Movable Sticky Posters

Another hint throug Twitter, this time from LightStalking. Large poster, that stick to the wall, can be taken down without damage to either wall or poster, and be used in another place. A prospective POS instrument : Wall Grips.

Dev tools

And yet another tip: Béhance, on their Dev blog have a series of tool tips from their developers.

Bookbinding

I found an article today, which stirred memories of a time, when I my self did some bookbinding. It is enticing work, and with some care you can get excellent results, that are a treasure on any bookshelf. But that may be the problem. People around are reading fewer books today and when they do buy, they buy the cheaper paperbacks. May be the time for bound in books is over? I must admit, that I read more ebooks than “real” books. They are a bit difficult, if you wnat to read before sleeping. (May be I should repair my old Palm device.) In the mean time, see the article about bookbinding here.

80 and still active

Let the 80s Roll: In the Design World, Octogenarians Rule Age is often associated with creative obsolescence—so why are so many of the oldest designers still so good? Read the article behind this link.  Age is no limit for creativity or rethinking. Only the mind sets this useless limit. Maybe your body slows down a little, but if you ever took care of your self, you have plenty of experience to work from in your design and to not run into all those traps you happily ran into as a young hothead.

Adobe Flex Builder

Adobe kindly gave Adobe Flex Builder to people, who lost their employment due to the economic crisis. I believe that was a good initiative. Så nu er jeg i gang med at sætte mig ind i Flex Builder, og jeg synes, det er forbavsende ligetil, når man har al den støtte, der er bygget ind i Flex Builder. De forskellige wizards og highlights gør det faktisk relativt nemt at programmere i Flex Builder, og Adobe har desuden tutorials på Adobe TV hjemmesiden. So now I am aquainting myself with Flex builder and my impression is that it is rather easy with all the built in features to help you. Also Adobe has several good tutorials on their Adobe TV site. I’ll be happy to come with a more extensive report later on, but just for now I have to take my time to enjoy the nice weather _ it may not be there next week. For now I will say, the first trials at programming in Flex Builder were very encouraging. I had thought it more difficult. The integration with Flash also seems to work nicely, but that needs some more, before doing, before I really get a feel of it.

Color Management 3

See part 1 here and part 2 here.

Now that we have seen, that pictures take damage from every conversion, we must conclude, that those pictures are to be kept in the largest possible color space as long time as possible.

It mostly is in the bright colors that sRGB is not as Adobe RGB. Lacking the blues, greens and yellows makes it difficult to get enough detail in these colors, which make the picture more vivid.

The first conversion is more or less one, that has to be done. The photographer has to correct the picture and this is normally don in RGB.  But when the photographer uses professional equipment, the picture from the camera does not come in any jpeg format.

The “camera raw” format is far larger, containing more details, than the usual jpeg format. (Read about this  here.) It is in this format that white balance and color corrections are made, and thus in the greatest possible amaount of details and colors.

The photographer sends the picture in the greatest possible RGB profile, which for practical reasons usually is Adobe RGB.

If you do not have any influence on the profile, you can “suffice” with sRGB, and if you get pictures from other sources, there may even be CMYK profiles. Conversion does not give any “enhancement, and there is great risk of detoriation.

If Adoe InDesing is set to convert pictures, when placing, you have a problem. If it is set to ask, when placing you can choose to convert, use the pictures own profiles or not using any.

It is best for CMYK pictures to let the picture keep its own profiles. This prevents the detoriation of clean colors into “muddy” ones. By using the pictures own profile, you ensure thatit is used as such later.

RGB pictures can be converted to InDesign’s working profile, which should be Adobe RGB.  Through this you make sure all pictures are treated alike. Conversion from a smaller to a larger space usually is less destructive. Colors, which are not there are not added.

Then when the time comes to make a print file – PDF or PS – one has to make sure that the correct profile for the type of printing and the correct paper is chosen. The print shop should be able to supply this.

As a rule, when the plates are made, there has to be an adaption to the plate used, maybe to the press used, and to the specific paper.  This adaption  have to be precluded in the profile from the print shop.

So it is in making the print file that the final color space and the final print profile is chosen.  These choices are important as ti is in this conversion – which usually is outside of your influence – that colors are adapted:

  • A  color space fitting for the print shops inks is chosen.
  • A correct grid range – “translation” of the darkest and the lightest nuances – is chosen. This range is where you choose the type of paper or carton.

