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When I’m working on a CMYK file with a SWOP Coated profile in Photoshop, I can convert my QR code color to true black (K=100%) by opening a new work space with the same dimensions but changing the color mode to grayscale, then I just select the QR code and drag it – holding shift – to the grayscale work space then drag it back to the original CMYK file and it’s true black now.

My question is: I have some CMYK work with the FOGRA39 profile and I tried to do my trick to convert the QR code’s color to true black but it doesn’t work with the FOGRA39 color profile.

I would like to know:

  1. What is the difference between the two color profiles, SWOP Coated and FOGRA39, regarding the problem I mentioned above.

  2. What color profile should I use when working on CMYK files? Note: I’m working at a commercial printing company.

  3. Should I use the same color profile for Illustrator as Photoshop? For example: When I want to add some touches using Photoshop to a file made in Illustrator and vise versa.

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First off, if you are working at a printing company you should already have some guidelines on what profiles you should be using. Standardization is everything is this industry.

That being said here's my breakdown for your questions.

1. SWOP vs FOGRA

They are different standards that have been created to work with the most printing presses. They are developed by testing a large number of presses using a range of paper types and produced a set of datasets.

The main difference is that SWOP is used for printing in the US and FOGRA is used for UK/EU printers. That being said this is just how each profile is GENERALLY used, there can certainty be printers in the EU using the SWOP standard.

2. The best color profile I should use when working on CMYK files

If you are being supplied images or artwork the client SHOULD always specify what color space they need. If they don't that's a whole other talk about project management.

Most will suggest ISO Coated v2 or Coated FOGRA39. Others will have different international standards that they conform to and have profiles they can send you. A few will still just say CMYK and not know enough about color management to be more specific. If that is the case then ISO Coated v2/Coated FOGRA39 would still be the safest choice.

3. Should I use the same color profile for Illustrator as Photoshop

YES YES YES YES. You should ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS work in the same color profile from software to software. I can not stress this enough.


Bonus: I'm not really sure why you are going through this trouble for a QR code, your rip software (software used to send files to the printing press) should be set to the correct profile for printing.

As long as you aren't trying to send RGB art to the press the software should strip any profiles associated with the art and use the correct ones for the press.

Additionally, what file format is the QR code? If it's anything remotely vector editable you can just manually select the art and change its color. If it isn't you can vectorize it very easily.

  • 2
    Good answer. Just to complicate it a little more: Why even work in CMYK in PS in the first place? I believe the simplest workflow would be to EDIT images in PS as RGB or grayscale, then PLACE them in an InDesign/Illustrator document and finally CONVERT to the correct CMYK profile when exporting a pdf. For the CMYK color profile to work properly you must let it decide the CMYK values. If you edit the images after converting to CMYK they might not comply to the profile (even though it seems so). Read about it here: indesignsecrets.com/… – Wolff Sep 25 '17 at 17:04
  • Very good point. I overlooked the workflow aspect, I was more concerned that he/she isn't mixing RGB in their CMYK. – Ovaryraptor Sep 25 '17 at 17:16
  • First, thank you guys for your replies, really appreciate them :) – Yaya Sep 28 '17 at 17:01
  • Well, about the company I'm working at, it's kind of a small workshop, we don't have standard color profile ( i don't know how to find the best color profile for our press machine ) .. Plus, i have never seen a customer saying anything about the color profile he would like to use , they just say CMYK . anyway, 80% of my work is to finalize the work sent to us by the mail and to impose (montax) it, also to fix some mistakes if it's possible (like: Converting all texts to 100% black and convert the QR as well which is a jpg as usual) – Yaya Sep 28 '17 at 17:16
  • That's why I need to convert the QR by this tricky way, by the way , i think i found how to convert the QR by dragging it from FOGRA profile to Gayscale workspace but only i have to go to Edit> assign profile> then choose the middle choice - i don't remember it now - after i drag it back to the CMYK FOGRA i can go to EDIT> assign profile> then choose the third choice again ... Well, i mentioned this Bcos i dont understand it, Maybe someone can explain – Yaya Sep 28 '17 at 17:33

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