How to Setup Your Digital Files

We want you to have the best possible photographic print or fine art reproduction with the least amount of difficulty. For an engaging experience with outstanding results, simply follow the instructions below!

Recommended Working Color Spaces

While we suggest that you convert to profile for all large format prints (LightJet and Giclee Pigment Prints) we provide you the freedom to submit your files in any color space you prefer. The table below shows our recommended working spaces.

 GicleeLarge Format Photo (LightJet prints up to 49x120)Enlargements and Proofs (Frontier prints up to 12x18)
Recommended Working Color SpaceAdobe 1998 or sRGBAdobe 1998 or sRGBsRGB

A note on filenames

  • File names must have the appropriate .tif or .jpg extension and must not contain characters such as: \ / :*?”|’~ $ spaces right before the period, bullets or foreign characters.

Monitor Calibration and Color Profiles

  • Let’s start with how you see your digital files. Every monitor is different and changes over time. It’s important to keep your monitor calibrated and as close to output reality as possible. The purchase of a quality colorimeter is a good investment.
  • We calibrate our production displays using the X-Rite i1 Display 2 colorimeter. Our monitors are set to a gamma of 2.2 and a color temperature of 6500k. We use Daylight balanced (5000k) illumination for color assessment unless you request otherwise. This excludes backlit trans, which use an industry standard of cool-white.
  • The best prints come from the best digital files. No amount of profiling will accurately compensate for poor exposure, over-worked corrections or inaccurate color. Profiles merely help with attaining a print that is truer to the actual content of the file. We strongly recommend using a properly calibrated display with the correct working space/output profile combination for a given printer or device. If you want to learn more: Color calibration information is available by clicking here.

Turnaround

  • All instructions must be written legibly, verbal instructions will not be exclusively accepted. When supplying a file for output, job turn around times begin on the first business day when we have received all required elements to complete the job.
  •  Compress (zip archive) your fonts if you are uploading your files, or convert your text to outlines.

Please include:

  • All screen and printer fonts
  • Linked files
  • A hard copy layout with a color reference if applicable. For uploaded files, please include a client approved PDF.
  • Provide images in the proper color space as listed for each device.
  • Lightjet – converted to our output profile, or in a working space such as Adobe 1998 or sRGB
  • Failure to properly set-up and include all necessary files MAY DELAY YOUR JOB! Any production time required to correct set-up errors, improper color-space, incorrect file type, proportions etc, may result in intervention charges billed at a $60 set-up fee, plus applicable hourly rates. All output pricing is based on the size required to print all data in your layout, including crop-marks, registration marks and bleed. Because we use a multi-platform network, it is imperative that file names be fully cross-platform compatible; no punctuation or extended characters such as bullets, trademark, slashes, dollar signs, commas, etc. Hyphens and underscores are acceptable.

Programs

Our Fuji-Frontier Mini-lab only accepts .jpg and .tif RGB files (sRGB is preferred for the most predictable color). Layout files and or PDF are not printable on this device. Please convert your files to .jpg or .tif before submitting for small format printing.

For large format printing, we accept files from the most current versions of the most popular professional graphics and layout programs listed below. If you are using a different program for your work please give us a call.

Adobe In-Design

  • .native, .eps, .pdf
  • RGB preferred
  • Please convert all text to outlines
  • All screen and printer fonts
  • Linked files
  • A hard copy layout with a color reference if applicable. For uploaded files, please include a client approved PDF.
  • Provide images in the proper color space as listed for each device.
  • Whenever possible, prepare your layout to final size of output.
  • If full size is not an option, please use a scaling of 50% or 25% .
  • If bleed is not included within the document area then it will not be printed.
  • If there is no bleed included, we will usually enlarge the print slightly to accommodate mounting.
  • Please inform us of the final document print size, so the job is not delayed while we contact you for that information.

Adobe Illustrator

  • .native, .eps, .pdf
  • RGB preferred
  • Please convert all text to outlines
  • All screen and printer fonts
  • Linked files
  • A hard copy layout with a color reference if applicable. For uploaded files, please include a client approved PDF.
  • Provide images in the proper color space as listed for each device.
  • Whenever possible, prepare your layout to final size of output.
  • If full size is not an option, please use a scaling of 50% or 25% .
  • If bleed is not included within the document area then it will not be printed.
  • If there is no bleed included, we will usually enlarge the print slightly to accommodate mounting.
  • Please inform us of the final document print size, so the job is not delayed while we contact you for that information.

Adobe Photoshop

  • Flattened, uncompressed tiff or max quality jpg.
  • Adobe 1998 or sRGB.
  • We reccomend converting to our profiles when applicable
  • Provide images in the proper color space as listed for each device.