It may be, that in some cases there still has to be made some corrections for certain print processes or certain papers to avoid closing or burn outs (Closing: there is no raster in the color. Burn out: there is only the paper to be seen.) If the print shop has taken care of that in their profiles, than most pictures should correctly in that kind of printing.

Color management, continued

See the first part here A change of color space results in lost data. This can best be shown by an example.  The top graduation in this picture represents “reality” with it’s many nuances between dark and light. The next one is what the camera’s chip sees. There has been a division in single colors. Then in the third bar comes the conversion. Some of the colors are changed to the closest oft he same kind, just because the new space does not have the same number of colors.  Let’s say that the third bar is the RGB color space and the fourth is sRGB, which has still fewer colors. I know this comparison is not telling all, but it illustrates the way colors disappear in conversion. They are gone forever, and with them the details in the picture, which were made up by these colors. The diagram shows the size of the different color spaces. It is easy to see, that sRGB contains far less colors than Adobe RGB. Also shown is the color space of a matt paper, which are the colors the paper can represent.  Clearly that paper is not good at blue colors and better at green and yellow, compared to sRGB, and even better at yellow than Adobe RGB. The ground for using sRGB has been given as the inability of paper to print all the colors in the Adobe RGB space. The loss of colors and details were not counted, but they are the reason why you should keep pictures in the greatest possible color space as long as possible. Details disappeared are gone forever. If they are there still in that greater space, they can be manipulated in Photoshop  and kept in the  picture. When it comes to InDesign and color management, it is my opinion, that as many pictures as possible should be kept in the largest possible color space as long as possible.  If this color space is Adobe RGB or sRGB depends to some degree on the equipment used. It does not pay of  – in terms of details – to convert from sRGB to Adobe RGB.  This conversion makes the proces in converting to CMYK more homogenous with a better result. Color management should keep CMYK pictures in the documents unchanged, since the conversion from one CMYK space to another also results in a loss of details.  Any “advantage” you should get out of such a conversion is lost in bad color conversions. CMYK to CMYK conversions result in the loss of “clean” colors.  The RGB color space sees CMYK black as gray and changes it to low values in all three channels. The next conversion changes this three-value color into a four-value color, which is not really black and which is difficult to print as black. The same goes for all colors, which in CMYK have values in less than four channels. The resulting picture is much more difficult to print than it would have been without that conversion.

To be continued.

Consistent methods

(Not all of it graphics…)

The other day sombody asked me to help saving an old database.

It was on a Macintosh, which had been running since the beginning of the 90’ties, which is quite an age for a computer.

The databse was saved from backup, but the application was gone.  So we found the latest version of that program, that could run on an “Old World Mac”.

Then the database had to be converted.

The first conversion seemed to be okay. There was a slight problem with dates, though.  Even though the Mac and the application did not have issues with the turn of the millenium, the database did have one – inconsistent input of data.

What can we learn from this?

When it comes to dates or numbers and the like, they must  be formatted as correct as possible, and the database must verify them to be correct. The whole problem could have been avoided, if the date field had checked that the year was written with four digits.  Even if the filed on the user interface only shows the last digits, the database must have them all four.

Conversion chanced the two digit years into four digits, filling in what lacked. The result was, that dates in the nineties of the 20th century became dates in the nineties of the 21st century.

On really must remember that a computer does not think, but only acts on instructions given to it at some time. This does not only concern databases.

If you in your graphic application define colors or styles without being consistent and methodic, you really risk the same kind of problem.  Method and consistency is important in the creative area too.

Color management

Color management was not a real concern for the designer until recently. And with recently we talk about the last few years. But today those, who previously did the color management, are gone.

Sadly it is my experience, that many designer do not realize, it became their responsibility.

Not so many years ago I went through the change from a traditional CMYK workflow to an RGB workflow. That meant, that we who partook in that process had to know which profiles were to be used to convert documents to a profile suitable for a certain purpose.

This turned out to be a bit more than just choose a profile and let be.

First of all  the color space changes some times during the process from camera to print. Secondly, there are loads of profiles and not they do not  match at all.

A camera has its own color space  – color gamut – which are the colors the camera can “see”.  (Look here fore mere information.)  These colors do not all have the same brightness either. So people chose to correct the raw data with a profile made specifically for that camera. (One of the reasons the Camera Raw plugin in Photoshop so often is updated.)

