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MagCloud, a division of Blurb, does not have templates for Affinity Publisher or instructions re: the desirable PDF export settings in Publisher. So for now there's some guesswork involved.

The first .afpub made for the test had as its native color space CMYK, with the default CMYK profile selected. The second was an exact copy but with the native color space changed to RGB/16 and the garden-variety sRGB profile selected. Both PDFs passed MagCloud's preflight checks.

In both cases I left the PDF export dialog's "convert images" check-box UN-checked. All of it will end up CMYK when MagCloud prints the books. But it will be interesting to see differences between the two. When I changed the native color space there was a noticeable change in contrast between white text on a black background. The characters' edges seemed to distinctly sharper in the RGB version. Could it have been only a screen artifact? Certain colors of the photographs had a bit of saturation boost in the RGB version as well — at least on-screen.

I'd be interested to hear from people with a lot of pre-press experience: Given the differences in document color spaces and profiles used, would you expect significant differences in the printed pieces? (I won't be seeing them for a couple of weeks yet.)

Something I didn't change in creating the documents: the Assign (versus Convert) setting found in Document Setup. This is one place where a "Lightroom style" UI does the user no favor: It's hard to tell which of those two buttons is "pushed" by default. For now I assume black means selected. The tool tips for these controls read "Assign color profile" and "Convert color profile." Does "Convert" apply to every possible object in the document, including photographs that were previously exported in RGB from their original raw format?
 


Affinity Publisher and Photo 1.8.3 (Windows). Lenovo laptop with decidedly sub-optimal monitor. At least it works.
“The wonderful thing about standards is that you can have as many of ’em as you want.”
– Anonymous cynic

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Without seeing your export pdf's it is not possible to tell the exact differences, but changing the document color mode from CMYK to RGB/16 can have two consequences: when used with certain export settings (e.g., a setting that assigns the document the document profile color space, now sRGB) it would change all CMYK color values to RGB so e.g. black text would be converted to dark gray, which when eventually converted back to CMYK by the printer results in four-color black, something that should not be used in body text (small print), because you'll get somewhat blurred text (because of typical misregistration of plates). This does not necessarily happen if the export was created e.g. with PDF/X-1a:2003 preset which forces CMYK and would have honored existing K100 definitions in the text (the definitions do not immediately get forced to RGB when you change the document color mode from CMYK to RGB).

(EDIT: Note though that if your book will be printed digitally, this is not necessarily an issue; it is more a problem of offset printing.) 

Converting to RGB/16 is also unnecessary and typically just results in bigger export sizes, RGB/8 would have been more appropriate, if RGB switch is really wanted.

Increased contrast is a result of black becoming (EDIT: at print time) four-color (rich black), which on screen is simulated by using deeper black. Photos and images in RGB color mode just get displayed in sRGB mode (instead of simulating their outlook when printed), so that's why many of them will appear more saturated and vivid.

"Assign" basically does not result in immediate conversion of color values, it switches the color profile and shows colors then according to the specs of the new color profile. It may affect in how embedded images will be handled at export time depending on the export settings and whether there is a conflict between the export profile and profiles of the embedded images. "Convert" does immediately change all color values of Publisher objects (vectors and texts) according to the new color profile, and when used in CMYK mode results e.g. all K100 becoming four color black. It also results in losing all swatch color assignments (which IMO is a bug). It does not convert images.

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Thanks as always for the time you put into these replies. After going back and forth here 'n' there about the output preset I finally decided on PDF 1.4 (Acrobat 5). I'd have to go back through some of the older threads here to remind myself why the one you're referring to in your reply above didn't seem as if it would work out as well. As I recall, MagCloud itself (per their instructions for InDesign) seems content with PDF 1.4.

I did wonder if RGB/16 would be overkill. The resulting PDF was 6 MB larger than the CMYK version. The two documents' contents are identical. Fortunately the difference in upload time was negligible. But I'll select RGB/8 the next time.

If the Document Setup : Convert setting does not immediately convert images, then I'll stick with it for now. In both the RGB and CMYK versions I left the Convert image spaces box unchecked during export. In retrospect I wonder if that was the wrong setting. Is one ahead of the game by allowing Publisher to do the RGB-to-CMYK conversion during export, or on the other hand keeping the box UN-checked and leaving to the book provider to complete the conversion?

In any case if either or both test books look awful, I'll know it's back to the drawing-board.

I've just had a look at one of the pages with a solid black background — in the RGB version. To get it I used, simply, RGB=0,0,0. Looking at the CMYK sliders, I see that same object as: 74C, 68M, 67Y, and 90K. So hopefully nothing that happens during export will force it to CMYK(all)=100.