Microsoft PowerPoint

QuarkXPress

  • .native, .eps, .pdf
  • RGB preferred
  • Please convert all text to outlines
  • All screen and printer fonts
  • Linked files
  • A hard copy layout with a color reference if applicable. For uploaded files, please include a client approved PDF.
  • Provide images in the proper color space as listed for each device.
  • Whenever possible, prepare your layout to final size of output.
  • If full size is not an option, please use a scaling of 50% or 25% .
  • If bleed is not included within the document area then it will not be printed.
  • If there is no bleed included, we will usually enlarge the print slightly to accommodate mounting.
  • Please inform us of the final document print size, so the job is not delayed while we contact you for that information.

Fonts

  • All screen fonts and printer fonts must be included or text converted to outlines.
  • DO NOT use keyboard commands for bold or italic fonts.
  • Use actual bold or italic fonts where applicable.

Layout

  • Whenever possible, prepare your layout to final size of output.
  • If full size is not an option, please use a scaling of 50% or 25% .
  • If bleed is not included within the document area then it will not be printed.
  • If there is no bleed included, we will usually enlarge the print slightly to accommodate mounting.
  • Please inform us of the final document print size, so the job is not delayed while we contact you for that information.

Color

  • All efforts will be made to approximate to your supplied color samples, however, due to the limitations of the different media, we cannot guarantee an exact match.
  • Color corrections that require more than global corrections will incur retouching charges. Items that we scan may require billable retouching time to match an original.
  • If a test must be approved before finals are hit, the finals will have normal turn around times, beginning from the time of approval for color.
  • If Pantone or process color matches are requested, we recommend calling so we can give you the closest equivalent color build for a given media.
  • All devices print differently, and different media on the same device may not produce the same results. An image corrected for one media may require additional retouching time to correct the image for another media.
  • Images supplied by the customer will be charged computer time to match color to a proof.
  • Remember, what you see on your monitor for color is not always a good indication of how the final print will look.

Proofs

  • If a proof is required, it will be done on the same device and media as the final print.
  • The proof will be the full image, printed to an 8″x10″.
  • If a strip test is requested at final size, there will be an additional charge applied.
  • If you require a proof after layout adjustments ie: text changes, image placement etc., we can email a PDF. If the files exceed 50 megabytes, we may print a screen capture of the layout. We will e-mail a PDF or screen capture free of charge.

Removable Media

We accept the following removable media:

  • CD-ROM/ DVD
  • Thumbdrive
  • Micro storage cards
  • You may also send you files via our web upload page.

LightJet – large format photo prints

LightJet Calibration Specifications and Profiles are available by clicking here.
Files submitted for LightJet output must be supplied:

  • In an RGB color-space
  • As non-compressed, flattened tiffs or maximum quality jpeg – no layered files.
  • Use of our profiles is highly recommended but not required.
  • At a minimum resolution of 150 ppi at 100% of final size.
  • For prints smaller than 20×24 it is recommended that the resolution of the file be closer to, but not to exceed 300 ppi. and rely less on the LightJet’s superior built-in interpolation.
  • The LightJet’s maximum resolution in normal mode is 300 dpi. For large prints from lower resolution files, we rely on the lightjet’s internal interpolation algorithms to achieve that final resolution.

Giclee Pigment on Canvas and Watercolor

  • The Pigment printers will print up to a 60 x 120 inch image area on a maximum paper size of 60 inches wide.
  • Watercolor paper or canvas,
  • Raster Images should be supplied at a minimum resolution of 200 ppi at 100% of output size as RGB TIFF- Adobe 1998 or sRGB.

Fuji Frontier Mini Printer for prints up to 12×18

The Fuji Frontier Digital Photo Printing Minilab accepts files in the following formats:

  • sRGB 8-Bit Tiff (no LZW)
  • sRGB 8-Bit Jpeg
  • Greyscale 8-Bit Tiff (no LZW)
  • Greyscale 8-Bit Jpeg
  • File names must have the appropriate .tif or .jpg extension and must not contain characters such as: \ / :*?”|’~ $ spaces right before the period, bullets or foreign characters.

What “they” might not be telling you about the flaws in ICC profiled workflows.

Profiles are typically generated using less than .016% (yes that is less than 16/1000 of one percent!) or 16/100,000 of the 16.4 million colors available in 8bit RGB. Talk about a shot in the dark. There is a tremendous amount of mathematical software based “guessing” that occurs in the ICC color management process.