This is the first change in the “original” data.

Since a scanner works much the same way as a digital camera, only slower, the same things happen. The scanned picture is converted from the scanners own color space  and corrected through the scanners specific ICC profile.

In principle this happens by comparing tables. Each color has a number  and this color is adapted to the correspondingly numbered color in the other table, so it “looks” right in the new color space, which as a rule is an RGB space.

In Europe this color space should be the Adobe 1998 RGB space, which is the standard for European printing.

Since any conversion causes loss of original data, it is important to wait with conversion as log as possible, and manipulations which need to be done should be done before. Corrections before a conversion tend to loose less original data.

Color balance must be corrected as early as possible, as must contrast and lightness. So it is up to the photographer or scanner operator to make these corrections. Depending on equipment this most often happens in the RGB color space.

If one works in a CMYK workflow, the pictures have to be converted to CMYK before you get them.

It is of outmost importance that the one, who is making these conversions, knows what the pictures are going to be used for.

Iso Web Coated, for instance, is a profile used for web  (rotational) printing.  Here dot gain and maximum ink are different from those in Iso Coated, which is for sheet printing. The same goes for other profiles, which each have a specific purpose.

If you do not know which profile should be used, your choice might be Iso Fogra39 300, which has the greatest possible space and is best for general international use.

If you work from the principle, that any conversion should happen late, you need to keep to the RGB color space as long as is possible.

InDesign allows for RGB workflows, where pictures stay RGB until the final print file (pdf or ps) is made.  If you need effects, then most filters to make them work best or even only in RGB. To change profiles just to use them would hurt the original mass of data very much, and should be foregone.

Also it is important, that the applications all use the same standards. I CS this is easy to do as all applications can be synchronized from the Bridge application.

When it comes to printing, then other things g into the equitation.  Printing machines, even those of same type and manufactory, do not print alike.  A good print shop takes care of this by making plates with a specific profile for each machine.

But different paper types do not receive color in the same way. For this the print shop offers different profiles for its different paper types. It always is a good idea to ask the print shop for correct profiles before starting. This ensures delivery of optimally corrected files.

It is not without importance either, that many print shops wish to convert as much as possible of CMY black into K black. This is for saving inks, but it also impacts on the profiles needed.

Any conversion  from CMYK to CMYK goes over RGB. This means CMYK is converted into RGB and then back into CMYK using another profile. It means loss of original data, but it also means, that an originally clean black K color is transformed into black with values in R, G and B and then back into a black with values in all four colors. This often is the cause of originally K colored text turning up in multi colored black.

To be continued.

Adobe CS and color management

When you install Adobe CS (any version), its standard for color management is set for the American printing industry. Nothing strange in that. It originates in the US and they surely would use American standards.

What does matter is, that in my experience far too many European users never look at the color management settings; they leave them as they are out of the box.

I have been in the graphics industry for over twenty-five years, and I have seen and experienced the transition from the original professional structure  to whatever structure there is left today.
Eighteen years ago I started doing mechanicals on a computer. And that was exactly what I did: making electronic mechanicals.

Text no longer came from a typographer, but was entered in a word processor by a colleague and then imported or even copy-pasted into the document. That was the first transition from highly skilled work to lesser skilled. I did have the training for working with type, but not in the same degree as the typographer, with his three or more years of education in that narrow skill and from zero to forty years of experience working with it.

Pictures still were transparencies, which were sent to another facility to be scanned, color corrected, tagged and delivered as pre-separated files. I got the lay-file, the preview, on which I made rough clipping paths, placed them in the document with the text and whatever else was needed. Proper clipping paths were made by the company, who replaced the low res lay-files with the high res pictures before making separations of each page, to be combined into film mechanicals by the plate maker.

My skill was the arranging of elements, the making of additional elements in vector art and the combining of it all into an electronic mechanical and only to a certain degree I had the expertise to do the scanning, color correction and so forth.

No need to worry about the colors, all reprographic work lay outside the graphic department, and to a high degree outside my influence.

The first things we took over were the clipping paths. Whenever complicated paths were needed we made them ourselves.

