I was wondering if anyone could help me. I did an illustration (digitally) for my friend and the colours look fine on my monitor at home (it has 97% colour accuracy), fine on my phone but then on my work monitor the colours look really washed out.
I'm assuming it's just my work monitor that's rubbish, but does any know of a way you can make sure the colours you use in photoshop are going to be what's printed if I ever did a children's book/commissioned illustration for a client?
I use to work in a color house/print shop. We would print a “proof” and use that as our base to adjust the monitors. Most the time the new monitors would be very close and only needed to adjust the older ones.
A Proof is a 4 color process (cyan, magenta, yellow & black) test sheet. To make sure what is printing is truly what a client wants. There will always be differences though from one printer and shop to another depending on inks, digital versus press and such. That’s why we do proofs, so you can adjust color if it’s not what you wanted. They may call them something else these days, it’s been about 15 years since I left. Most shops included a proof in the pricing but if you get stuff printed online I think that might not be a practical solution and probably not offered. A local house probably would still do it though.
If you have a local print shop maybe you can ask them about it to help dial in your monitor.
@burvantill Thanks so much for your help and advice, that definitely makes me feel better if I ever came to doing published work knowing that they do make sure the colours are exactly how you want them!
While my answer will be the same as @burvantill I"ll come at this from a slightly different experience. Most of my client based work is digital these days. In fact I'm getting ready to send off the digital files for a new picture book in the next couple of days.
To put what I'm about to write in context, I think it's important to understand how things worked prior to digital files. Illustrators put pigment on paper and send the physical painting off the the publisher. The hue and value on the paper was EXACTLY what the illustrator intended. The physical art itself was used to color calibrate the printers proofs. In these days of digital art there is no physical art to refer to, hence someone needs to get all those one and zeros out of the computer and onto a piece of paper.
One of the things that I send with every book is a set of color accurate proofs.
I have a printer in my studio that is color calibrated once a year to my monitor. Toward the end of a project (while I still have time in the schedule to make adjustments) I'll print out the digital file so I can KNOW what the colors I'm seeing on the screen actually look like. The difference between a back lit screen and a reflective print will mean there will always be some level of difference. Ideally that difference is minimal. The physical print should look about 95% accurate to what you see on screen.
Once I have a color accurate proof(s) I mail those to the publisher and upload the digital files to their (or my) FTP server. Because I can't be sure that my monitor is calibrated EXACTLY the same as the publisher's monitor, by sending the color accurate proofs I'm telling them: No matter what comes up on your screen make the printed illustrations look like this.
I should note that not every illustrator does this. TBH I don't understand why as it seems akin to painting a watercolor with sunglasses on. But everyone handles their business differently. Instead some illustrators rely on the publisher to receive the digital files and then hope the publisher will print out color proofs (which are, again, hopefully accurate to what the illustrator intended) and send them to the illustrator. The illustrator will then give (largely subjective) feedback like: that image is "too green", or: "Can you brighten that image up a bit?" . This can go back and forth until both parties are satisfied. In my experience, outside of trade book projects this doesn't happen. So posters, magazines, educational publishing etc. doesn't send the illustrators a color proof for comments.
So safest way to know that your colors will match what is printed is to create a color accurate proof and send that to your client. Next safest is to rely on your client to send you a color accurate proof and go through a back and forth process.
@davidhohn Thank you so much for your extremely helpful reply, I never even thought about providing the proofs yourself, it makes much more sense if you have a decent printer and I imagine it saves a lot of time between you and the publisher. Can I ask how you go about calibrating your printer and monitor?
@hannahmccaffery Sure. Happy to tell you how I calibrate my monitor and printer. My method is to pay for it. (I know -- more cost!)
So early in my digital art career I used a print service bureau here in PDX (now since closed down). Cost about $10 per 8x10 print. But as my career ramped up I found I was going there a lot and travel time was becoming a problem. I decided to go on craigslist and purchase a large format printer (Epson 4000 -- those things are workhorses!) I then asked the print service bureau how they calibrated their printers and they gave me the name of a local guy www.neugamut.com (he's great! waaaaay more into color calibration than I will ever be) Anway, I have him come out once every two years or so (sometimes every three years) to calibrate my monitor to the two types of paper I use (semigloss and matte). Cost is about $150.
I know that many people calibrate their own machines using devices like a
Spyder Pro that costs about $150. I haven't bothered because I calibrate so rarely and I feel like the expertise is worth paying for.
Short of setting up your own in studio system, I would search out a service bureau. Depending on the size of your local city you will probably find a private business that does this. After that I'd check in with local college art departments. Digital art has become so ubiquitous that they likely have someone on staff who handles in-house color calibration. After that I'd start connecting with local photographers. My impression is that as a profession they seem to be really well versed in color calibration.
@davidhohn That sounds very reasonable and definitely something I'm going to look into, I'm from a small town in Wales, UK so hopefully there will be a print service bureau close by, but I can definitely get in touch with some colleges/schools/photographers to pick their brains. I've heard of the Spyder Pro so that's another option I suppose.
Thank you so much for your help