 


Affinity Publisher and Photo 1.8.3 (Windows). Lenovo laptop with decidedly sub-optimal monitor. At least it works.
“The wonderful thing about standards is that you can have as many of ’em as you want.”
– Anonymous cynic

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20 minutes ago, MikeA said:

If the Document Setup : Convert setting does not immediately convert images, then I'll stick with it for now.

Basically these settings should not normally be used at all. They are there only when you need to switch the color profile within the same color mode (e.g., between sRGB and AdobeRGB, or different CMYK profiles). It is always better to create the document in the preferred color mode and choose in the same context the correct profile, and stick with those settings.

RGB/16 is overkill in a job that gets printed eventually in CMYK which is always 8-bit printing. 16-bit RGB color mode may be useful when the target is a photo printer (which typically takes input in RGB color mode) and the photos are initially in 16-bit color mode, and would be useful if you intend to manipulate your images before sending the job to the printer. But output in this case would also typically be 8-bit.

 

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4 minutes ago, Lagarto said:

Basically these settings should not normally be used at all.

Meaning  Document Setup : Convert. I should have put it this way: Unless I'm misinterpreting the "Lightroom UI" look of the document setup dialog, "Convert" is selected by default as you create the new document—so I'll simply leave it as-is.

I can understand that it's better to create the document using the preferred color space and profile. For these tests it would have meant starting from scratch in the second document and re-creating it page by page. It took quite a while to make that first test book. Copying the finished file to a new name and changing its color space+profile afterward saved a huge amount of time I'd otherwise have spent making the thing all over again. But I should look into whether it's possible to have two documents (say, one CMYK and one RGB) open at the same time and simply copy entire pages or spreads from the completed document into a new, empty one. Not something I've tried yet with Publisher.


Affinity Publisher and Photo 1.8.3 (Windows). Lenovo laptop with decidedly sub-optimal monitor. At least it works.
“The wonderful thing about standards is that you can have as many of ’em as you want.”
– Anonymous cynic

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28 minutes ago, MikeA said:

But I should look into whether it's possible to have two documents (say, one CMYK and one RGB) open at the same time and simply copy entire pages or spreads from the completed document into a new, empty one.

If you create from the same source for both CMYK and RGB, I would start the publication as CMYK and select the appropriate color profile (typically adjusted to media, e.g. different for coated and uncoated stuff). Then, when the publication is finished, and you want your images (that you have initially imported as RGB images) to have full RGB saturation and vividness, I would change the color mode to RGB/8 and see that color profile is sRGB, and save that publication with a new name. This would then allow you to create optimal output for digital use.

As for Document Setup: when you open this dialog box and activate Color tab, you have "Convert" selected. As long as you do not change the color profile, this feature does not have any effect. But if you do, then choosing "Convert" and "Assign" have different effects. The former will change all color values of the document (for vectors and texts) trying to retain existing visual look, while the latter will not but instead would normally change the color output visually because the existing values are now mapped to a different color profile (the change may result in change of color values, though, at the time of export, depending on the export settings). Assigning a different color profile for the document would be useful e.g. in situations where you have accidentally chosen a wrong color profile and need to switch it but do not want to change existing color values or lose your swatch assignments (often, however, you do want color values to change, but this may cause much additional work as you may need to reassign K100 for the text, and possibly also make manual swatch redifnitions and reassignments).

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13 hours ago, Lagarto said:

I would change the color mode to RGB/8 and see that color profile is sRGB, and save that publication with a new name. This would then allow you to create optimal output for digital use.

I'll find out shortly how good a job I've done of it. They've already shipped the two test books (turnaround in less than 24 hours, not bad—though they are very small books to be sure).

In editors like Photoshop I'm accustomed to "assign" making major changes, visible on-screen, and "convert" making no change (or at least a change so small that I can't detect it). I was a bit surprised to see the noticeable differences when I changed color spaces within the Publisher document. Despite "Convert" being selected by default in the document properties dialog, some kind of "assigning" seemed to have occurred.


Affinity Publisher and Photo 1.8.3 (Windows). Lenovo laptop with decidedly sub-optimal monitor. At least it works.
“The wonderful thing about standards is that you can have as many of ’em as you want.”
– Anonymous cynic

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On 4/14/2020 at 12:44 AM, Lagarto said:

If you create from the same source for both CMYK and RGB

And speaking of that — to return for a moment to the matter of how to specify black for press work like this... MagCloud's recommendations are much the same as yours. Don't set all CMYK values to 100, for starters. For black text, they recommend 0C 0M 0Y 100K. I thought I'd see what would happen if text is set to RGB=0,0,0 and then the CMYK sliders are examined afterward. (This test document is in CMYK color space.) So, set text color to RGB=0,0,0. The CMYK sliders now display 74C 68M 67Y 90K. Not much like 0C 0M 0Y 100K. But is that so far off as to be ill-advised for some reason? Knowing as little as I do about preparing documents for 4-color printing, I don't want to make possibly bad assumptions.

