CMYK colors look washed out in CSP vs Photoshop

  • Hi! I have just started using CSP and I'm a former user of Illustrator /Photoshop. I'm really loving that this software has pretty much everything I was lacking in the others like good quality natural strokes. However, I'm having a VERY hard time with preparing my illustrations for print. I have learned that CSP works solely in RGB and so I have the Preview on CMYK, however, once I save the file as a PSD (client requests this type of file) in CMYK the colors look washed and the whites aren't clean, they become a very light grey. If I open the file in photoshop the colors become much more vibrant, even in CMYK. I'm really lost here, don't know what is the best way to prepare the illustration for printing ¿should I work in RGB and save in CMYK? In which case I have little control over the final colors ¿Is there a specific CMYK color profile preview a should be using for best results?

  • I would suggest asking your printer if they can supply you with either the name of or the actual profile they use for their press. That would be the best way to know you're converting to the right color format.

  • CMYK colors will always be duller than RGB. The CMYK color space is smaller than RGB and it's made with inks on paper instead of light and pixels. Even when using CMYK safe colors in Photoshop, the color is being displayed on the monitor in RGB; but it won't look like that when it's printed (it can't). It looks as though CSP, in its CMYK preview, tries to approximate how the colors will look on paper and in ink at the selected CMYK profile, but on a computer monitor (which isn't an easy thing). I think this is by design so that you can make color corrections with a preview that accurately displays your illustration as it would appear at the set profile on paper and in ink (or as close as it can get).

    There are those who feel that when working for print on a computer, you should work in a CMYK color space and there are those that feel you should work in an RGB color space. The argument for working in CMYK is that with the CMYK color sliders you know what you're going to get; C29 M100 Y85 K37 is burgundy and C0 M83 Y76 K11 is alizarin crimson. If you know your CMYK color codes and how they look on a selection of paper (or better yet, the codes are given to you by the printer) then working in CMYK is great. But if you use the color picker a lot, make your color selections from a color set or eyeball the sliders, and don't care about specific colors you're wasting your time. The monitor is RGB; you should work in that color space. The other problem with the CMYK color space is the different printer CMYK color profiles. As Teyon pointed out, you need to know the CMYK color profile used by your printer before you export. Using the wrong profile can affect your colors in horrible ways but that doesn't mean that you should color your work using that color profile. What happens if the client decides to go with another printer and suddenly asks you to send them your work with a different profile? What if you want to display your work online for promotional purposes? What if you wanted to print an older piece made for a US printing profile but now wanted to use a printer overseas?

    Instead, color your work using the RGB color profile that matches your properly calibrated monitor and use a CMYK safe color set as much as you can. And when you're done, check your illustration with the CMYK preview using the profile given to you by the printer. Use Correction layers and the Tone Correction in the CMYK settings to make adjustments. You can export an RGB version of your illustration to check against your color adjustments as you make them. Adjustment layers and the CMYK settings Tone Corrections are non-destructive and can be adjusted freely. Use masks to isolate colors if you have to. Because RGB colors are made by removing light from the red, blue, and green channels, a little black tends to get added to the CMYK (and that doesn't help with dullness) so you may want to select the Key channel in the color profile preview settings and drag the graph line down a little. When you feel the CMYK version is as close to the RGB as you can get it, export with the CMYK profile.

    If something comes up and you need to use a different profile, then you can go back to your adjustment layers for corrections. And of course - post the RGB export on your blog.

    The CMYK color conversion shouldn't be making your whites grayish. White is 255 RGB so there's nothing to convert. It could just be that the duller colors are making the white perceptually grayish.

  • Hi and thank you por your comprehensive answer. I understand what you say, I've illustrated a few books that have been published so far using default CMYK settings from Photoshop from my Imac and so far no complaints whatsoever from any client and accuracy once the book is printed is pretty good. I mean, what I see in the screen in Photoshop with CMYK preview is pretty much what I get in the printed work and never asked the client what CMYK profile they use.

    However, with Clip Studio Paint, with the difault CMYK preview the colors are very washed, if I then open the same file in Photoshop with CMYK preview, the colors are much vivid. I have been playing around with it and find that the ISO coated Fogra CMYK profile in Clip Studio gives me far more vivid colors, always inside what is expected for CMYK, i.e. I don't expect the vibrancy of RGB colors.

    To me working in RGB and convert in the last minute doesn't work, I just feel I have no control over the final range of colors.

    I'll keep adjusting to the program or maybe, although that would be a pain, open the final illustrations in Photoshop for a final adjustment.

  • This is an interesting topic, I am also looking for something like that.