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I'm currently in the middle of designing a poster, and obviously want to avoid major surprises with colour when it comes to going to the printers. However, I definitely can't afford any of the colour calibration products, and this answer suggests it's not as necessary as widely believed, so I'm trying to make other adjustments that will help match my monitor closer to the previews I will be printing out with my home printer (and of course the end product with the printers themselves).

I started designing my poster in the default Photoshop colour profile of Working CMYK - U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) V2. I'm in the UK, and have read that FOGRA39 is the standard colour profile used by printers here, and have seen at least one printer explicitly recommend it during my research.

Is it worth converting my document's profile to FOGRA39 to ensure that what I'm seeing while I'm designing will be closer to what is likely to be printed? If so, then which options should I select at the slightly-overwhelming Convert to Profile dialogue?

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If your screen isn't calibrated, then unless you know exactly what colours you are going to be using - I mean dialled-in Pantone colours specified by the client, not photographs - then you don't know where you're starting from, which makes it fairly pointless to try to decide between two finishing points. You'll find the out of gamut bits easily enough, but that really won't tell you the whole story.

I think if this is a 'first go' at this type of work, then you would do well to find a printer who will hand-hold you through the process, or even do part of it for you. One that will let you take your RGB file to them & let you watch them do the conversion.
You could try giving them all three versions, RGB, SWOP & FOGRA; and see what they all look like on their calibrated screen. That may give you a better chance for next time.
They may even have a giclée printer that they could run test copies on, before going for the full run on a 4-colour offset litho.

The time not to find out you should have done it differently is when you have 18 pallets of finished material in your loading bay… all of it the wrong colours, and the client looking considerably less colour-calibrated than before, face going redder by the minute.

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  • One minor clarification - is there any reason to take an RGB file to the printer? It's my understanding that the CMYK file (SWOP or FOGRA) alone is what the printer is looking for. Jul 12 '20 at 0:07
  • As you don't know until you get there what profile they actually want [the only CMYK printers I use these days want their own profile per output substrate type, everybody else I use wants sRGB] Then you may as well take along one you know [or at least think] should look right on a monitor. If they're doing the hand-holding, then they may as well start from some kind of baseline.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 12 '20 at 10:55
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The post is stating a fact. You dont need to see the correct color on your monitor.

It is true that you dont need monitor calibration. Many designers can and do live without it. According to our printmasters its entirely normal that designers have turned their color management off; Apparently because that makes users more comfortable designing as color management requires one to think.

Most designers also dont seem to mind getting random color. Until one day that they are very very unhappy indeed. They are unhappy because they have to redo the work and pay the bill personally. Mind you this day may never come.

However, do not kid yourself that adjusting color management settings would make any difference to you. Simply put you have chosen to live without color management. It didnt even occour to me how much off my displays were untill i actually calibrated them the first time. It is also hardly a cost issue you can get calibrator with 100-200 dollars. Which is probably less money than your first printjob.

You can always fall back to the old way of managing color and that is to use known values. Personally i find that this is more expensive than calibration. But then i do very very little customer facing design that would require any quality control at all.

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