design print maps in CMYK v. RGB

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03-08-2012 03:16 PM
RixanneWehren
New Contributor
In designing maps to print with ArcGIS 10, is it important to begin the design with CMYK colors, or is it just as good to design in RGB and then convert to CMYK when exporting to PDF?
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9 Replies
JimW1
by
Occasional Contributor II
In designing maps to print with ArcGIS 10, is it important to begin the design with CMYK colors, or is it just as good to design in RGB and then convert to CMYK when exporting to PDF?


In my experience if working in a CMYK colour space is important to your printout then it is worthwhile doing everything in CMYK. I have found most printers do not really do colour handling well unless they were designed for colour matching. I have found HP Sublimation printers need to use CMYK outputs while HP colour lasers are horrible at colour matching and it doesn't matter what you use.

I personally work with HSV as it is easier to choose complimentary and contrasting colour schemes and I find the HSV outputs as fairly consistent when exported to PDF and/or printed. They are not perfect colour matches though.

I have also found that if you make your layout using RGB colours that when you set the outputs to CMYK colours the outputs do not look the same as your screen.

So my advice is that if you are looking for the best colour matching I would start in CMYK and export/print in CMYK to save yourself "that colour doesn't look right" conversations down the road.

My nemisis is Pantone 300.
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deleted-user-IR249IovB3CN
New Contributor III
How does one work in anything other than RGB since RGB is the default color space for ArcMap. According to this Knowledge Base Technical article (32286) below, regardless of the colorspace used Arcmap converts all colors internally (for rasters at least) to RGB.

" CMYK output is supported with the following limitations:

�?� ArcMap raster layers always render internally as RGB colors. This means that even when a raster is defined with the color selector in CMYK mode, it does not internally get marked as CMYK color, and the raster layers stores only the RGB equivalent. On export to a CMYK graphics file, the stored RGB information is converted from RGB back to CMYK, but the CMYK values do not match the user defined CMYK values selected during set up of the raster layer properties. "
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GregoryElwood
New Contributor II
There is an entire universe of knowledge about translating colors from display devices (monitors) to static media (paper, film, etc.). After going the distance with ESRI, Adobe, Pantone and Hewlett-Packard on this subject - for years - here is what I do these days:

1. Take the time and effort to set up your monitor or other display device correctly. It's amazing how often people will crank the brightness all the way up on their monitor because the work in an office with an over-abundance of flourescent lights. Some display devices will actually change their color characteristics over time, so lobby the boss to get rid of the flat-screen CRT he paid so much for ten years ago and get something newer.

2. Make a few test images for yourself, like swatches of pure CMYK and RGB values. Or if you need specific colors, like USGS Topo colors, print out some swatches of those as well.

3. Take the time to get to know your output devices, your printers, plotters, etc. Read up on inks, drivers, paper stock, the works. Become familiar with the vocabulary of the print world. This helps a boatload when going to outside vendors for oversize wall maps and such.

4. If possible, get a hold of a Pantone Process Guide. And yes, it can be helpful to have both the Coated and Uncoated versions. Become familiar with the Pantone Matching System, and how CMYK numbers work together. The Process Guides do fade a bit over time, so keep them in a drawer, away from windows and sunlight.

5. Forget about ever matching CMYK numbers from an ESRI map document on your computer monitor to Pantone CMYK print colors. You'll go crazy.

6. Embark upon a life-long campaign of writing down your own color numbers that give you the colors you want from YOUR monitors to YOUR printers/plotters. Compare them to the Pantone Process Guides, and make lists or tables of what values you enter in ArcMap will actually give you what matches to Pantone, or your company/agency logo, or whatever color standards your being compelled to match to.

7. Relax and enjoy. Color can be a lot of fun. It doesn't have to be the stressful voodoo that it seems to be at first. Although, I've heard that swinging that dead chicken around your head does relieve stress in the cubicle, even if it doesn't get your colors to match. Have fun with it all. Make up creative and possibly sarcastic names for all your custom colors based on food groups or local geographic features. Don't get caught by your boss naming colors after him, and don't even think about blaming me if you do.

Gregory
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JimW1
by
Occasional Contributor II


6. Embark upon a life-long campaign of writing down your own color numbers that give you the colors you want from YOUR monitors to YOUR printers/plotters. Compare them to the Pantone Process Guides, and make lists or tables of what values you enter in ArcMap will actually give you what matches to Pantone, or your company/agency logo, or whatever color standards your being compelled to match to.


This one made me laugh out loud. I have post-it notes on my cubicle with the corporate logo colours in my modified HSV to match the POS HP colour laser we have.
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GregoryElwood
New Contributor II
This one made me laugh out loud. I have post-it notes on my cubicle with the corporate logo colours in my modified HSV to match the POS HP colour laser we have.


It is, unfortunately, the only way that I have found that works with any consistency.

