picture book proof copy/test prints

  • Hi,
    I just handed in my artwork for a picture book. The editor has told me earlier that the publishing house will do test prints to make sure the color accuracy, and I could see the test prints before it goes to production. But I just got an updated email now which she told me that they do not do test-prints with artworks done digitally, only for traditional illustration. This is one of the largest publishing houses in the country. She then went on saying that they do thousands of books with the same procedure per year and no one complains about the color.

    I worked as a graphic designer 10 years back - doing test prints for anything that will be printed was a standard routine. I was only dealing with digital media during recent years until I started working as an illustrator now.

    Can anyone tell me is it really true that color proofing is not necessary anymore?
    If it is definitely necessary, any advice on how I should handle this communication? I do not want to sacrifice the quality of the book, but I do not want to be seen as a person that is difficult to work with either.

    @Braden-Hallett ? @NessIllustration? @Lee-White? Anyone can help?

  • Pro

    @xin-li Uhmmmm I'm not sure about that one :o Test prints can definitely be useful for digital art. The difference of colors from one monitor to the other can be enormous, so what you see on your computer and what she sees on hers isn't necessarily the same. Plus, colors often turn out darker printed than they were on the computer. Then again, all the books I've done until now were from small/medium publishers and no color test was ever mentioned or shown to me. The colors turned out fine for all. Is it absolutely necessary to do a color test, mayyyybe not. It's true it's usually more difficult to print colors right from traditional artwork, because both the scanning and printing must be right. Then again, with traditional art the publisher would have the original to reference to, whereas for digital they can't be sure if this is way too dark and they can't tell because monitor isn't calibrated the same yours is. Only the artist can tell. It doesn't make 100% sense for them to decide to do test prints of trad art, but forego it entirely for digital art. Maybe the cost was too high and they have a printer that they really trust always comes out with accurate colors.

    Usually I would be all for polite inquiry and discussion, but since you've already brought it up to her and she said that's how they do it, I'd say maybe it's best just to drop it. If no one out of 1000s complains about color then that means their process works pretty well, and they're unlikely to change it for you. Worse, you could be labelled as difficult for insisting on it especially since it costs money. Established artists with dozens of books under their belt might tell you different, that they could never do without a color test and it's their reputation on the line if the colors aren't perfect. But as beginners working on a first book with a publisher, it can be detrimental to the relationship to demand things that they tell us are not their normal procedure, even if we know they're important and quite reasonable. Since you've already raised the subject and she's answered your question, if I were in your position I would drop it...

  • @NessIllustration Thank you for the advice and weigh in.

  • @NessIllustration You always provide such helpful replies!

  • Pro

    @BichonBistro Aww thanks!

  • @xin-li aw geez, I'm really not sure 🙁 I really don't have much experience with this yet. I mean, the colours on the prints I make at home are always a little different than on the screen, but then again I have the cheapest of cheap printers and have never 'properly' colour calibrated my cintiq.

    Sorry I can't be of any help. I myself wouldn't worry about it too much.

    Good luck!

  • @Braden-Hallett thanks. I only calibrated my screen and Cintiq with the software that comes with the machine. Even my Cintiq color is slightly different from my MacBook.

    The reason that got me a bit worried is that I did a test print in a local print shop (standard digital printing, I guess). The color was way off. But I was just getting a feel of how big the objects are on paper, and how many details I should put in etc. I was not too worried about the color because the editor had told me we would do proper test prints :-(. Now we are not doing that...

  • @xin-li could you gently provide the publisher with your print result and say the discrepancy between your monitor and your print result is the reason you are concerned that the publisher actually end up with their expected result? You want the book to be a success for them, yada yada yada

  • Just a thought, did you design it in cmyk?

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    I consider color proofs/ test prints vital for digital art.
    Most publishers will print them out and send them to the artist for approval. I am genuinely surprised to hear that this is one of the largest publishing houses in the country and that they don't do it.

    That said, I still don't think it makes as much sense to send a digital file and then get color proofs back for the artist to make notes on. "Too dark" or "More green" is hardly an accurate way to critique color proofs.