Then I give the type some random color, then reset the CMYK sliders to 74C 68M 67Y 90K. I again have what appears on-screen to be black type. Switching to the RGB sliders, I now see 2,2,3 — not exactly 0,0,0 as before, but close. (Close enough?)


Affinity Publisher and Photo 1.8.3 (Windows). Lenovo laptop with decidedly sub-optimal monitor. At least it works.
“The wonderful thing about standards is that you can have as many of ’em as you want.”
– Anonymous cynic

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5 minutes ago, MikeA said:

For black text, they recommend 0C 0M 0Y 100K. I thought I'd see what would happen if text is set to RGB=0,0,0 and then the CMYK sliders are examined afterward. (This test document is in CMYK color space.) So, set text color to RGB=0,0,0. The CMYK sliders now display 74C 68M 67Y 90K. Not much like 0C 0M 0Y 100K

To have text in K100 (short for Black (=K, or "key", 100%, CMY all zero) the color definition obviously needs to be specified as a CMYK value. It is also best to have a document that is prepared for CMYK printing in CMYK mode right from the start. As mentioned earlier, it is technically possible to create a document in RGB color space and specify black in CMYK and then, using certain export methods, produce K100 black, but typically all black tones that you specify in RGB color space will be rendered in four-color black ("rich black"), so you'd get values like 74C 68M 67Y 90K in the export PDF at latest (and the risk of producing this "accidentally" is obviously much larger when the document color mode is RGB. While rich deep black is nice to have in certain objects, like backgrounds and large text sizes, it s not desirable in regular text, especially in body text sizes (or headings within body text). Printing black text just using black ink, and typically overprinting it with other colors, gives the crispest output for body text (printing screens (halftones) on top of each other can result in some blur and misregistered output, colored rinds at the edges of the letters). 

45 minutes ago, MikeA said:

Don't set all CMYK values to 100, for starters.

This is called registration black and should not be used in any actual objects in the publication. Typically the maximum total area coverage (sum total of all ink values) should be around 300-340% for coated papers and less for uncoated.

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Thanks as always.

When I have nailed down this Publisher-to-MagCloud routine (two sample books will be arriving in a few days) I plan to write up the procedures I followed. If you'll permit, I'd like to include a couple of quotations from your posts about this.


Affinity Publisher and Photo 1.8.3 (Windows). Lenovo laptop with decidedly sub-optimal monitor. At least it works.
“The wonderful thing about standards is that you can have as many of ’em as you want.”
– Anonymous cynic

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Today I received the small test books from MagCloud. Overall impression: not bad, not bad at all for the price. (MagCloud uses a dull-coated stock that doesn't seem to be the best possible—at those prices, how could it be?—but it could be worse.)

I followed all prior advice about the PDF version (1.4) for both test books. One was in CMYK color space and the other in RGB—in both cases, with profiles embedded. I expected the RGB document to print with the colors seriously "off". To my surprise, they weren't. Deep shadow areas in images were lighter than in the CMYK version, but to my surprise the RGB document printed with better saturation in yellows. Blues — no appreciable difference that I can see so far. Skin tones look about the same in both versions (slightly too magenta for my taste; time to re-profile the monitor, I guess). But that slight boost in yellow did catch my eye. Large expanses of dark grey are noticeably lighter in the RGB version — and very slightly yellowish.

The oddest result was that apparent sharpness (of fine details in images) seems slightly higher in the RGB version. This kind of thing usually requires "pixel-peeping" viewing distances to detect, but I noticed it almost unconsciously...then, pixel-peeping distances confirmed it. I am guessing the effect might be only some "artifact" of a particular press run, but I don't know yet.

It has been an interesting experiment. One thing I know now: If you're going to print a book on MagCloud, give it at least 24 pages so that you can select "perfect" binding. The web site notes that the alternative for shorter books is saddle-stitching. But these test books were so short that I guess they were stuck with using staples — and the stapled binding is just no fun at all.


Affinity Publisher and Photo 1.8.3 (Windows). Lenovo laptop with decidedly sub-optimal monitor. At least it works.
“The wonderful thing about standards is that you can have as many of ’em as you want.”
– Anonymous cynic

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