Then the technical “revolution” took speed. One by one skilled workers saw their jobs disappear, because the computer could do it cheaper, if not better. I am – within the graphic industry – originally a plate maker. Today that is done in CTP. The skill of the plate maker in transforming mechanicals and film into plates has changed to the skills of a computer operator, and in the process some of the skill may have been lost. CTP also requires lots of skill, so in that sense there still is a skilled and experienced person doing his job. But what about the scanner operator and the camera operator?

With those disappeared a lot of skill and experience.

Earlier the photographers skill was in setting the proper light, finding the good point of view, a good composition etc. Then came the need to use Photoshop and the digital camera. Suddenly the photographer had to take on him/her lots of the skills, that earlier lay with the reprographic worker.

The graphic designer still got his pictures color managed and put them in his document, which now more and more got the “feel” of electronic art and not of electronic mechanicals.

But CTP did more. With it, very often responsibilities, which lay in many phases of work between the document and the plate, no longer were with highly educated specialists, but with well trained  generalists. The CTP operator and the graphic designer started to share those responsibilities.

And there it goes wrong!

How come designers do not look at the color management settings of their applications?

Too often I receive documents with standard settings: sRGB and SWOP.

I was, beside being a graphic designer, a CTP operator for three years. I got loads of documents from European companies to be printed in Europe. Far too many of them were not color managed at all. The greater part or them had settings for the American printing industry.

Too many graphic designers still think, or want to believe, that others take care of color management. But between the documents he/she delivers and the making of the plates, there are now only him/her and the CTP operator.

Where did all that knowledge and skill go? The computer does not have it.

Some of it you find in the tools, which are in the applications on both sides. But they need to be set and controlled.

Like the color settings in the Adobe CS applications. As a matter of fact, it is easy: Open Adobe Bridge, go to the Edit menu and find “Creative Suit Color Settings”. Choose an appropriate setting and the entire Creative Suite runs with your chosen settings.

Makes life a lot easier for the CTP operator and gets you better prints.

Require your photographer to deliver his pictures with the correct profile, if he/she does not do so already, and you are even further.

You still need to be sure you use the settings, which are appropriate for the production flow you are in, and change your settings when needed.

That means you have to ask. The print shop, who is going to print your work may have custom settings. Ask fro them and use them. Or have an expert make a set of settings for you, which cover the majority of jobs you have. Remember, that any conversion between profiles means loss of data and quality.

You need to take that responsibility, and acknowledge it is yours.

Another glance at InDesign CS 5

I am still looking through the new features in InDesign CS5. Daily production can go on as if I still was working in CS4. The main features in large are the same. There are many new though, and some of them I really like.

I already mentioned the possibility now to work with a different number of columns within the same text field. That has become easy and is a feature I haven’t seen before in any of the applications I have worked with.

It is as easy as choosing the number of columns in a paragraph style and applying that style to the text you’re working with. No more problems with extra text boxes containing the title spanning over three columns, the introduction spanning over two and the main text over only one.  Even within that single column you can use a style to divide a list over two or three columns in stead of using tabs.

Another feature I like is the possibility to track changes, which now is in InDesign.  Suddenly you have a menu to check what changes were made to the document.

Track Changes

Lately I worked with three others on a catalog. This was a long process, where spreads were opened, changed, saved, reopened etc. With changes and corrections coming from several sources, it is always difficult to make sure a change or correction has been made. It takes discipline, and the more people are involved, the more it takes in efforts of coordination and control.

Now there is the possibility to track changes through a feature.

For the one, who is responsible for making up the final pdf’s, now there is a possibility to ensure, that the changes have been made, without referring to other documents or other people. You can see the change is made.

Time saver!

Better product!

No late minute changes due to overseen corrections, at least not if you use the feature and your coworkers are as meticulous as you are.

It may be, that that was not the intention, but it surely is a way I will use this new feature.

By the way: the new Illustrator-like layer panel is good too. Makes it a lot easier to come through the objects on the page and activate the right one, and not the one just above.

Adobe CS 5 upgrade

I’ve been looking at the Adobe Creative Suite version 5. This is a “real” upgrade with a load of usable new features.

Both DreamWeaver and Flash are good to work with, but when I came to InDesign, there were so many new features, I haven’t finished yet going through them and trying them out. I think this will take many evenings more.

One feature I’ve been looking for for a long time, is the ability to work with different columns within a text box. Having the title span several columns, and being able to divide the column into several, makes working flowing text over many pages a joy.
Rescaling pictures is also much easier than before, just to talk about features I use daily.