    My own method (when I REALLY want the color to be right) is to print up my own color proofs and send those to the publisher along with the digital files.

    This way the publisher has both the digital files and the color/values that I want the files to be in their hand. It's as close to comparing a color test poof to original physical art as you can get.

    It seems to me that this would be a reasonable compromise for your situation. It communicates to the art director that you really care about the color and value of your work without being a "problem".

  • @peteolczyk Yes. The file is CMYK and with the color profile provided by the client.

  • @xin-li I think you should be fine if they have given you a profile to match.

    For my screens I use a Spyder screen calibrator and have day settings and night settings. It's well accurate for sRGB. But I do have my own printer to check and just match it to paper CMYK profiles. Because the type of paper it is printed on makes a difference. Also a good thing to get is the Pantone colour solid coated/uncoated swatch books - this helps to check colour by sight and in different light. You can always note the Pantone colour code you want it printed at. I put this in my layers so I know I'm picking a colour that has a real world matching colour.

  • @davidhohn Thank you so much for the advice. I was also very surprised color proofing is not part of their routine. I am glad they still do color proofing on your side of the world.
    I actually offered to provide physical color proof (Lee mentioned this in one of his classes), and they declined politely. They said they will do that instead.

    Since now they are not doing the color proof for me. I will bring that up again and try my best to push for it without being "a problem".

    I debated if a Spyder screen calibrator is necessary before (they are not cheap). Now I am really considering.

    • Which version do you use?
    • Can it calibrate both Macbook and Cintiq screen?
    • Is this a very techy tool, or non-techy-friendly thing?

    Your way of using a Pantone color code sounds interesting. But I am not sure if I get it completely. Do you use a physical Pantone color swatch to find the color you want, and find the same Pantone color on screen, use as a reference when picking a CMYK color?

  • @xin-li Yes the Spyder I have is the Spyder5Elite. It's easy to use, just plonk it on the screen and it'll run itself (can use on any monitor) just plugs in via USB. I upgraded the software. But I have also looked at upgrading my hardware to the X-Rite i1 Display PRO as I hear it's more accurate. It is quite expensive though (£180). Good investment if you do want colour accurate work printed.

    I rent mine out on fatllama for £10 a day so worth a look if you have fatllama rentals in your area. Depending on what country you're in and try one out. I'm sure other companies rent them out too.

    I mostly use the pantone book for mixing paints to match my digital drawings for when I paint them or do screen prints - it tells you what colours to mix together to get that colour. But you can tell a printer what colour you want it to match via the pantone code. And yes you can match the colour against the screen version as photoshop has the pantone swatches built in. Although you have to consider screens are back lit.

  • @sigross thank you for the tips and advice. I will definitely looking into the rental service. There is one in Oslo, and I have used once to rent a pro camera.

  • I communicated with the editor about me providing color proof for the printing house. The production department from the publishing house politely declined again and told me that it does not help with anything in their process, as long as my files have the color profile they providing, everything will just be fine.

    I did not want to be seen "a problem", so I dropped the case. I feel like I need to really understand what is their process before I can really come up with my own process that will contribute to making sure the print reproduction is as close to what I see on my screen as possible.

  • @xin-li I think that's about the best you can do 🙂

  • SVS OG

    @xin-li okay, take this with a grain of salt but perhaps you could send one more email asking if they could still make the color proofs, explain how your screens may be calibrated differently, etc. but be polite and mention that if they really can’t, it’s alright with you. I know this might come off as you pushing it but it’s your reputation on the line. If things go awry at least you know that you didn’t sit idly by. Anyway, asking one more time won’t hurt your relationship just do it nicely.

  • @Braden-Hallett thank you for the support.
    @Nyrryl-Cadiz thank you so much for weigh-in. I think I have to let this one drop for now. I sensed it is a dead-end, and I also sensed that they are a bit stressed out due to the holiday session and things are behind schedule on their side. I will take this up again for future books with them. Apart from the color proofing issue, most of our communication has been smooth - which I consider a remarkable thing, given that we are complete strangers who has never meet each other before.

  • @xin-li the most remarkable aspect of this project is that you met their deadline with such grace!

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