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There are color settings in Photoshop, InDesign, and in PDF export within InDesign. How do they work together? I know color is complicated so I tried to keep questions below focused. I get lost in the weeds when I read about this subject so would appreciate some simple practical guidance.

My typical print workflow: I place CMYK PSD in ID layout, export PDF-x1a.

PS general color setting I was told to use: CMYK set to GRACol, preserve profiles. If I get RGB art, I convert using the GRACol profile. I’ve been saving as PSD without profile.

ID general color setting: CMYK set to GRACol, CMYK preserve numbers (ignore linked profiles).

PDF export requested for print projects: PDF-x1a. Default is SWOP 2. If I use with ID color settings, I get “The preset specifies source profiles that don't match the current color settings file. Profiles specified by the color settings file will be used.”

Art is supplied either CMYK or RGB, and I am not asked to make color corrections. I don’t see color proofs, don’t interact with publication production dept, or the printer, but just want to make a reasonable effort to achieve acceptable results (is this pointless?).

My questions:

I’ve often read how important it is to save profiles in PS to ensure good color, but if I’m planning to “ignore linked profiles,” then there’s no purpose to save them, right? Profiles seem to really inflate file size.

If GRACol color setting is in ID, then the profile (not saved in PS) is implemented in ID? If I get art from different sources and some have color profiles, will the ID settings override them? If some are even RGB, the PDF export will take care of those too?

If I’m asked in general to set GRACol in ID, but specifically to make PDF-x1a for a magazine, is that contradictory? Do I need to switch the setting to SWOP 2, or would that undo my earlier RGB conversion using GRACol?

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  • Who told you to use GRACol? (There may be legitimate reasons for it I'm unaware of.) Where are you located/where is printing done? In the US, for more than 3 decades, I've never used anything other than SWOP Coated 2 and I've always been happy with output.
    – Scott
    Sep 26, 2023 at 16:10
  • I also use Swop Coated 2, but Gracol is a newer standard. I have not seen many attempts to push it forward. In Europe Fogra is dominant. Perhaps that motivated a newer one.
    – Rafael
    Sep 26, 2023 at 16:46
  • @Scott, I work on ad/promo for a US book publisher. The company color settings were supplied to outside designers. Maybe the company settings were meant for book design (not necessarily all US printed) and not as applicable for US printed ads? Not being a color or print production expert, I don't know whether GRACol 2013 is significantly different than SWOP 2 or not.
    – NotARobot
    Sep 26, 2023 at 21:46

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