I have attached a detail of an image I created for a client. When printed on an inkjet you can barely see the overlayed image. I hoped that when professionally done it would be okay, but can anyone help me with how to check in advance whether the colours will be okay? I certainly don’t want my client to suffer with the end result.

Thank you, Andy

Image Detail

  • Hi Andelad, I edited the title of your question to make it more of a general question, so it could be applicable to other cases. We are a site that wants to help later visitors as well, after all! If I edited beyond your intention, feel free to rollback or edit again!
    – Vincent
    May 11, 2015 at 14:18

2 Answers 2


Most commercial printers will provide a color proof that is ostensibly a very good representation of the final output. Probably will have an additional cost attached to it, but definitely ask about it. If they decline to offer a proof before final printing, you may want to look around elsewhere for another printer.

Also, make sure your image is in CMYK format, not RGB. Not doing so can severely affect the color output.

  • Thank you DLev. It seems from what you say that the print result will depend on the colour profiles used by the printer and within the file. I’ve done my best to get the file print ready (CMYK, colour profile ensuring no more than 240% ink). So, from your suggestion, I would ask the client (who is dealing with the printer) to request a proof. However, is there a way that I can test the image in advance? I would prefer to offer as full-proof a version as I can before advising them to test it with the printer. What do you think?
    – Andelad
    May 11, 2015 at 14:38
  • 1
    @Andelad the proof really has to come from the printer. Every printer may have slightly different set ups and preferences so you need them to be responsible for the proof.
    – DA01
    May 11, 2015 at 15:13
  • 1
    Exactly what DA01 said. There are many possible variables in proofing (color profiles, ink coverage, type of printer, ink levels, etc). Any other proof aside from what comes from the printer would only be good for "general" color proofing, and layout purposes. You could talk to the printer yourself, ahead of time, to have a conversation about their recommendations for getting as close as possible to your desired color output. They may have suggestions to help you, before having the client get a "real" proof (i.e., paying for a proof).
    – DLev
    May 11, 2015 at 15:43
  • Thank you both. Your comments have helped facilitate a good conversation with the client.
    – Andelad
    May 11, 2015 at 15:50

In commercial printing, the important factor is Ink Limits. In many cases, no part of a print piece can surpass 300% ink limits. What that means is you add up the % of each ink to determine the total coverage.

This is just a sample to show the theory since what you posted is an RGB image and all I can do is convert it to CMYK here (Based on my color settings)... but if you look at the Info Panel in Photoshop you can hover your cursor over areas to see the percentages:

enter image description here

So for the dark area the cursor is over, 245%. I'd move my cursor around a bit more to the darker areas to verify the percentages are all relatively close.

If you aren't pushing 300% then you won't have an issue.

Also be aware that Color Settings within Photoshop look out for this for you. If your Color Settings for CMYK images is set to "US Web Coated (SWOP)" then Photoshop itself won't allow color builds to go beyond 300% by default.

In most cases a heavily saturated CMYK image is not an issue as long as you are within ink limits. Sometimes it can take a better quality print provider if you are doing things like this across entire pages. It takes some pressman skill to maintain high coverage across a page. For spot photos here or there, there shouldn't really be an issue.

If you are overly concerned about color matching, a ChromaKey or color proof is imperative (not a PDF proof).

  • I advise against worrying about ink limits before working with your printer. Between the output profiles used and any curves that might be applied at imaging the numbers you see in your application are not accurate.
    – Logarr
    May 11, 2015 at 19:32
  • Hello Scott, thank you for that info, it is very helpful to see someone working through the process of ink limits. In fact, ink limits is not my concern directly, but rather whether the contrast in the image that makes it visible on screen will be retained in printing. So far, everyone is advising a proof from the printer. Do you have any other thoughts on whether the image will actually show up in printing. Thanks again for your time, this is all helping me.
    – Andelad
    May 12, 2015 at 15:17
  • @Andelad if your color profiles are set up correctly and you are accustomed to getting fairly accurate color off-press, then there's no reason to think this image would be any different. The fact that it's a "toned" photo doesn't really matter, it's just a color photo overall.
    – Scott
    May 12, 2015 at 15:20

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