Background: I did a PDF for a commercial printer and got a test proof print, which was OK. The final print product looked different, the colors where darker and more saturated. This difference was probably cause the proof might be digitally printed and only simulates the end profile, and the actual product is offset printed.

I’d like to troubleshoot is there a fault in my workflow or was there a mistake in the printers end that might explain this.

My indesign uses Fogra39 as working profile. The printer uses PSO coated V3. I didn’t change my working profile, but I did a new empty file and converted the profile of the file using “convert profile” command to PSO coated 3. After this did I did the layout.

The instruction is to leave RGB pictures not converted. I exported the PDF using settings downloaded from the printer. In their output settings, there is no colour conversion and they include all profiles.

Doing the PDF like this, when you open it in Acrobat and inspect an object, it says the Blending colour space is PSO coated and picture profile is an RGB profile (depending on the pic, might be sRGB or adobe RGB). Preview with Acrobat through PSO is fine, but the actual printed document looked different (keeping in mind sceen/print differences of course).

Do you recognize any faults in the process? I have tried to contact the press to troubleshoot, but I haven’t gotten this sorted out yet.

  • 3
    Was the same file used for the proof & final print? If so, it's their fault, no matter what else may have happened. If they can't repro their own proof, who else can??
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 23, 2021 at 17:05
  • Yes the same file was the source for the PDFs. But what about we assume that there never was a proof, i'd still like to find out was there a fault in my end to avoid this happening in the future.
    – Pocket
    Nov 23, 2021 at 17:09
  • They have two different paths from PDF to printed image. One works, the other doesn't. I don't see how you can investigate from your end why that is true.
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 23, 2021 at 17:13
  • If the problem is in their end, it is true I can't. But if there is a fault in my settings or workflow, that i'd like to detect :)
    – Pocket
    Nov 23, 2021 at 17:19
  • 3
    I think the focus is too much here on your workflow: as @Tetsujin has stated: you received 2 hard-copies from your file and they were different. This is the printer's problem and not yours. You cannot fix this. Further, the printer's proof is a proof for everything: any deviation from the approved proof is a breach of contract, basically.
    – Yorik
    Nov 23, 2021 at 19:08

1 Answer 1


I think the essence of this question is about the proof being different than the final product and what you can do to fix that. As Tetsujin suggested, you cannot fix what is essentially the printer's problem.

So far as your electronic workflow question, I am not convinced you have a workflow problem: you cannot know if your workflow is causing issues without looking at printer-attested accurate proof.

However as JanusBahsJacquet suggested, you may have received a proof that was not meant to be color-accurate, and that in their experience, printers tend to be more loose with proofs: proofs for color vs. proofs for glyph drop-out/compositing issues etc., so (my leaving aside my simplistic comment above) it may not be that big a deal as long as you are clear about what you are getting when presented with a hard-copy proof.

So this is "workflow question" in an expanded sense: ask for the proof you need and approve the proof you get for the purpose it was intended. If you are not evaluating color: indicate that you are not evaluating color in your clear communication to the printer's representative.

My work involves accurate reproduction of images of fine-art objects and so color-accurate printing is more important than anything else. For that reason, not seeing an actual color-accurate proof that is promised to match what comes off the press is a 10s-of-thousands-of-dollars mistake. Then again, if I am submitting a 1-page PDF to a "magazine format" or other type of "mixed submission catalog," I usually just check the JPG and approve: I trust my own workflow (based on hard-copy color-accurate proofing) and magazines tend to not hold color anyway (so many full-pages imposed together with wildly different full-page saturated color) and we need to learn to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

I suppose the answer is to insist on some form of color-accurate proof that the printer asserts they can match on press. This might be large sheets of the book fully imposed or they might be some reasonable sub-sample which you submit to "spot check." This will allow you to be more confident that the truckload of books you just had delivered on your employer's dime will meet your expectations for quality.

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