Profiles are 100% dependent on consistency. They only work if you have consistent input and consistent output. Lenses used in capture, accuracy of camera white-balance calibration, scanner calibration, conditions in process, paper, chemistry, ink, equipment condition, light sources, supply voltages, time of day, humidity, blah blah blah can all have an impact on product output or digital input. These conditions are all subject to change, and do change. Thus, profiles are at their most “accurate” for the moment the profile was created. As these conditions drift and change over time, they effect the “accuracy” of the profile. Many individuals in our industry have touted that profiles have an expectation of consistency. One that unfortunately just does not exist in real world conditions. Through equipment care and high levels of professional level calibrations we attempt to keep our input/output equipment “calibrated” to the same standards on which the profile is based. In theory, this causes the final output to float around the bull’s eye and stay close to the expected, rather than take a direct bee-line away from it and continually get further off-target.
A good lab will calibrate their devices back to factory standards several times during a production day.  This is done to compensate for process variables that occur over time, and changes in paper from batch to batch.
My goal here is to help you become aware that though profiles are often elevated to a high stature as an end all solution,  they really fit more into a false-god category.

Now this is not to say that profiles are useless. Far from it in fact. They can have a dramatic impact on overall color approximation across multiple devices. Such as getting your ink jet to approximate your file and to get our LightJets to approximate that very same file. In fact we use profiles in-house to get our LightJets to approximate the smaller sRGB color space of the Fuji Frontier prints. Due to the larger available gamut of the LightJet, it is more likely to get the LightJet to approximate the Frontier than the other way-round. And we use them in some profile dependent work flows such as our professional digital press, and our Durst Sigma scans. The software that drives these devices, will not function correctly without profiles in place. The truth is, most digital capture and print sotware have some sort of embedded profiling built in. Your digital camera for instance, needs to know the characteristics of the dyes used to filter the image sensor in order to deliver a density and color accurate file.
I believe that any NON-DESTRUCTIVE method of producing better color has the potential to be a good idea. I’ll again stress “NON-DESTRUCTIVE”.  I am a big proponent on avoiding color channel damage whenever possible.  The caveat to forcing a profile on an image is it’s potential for color channel damage. I have seen many files where the colors were pushed too close to 100% saturation prior to a profile conversion. The resulting breaks/banding is inevitably and incorrectly blamed on the profile.

The great thing about ICC profiles in your work flow is their potential to get you closer to your target. They are by no means any guarantee of a bull’s eye, an exact match, perfect color, or any other false promise you have heard or at this point still believe. I often use this analogy: “Profiles are like a ticket to a baseball game. They get us in the gate, and might just get us a good seat, but that ticket will never allow us to sit on home plate while the batter hits a homer. BUT, that good seat is still much better than listening to the game on the AM radio while sitting in the parking lot.”

So, better. It’s just not a guarantee.
Profiles, in a nutshell, describe the devices available boundary or gamut as well as the limitations or inaccuracies and should not ever be confused with or used as working color spaces. They are far too small for use as a working space and should be thought of something to move colors <to> not <within>. Banding/breaking/clipping will likely result if you should choose to ignore this. It is best practice to use a working space that is larger than the output space, then allow your profile conversion to remap to hold detail.

If you remember my remarks regarding consistency, these constant changes diminish profile accuracy.  So why do we make a profile available for our printers? Well, quite frankly, because in most cases, an perceived improvement in print quality will result from a proper color-managed workflow.

One exception to this is our Fuji Frontier. This device is specifically calibrated to work within the sRGB colorspace. It’s output gamut is limited of course by the capabilities of Fuji Crystal Archive paper, but this design will allow a photographer who is color-calibrated and working in sRGB to be free of output profiles. One less layer of potential damage to the file.
So how should you be using your profiles?

Let’s start with what NOT to do.

If I use profiles in an attempt to get one device to approximate the characteristics of another device, I am in essence, attempting to get device A to look like device B, and both devices inaccuracies will be included! This is a great example of Square Peg I A Round Hole. If the gamut (outside edges of the pegs) of device A do not match the gamut (profile outliers) of device B, loss will occur. Much like using a hammer to get that peg in – you’ll shave off some of the peg, and what is left does not completely fill the hole.

fig.1

In fig.1 above, the LightJet Fuji Matte has the larger gamut.The darker looking cube inside that area is the gamut of the Epson Enhanced matte. The bit of gray peeking out at the bottom is the zone where the Epson’s gamut is a bit larger than the LightJet. The area labeled Profile Overlap represents the available colors that both devices share. So this would be the available gamut when trying to match one of the devices to the other. In other words, all of the areas outside the overlap would be lost. In my opinion, that is a pretty large chunk of color to toss away just for the gratification of getting two prints to look as close as possible to one-another.  In essence, we would be “dumbing-down” the quality of our final print.

Good profile methods will attempt to “re-map” or squeeze those outside colors to fit within the range of output (the square hole), but the missing colors (the corners) aren’t properly restored. This results in a sacrifice of color fidelity from the original file.

So if you still want to profile, this is how I approach ICC profiling for Maximum Color Fidelity. At least within the limits resulting from profiling.

