How to Ensure Accurate Color Matching On Inkjet

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The importance of design file composition, graphic elements, and color space assignments cannot be understated in creating a flawless piece of print on digital inkjet. The piece of the puzzle is packaging files for print, and, even for the most seasoned designer, it can be easy to miss a critical step. Not only can this compromise the quality of your project, it can create costly and time-consuming edits

“Delivering all the packaged elements properly can eliminate confusion and wasted time for you and your print provider as well,” write Elizabeth Gooding and Mary Schilling, authors of The Designer’s Guide to Inkjet, 3rd Edition. “When your print provider doesn’t need to rework your files, hunt for missing fonts, or clarify finishing instructions, you’re more likely to achieve your deadlines and avoid extra support costs.”

Accurate color matching is one of these important elements that can either enhance or derail the production process. Here, we’ll look at the settings you need to engage to ensure accurate color matching on inkjet in order streamline the print process and produce a high-quality print piece. 

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Leave color unchanged

This setting will use the color assignments in your Adobe program to allow your chosen inkjet device to perform all color conversions. 

“Use this option if your provider tells you they will do all the graphic element color management, as they may use different color space settings than those applied,” write Gooding and Schilling. 

Tag everything for color management

Engaging this setting will convert all colors used in images and graphics to the CMYK working color space assigned (SWOP or GRACol). Designers should use this option if you require your photographs to simulate other print processes with the same color space, or if your print partner calls for all colors to be CMYK. 

“Double-check that your provider does not require you to use Pantone colors in your document,” write Gooding and Schilling.

Tag only images for color management

This step will only convert bitmapped images to the assigned color space settings, leaving CMYK and Pantone colors assigned in your Adobe layout program untouched. This is an important color matching setting to use if your print provider has Pantone conversion library within in their workflow. In most cases, this is the most compatible setting for accurate color matching. 

Convert all colors to sRGB

While the previous steps and settings have been important things to remember or do, converting all colors to sRGB is a color matching step to avoid — digital inkjet prints in the CMYK color space, not the sRGB color space, which makes this step unnecessary to ensure accurate color matching on digital inkjet devices. 

Convert all colors to CMYK

This step will convert all sRGB and Pantone colors used within the document to CMYK. This allows the Adobe PDF engine to convert all colors and may cause an unexpected outcome for some colors. As such, it’s important to use this option only if you’re specifically requested to by your print provider. 

As with any file packaging and preparation process, communication and collaborating with your printer will help surface any production issues to avoid costly bottlenecks in the print process. While this part of the design process may feel like the finish line, Gooding and Schilling believe this is actually the beginning of a whole different phase, and one that is just as important to ensure high-quality print. 

“Remember, handing off your files may be the end of your design process, but it’s the beginning of a whole other production process,” write Gooding and Schilling. “There are a lot of decisions to make along the way, from what to print on to how to select the right color space or file format.”

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The Designers Guide to Inkjet, 3rd Edition has everything you need to know to harness the power of digital inkjet printing to create stunning print pieces. Download the guide to learn more about best practices for designing digital inkjet print.