fix) in place to handle this sort of problem. Once upon a time I would send my own proofs made on my home printer with the final digital files so the printer (company) would know how I wanted the color to be, and they could adjust accordingly on their end. I don’t know if that’s an option for you, with a publisher. I worked with small color houses on small print jobs.


  • Pro

    @xin-li Congrats on finishing the new book! 😃

    My instinct would be #1, but surely your editor is better equip to answer this question than we are. Ask them!
    I do agree your artwork will look better with matte paper, if you can get the saturation right 🙂



  • @burvantill thank you so much for the advise, Lisa. I think David Hohn mentioned that he does send publishers his own proof print as well. So I think it is probably doable with the publisher. My issue is I have not set up my printer which a bought some weeks back, and it will also take 2 weeks to send physical package to the publisher in the UK (due to covid situation of course).

    I think I will try to contact the editor and letting her know my thought. Maybe I can say "we can use uncoated paper, but let us try to get the color and contrast that the coated paper has currently?". Then I can ask if it is best that I try do upp bit contrast on the final file, or their production team can take care of it.

    @NessIllustration glad to hear everyone thinks my artwork look better with matt paper :-).


  • Pro

    @xin-li It's because your art has a soft, textured, traditional look to it 🙂 Mine looks good on glossy because it's clean and commercial haha



  • @NessIllustration It makes a lot of sense. The world needs all kinds of art. If everyone makes the same kind of art, it would be boring. haha. I do like the contrast and how bright color pops on glossy paper though 🙂


  • SVS OG

    @xin-li First of all, CONGRATULATIONS!!! ❤️❤️❤️ I’m also a noob with all of this so the only suggestion I can offer is to let the editor know what you think. I know they can help you. I’m so happy for you.



  • @xin-li I would go with step 2, and let them know that it's looking a little dull on that paper. I've heard multiple times people sending in an example printed proof to publishers or printers.

    If you can't print it yourself, maybe there is a print shop nearby instead? The printers should be able to adjust the print on their end to make it look nicer!

    If for some reason they can't, then I would think about 1.



  • @carlianne thank you for your tip. I am setting up the printer now to see what I can do. I am also talking with the editor. But I am still a bit uncertain what to do. My editor advised me to up the level just a bit. But I felt anything I can do is very much of a guesswork - felt a bit of a hack.

    I felt the illustrators simply do not have access to really ensure the color came out fine since every printer, every type of paper would behave differently. Maybe the best way is to send them a test proof does by me, and ask the printer to match the color.



  • oh my!. I set up my printer today, spent the whole day fiddle with the printer, and YouTube search to find a decent guide to print proper art print with my printer. The result was really satisfying. The color came out really nicely on the epson matte paper. I consider sending a package with my own proof to the editor.

    Even though I know other illustrators do this. I get a bit nervous, felt this might be seen as me criticise their production work. I reached out to my agent, asking for advice. I am still contemplating how to write that email to my editor regarding sending my own physical proof. I know I am probably over thinking...

    I had an experience with my local editor last year when I offer to send my own physical proof, their production team actually said "No, thanks."

    Any thoughts on how to best handling the communication would be much appreciated 🙂



  • Okay, I haven't had to write a letter about this before, but I would start out by thanking them for sending options for you, or showing you are grateful in some way.

    Then I would say, that I really like the matte paper, but that the print came out less vibrant than what you expected. And then say that you know that color can vary between computer screens and printers, and ask to send a print so that they can see what you mean.



  • @carlianne thank you so much for your thoughts and advice. Your line of thoughts seems very logical and reasonable. But I still get nervous about handling this.

    @davidhohn I remember you talked about in one of the classes that you send your own proof to clients to ensure the color printed correctly. Were there any resentment, or push backs from any of the clients? When I did my first book for a Norwegian publisher, I offered them that I can send a set of proof print, so they have a physical reference when comes to adjust the color for printing. The production team actually said, "No, it is not useful for us.". This time I am working with a different publisher.

    So far this has happened:

    1. I asked for the color profile to be used for the images (ICC).
    2. I told the editor the color proof I received from them was not very accurate. The color came out too dull.
    3. I was told to adjust the image a bit (e.g. up the level in photoshop).
    4. I was told that there is time to do another round of test print.

    I want to send the editor my own prints. But just in case, if sending a physical test print of my own is not an option, what else I can do to have a better chance of getting a more accurate color for the final printing.


  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @xin-li Yes, for quite some time I was sending color proofs. No, I never had pushback. I either got a positive reception or no response, but I was always satisfied with the color on the final books.

    It seems genuinely odd that a publisher would have "no use" for proofs submitted by the illustrator. What would they do with and illustrator who submitted physical art? Scan the images and then never look at them again? (Maybe that's what they would do! Yikes!) To me that just communicates that the publisher isn't really interested in the illustrator's vision for the the images.

    As for your most recent project -- you are encountering the problem with submitting digital files. I honestly don't know that there is another solution. I have heard of publishers who will continue to send publisher proofs back and forth with the illustrator until they they the illustrator's approval. But it sounds like that not an option here.

    But even in the case when you send physical art and the publisher has that to proof against -- you are still ceding control to the publisher. You have to rely on their eye and color sense for the final product. I suppose I've just come to accept that as part of the industry we work in.



  • @davidhohn Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I was very surprised by my previous experience when the editor refused to receive my proofs. Honestly, I am guessing it is probably someone in the production team who decides these things is not willing to do a bit extra work. The editor has no power to decide that. I worked as a graphic designer ages ago. I would go down to the local publishing house to see the proof print and ask for adjustments to be done in person back in the days. I am still in good communication with the editor and I continue to receive work from them. They contacted me for a second book starting next year, I will try again to bug them about the proof. You never know. The first book I did for them I got 2,5 months to complete. Now I asked for 6 months - it was no problem at all.

    I heard from a designer friend yesterday that ChrisWare would fly across the globe to the printing house in Asia to make sure his book is printed properly.

    As for my current project, I looked into the soft-proof option in photoshop. I am also in dialog with the editor. I am hoping she will accept me sending her production team a physical copy of the proof. I was also told that I will receive another round of proof, which is a good starting point I guess.


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