If you have enough post-it notes with big, black markings on some of them one can make a huge smiley face on the cubicle wall ! !  ;)

G
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ConstanceDavisson
New Contributor
There is an entire universe of knowledge about translating colors from display devices (monitors) to static media (paper, film, etc.). After going the distance with ESRI, Adobe, Pantone and Hewlett-Packard on this subject - for years - here is what I do these days:

1. Take the time and effort to set up your monitor or other display device correctly. It's amazing how often people will crank the brightness all the way up on their monitor because the work in an office with an over-abundance of flourescent lights. Some display devices will actually change their color characteristics over time, so lobby the boss to get rid of the flat-screen CRT he paid so much for ten years ago and get something newer.

2. Make a few test images for yourself, like swatches of pure CMYK and RGB values. Or if you need specific colors, like USGS Topo colors, print out some swatches of those as well.

3. Take the time to get to know your output devices, your printers, plotters, etc. Read up on inks, drivers, paper stock, the works. Become familiar with the vocabulary of the print world. This helps a boatload when going to outside vendors for oversize wall maps and such.

4. If possible, get a hold of a Pantone Process Guide. And yes, it can be helpful to have both the Coated and Uncoated versions. Become familiar with the Pantone Matching System, and how CMYK numbers work together. The Process Guides do fade a bit over time, so keep them in a drawer, away from windows and sunlight.

5. Forget about ever matching CMYK numbers from an ESRI map document on your computer monitor to Pantone CMYK print colors. You'll go crazy.

6. Embark upon a life-long campaign of writing down your own color numbers that give you the colors you want from YOUR monitors to YOUR printers/plotters. Compare them to the Pantone Process Guides, and make lists or tables of what values you enter in ArcMap will actually give you what matches to Pantone, or your company/agency logo, or whatever color standards your being compelled to match to.

7. Relax and enjoy. Color can be a lot of fun. It doesn't have to be the stressful voodoo that it seems to be at first. Although, I've heard that swinging that dead chicken around your head does relieve stress in the cubicle, even if it doesn't get your colors to match. Have fun with it all. Make up creative and possibly sarcastic names for all your custom colors based on food groups or local geographic features. Don't get caught by your boss naming colors after him, and don't even think about blaming me if you do.

Gregory

so friendly you are!
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RixanneWehren
New Contributor
thanks very much for this discussion. I'm designing for a commercial press that is not in my office, so I can't try out many swatches. but I will look more closely at calibrating my monitor and trying to match Pantone colors.

Additionally, when aiming for a commercial press I will try to set up vector colors by Pantone. Rasters will have to get by somehow. These are mostly vector maps anyway.
I've had terrible results with small maps on commercial printers, so know there must be a better way.

All the comments were helpful.
thanks again,
Rixanne
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RixanneWehren
New Contributor
I have a question for G. Ellwood. re:
5. Forget about ever matching CMYK numbers from an ESRI map document on your computer monitor to Pantone CMYK print colors.

Do you find that colors that are set in CMYK at the beginning of a project in ArcGIS do print accurately on a commercial press, even tho they might not look right on the monitor?
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GregoryElwood
New Contributor II
Sorry it has taken me so long to reply...got my nose smacked by a map problem here at work and completely forgot about color for a while (them things hurt when they're rolled up real tight!).

I have found that starting out with Pantone CMYK numbers entered in your ArcMap document is as good a place to start as any. The problem is not necessarily with ArcMap, although there are times when it appears that the software is doing things with the CMYK numbers that might not make sense. However, if one starts with pure Cyan, Magenta, Yellow or Black (K) one can sometimes get a feel for how the output might look given the individual software-monitor-printer pipeline. In your case, since you're working with an out-of-house printer (that's how I have interpreted your description of your output), the test swatches may be even more important, and perhaps worthwhile to pursue. I know that's not always easy, as the boss doesn't want to pay for anything that's not a final and some printers don't want to expend the ink on "samples".

One trick to try to get around this is to use several of the print world's production symbols in the margin of your map. Common ones are registration, crop and bleed marks, as well as little swatches of pure CMYK along the bottom edge or tucked away in a corner. Ever pull apart a cereal box? You'll see what I mean. By including CMYK swatches as part of the final design placed where they migh be cropped out or covered by a frame you can effectively embed your color quality control in every image file that is being printed for you by your vendor.

One other technique may be based on the quantity of image files you are bringing to your printer. Doing more than one? Dozens? Hundreds? Lean on your printer to work with you and cough up some color QC swatches. Most of the commercial printing vendors I've worked with, especialily the independents, take great pride in the quality and consistency of their work and are willing to accomodate you, the valued client, with a simple request. Tell them color is your life, that you bleed Pantone DS 102-1 C, that you'll bring them every map you'll ever need printed.

I hope some of this makes sense. After all, don't all GIS people rip their Cheerios boxes to shreds? I can't be the only one...

Gregory
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