Let’s assume that we have:

– A source file: test.jpg
– Ink jet printer A that lets say: prints Blues with too much Green,
– and I have printer B that prints Reds with too much Yellow.

So:
A) +Green cast in Blues = Damaged Color
B) +Yellow cast in Reds = Damaged Color
ICC Profiles = Attempted Damage Reversal (at least in theory anyway)

Example 1: Try to get Printer B to look like printer A with one profile – bad Idea

If I print test.jpg on B, trying to approximate A via A’s ICC Profile, I have a print that has the native issues of too much Yellow in the Reds, and because we told B to look like A, I also have too much Green in the Blues. Why would I want a print with both sets of issues?
Damaged Color + Damaged Color = MORE Damaged Color.

Example 2:  Try to get Printer B to look like printer A with two profiles – best idea for closest approximation between printers 

I print test.jpg using profiles for both printers. I tell my software to make B look like A, but use B’s profile too.
So now the output attempts to remove B’s issues, the Yellow cast from the Reds.
BUT, because I am still approximating printer A, I am still introducing the Green cast in the Blues. So now I have at least one printers issues in full glory.
Damaged Color + (Damaged Color + Attempted Damage Reversal) = Damaged Color. Still some loss, but I should have two prints that are fairly close.

Example 3:  Try to get Printers A and B to look like the source file – best idea for maximum fidelity to source file.

Rather than attempting to get A to approximate B, We print the file to each printer, avoiding an approximation between the printers.
Instead, we want to allow each printer to get as close to test.jpg as possible. So we print test.jpg to A with it’s profile and to B with it’s profile.
A) Damaged Color + Attempted Damage Reversal = Less Damage.
B) Damaged Color + Attempted Damage Reversal = Less Damage.

So rather than compounding issues or keeping some and removing some, in theory, both prints are now as close as they independently can be to the original contents of the test.jpg file.

 

 

TIP!

Nothing in nature is saturated to 100% of any given color. There will always be some absorption of wavelengths of all colors. So don’t push your files thinking the final product will still be believable or still hold detail. The closer to 100% you push the saturation, the closer to zero you push the detail. And please don’t blame your profiles for damaging a file that was pushed too far.  Perceptual profiling is just not designed to work with a lack of color fidelity and you just might be wasting your hard earned cash to get a print you don’t like.

If your preference is hyper-saturation, make sure to match image type to printer type. For example, if you like saturated yellows, you could be printing to a device that can actually reproduce the brilliance you are seeking. Giclee printers are a great example of this. Being an ink-jet, they are quite capable of reproducing intense yellow as this is one of the native ink colors on the device.The same holds true for the other two colors, Cyan and Magenta. When you add any two or more inks together to create a new color, you are adding density and reducing saturation. With the advent of the intermediate “photo” colors, some of the subtler in-between colors are now improved. On the LightJet, the Kodak Metallic paper holds more saturation than Fuji Crystal Archive, but the blacks are not as rich nor as neutral.

How to get great color, save your profits, and never have to work color or density in Photoshop. Part 1

I’m going to fill you in on the secrets of how to get great color, save your
profits, and never have to work color or density in Photoshop. All without
the use of ICC profiles, confusing work-flows or batch conversions.
If you understood the above and it applies to you, chances are you are a
professional photographer. Professional print quality is much easier to achieve
than most photographers are aware.
Getting there requires Five crucial elements. With these five in place, you can go
directly from camera to print and get excellent results.
Yes, that’s right, higher profits and more free time with:

  • No Photoshop work.
  • No profiling magic.
  • No bag of tricks or fairy dust.

Rule #1 – If you have to adjust the density of your files, your metering is
inaccurate.
You may find this hard to believe, but truly consistent exposures rarely come
from TTL metering. I know that’s tough to swallow, but reflective metering is just too fallible.
Don’t believe me? Here is a simple test to see if this rule applies to you.
1. Take a look at the average corrections you are making on your files in
Photoshop or Lightroom.
2. Jot down the number of exposure and color balance corrections you make
in a work week.
3. If the answer is any higher than zero, guess what, I’m right – your TTL has failed you. So how do we
correct this?
Get a GOOD new or used hand held incident flash meter, and calibrate it to your
camera using Will Crockett’s “Face mask Histogram Technique” copy and paste
the following web address into your browser: Go to
http://www.shootsmarter.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=116&acat=16
Keep in mind that digital cameras have only 1/8th stop of exposure latitude. If you
have an incident meter, compare it against Will’s meter reviews and see how it rates. Some
well known meters are unprofessionally inconsistent . Up to a horrible deviation of +- 1/3 stop from
reading to reading. This is definitely outside of the acceptable range for a
professional photographer by approximately 300%! In other words, that exceeds
professional limits for exposure control by 3 times.

Next week:
Rule #2 – If you don’t have custom white balance, you don’t have correct color.

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