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GarryP

Is there any software out there for checking 'printed colour ink balance' usage?

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This isn't really about Publisher - although it is about publishing - but as there's no 'General Discussion' forum I'll just ask the question here. (Moderators: Please feel free to move or remove as you see fit.)

Does anyone know if there is a free tool, into which I can feed a PDF, that will tell me - preferably page-by-page, or if not then by document - what the ratios of printed ink colours used would be? I've probably not explained that very well so I'll give a short summary of the situation...

I edit a small newsletter for a local charity group which is printed by a volunteer on his personal home/office inkjet printer.
The newsletter is on normal A4 sheets, only about 6-8 pages each issue, about 80 copies each run, and isn't published particularly regularly, but he would like to keep printing costs down.
One way to keep the costs down is to limit the amount of colour used and, as such, I've been 'rotoscoping' (probably not the correct term) the images to get a 'small bit of colour on greyscale' effect (think of the girl in the red dress in "Schinder's List" but just for still images).

Because of this I have been wondering if there are any tools available - for free, I'm not paying for something I only need once in a blue moon - that will tell me the relative amounts of each ink colour that will be on each page when a document is printed. In other words, I would like to feed a PDF into the software and it will tell me what percentage of the colour on each page will be printed with the Cyan ink, and the Magenta ink, and so on.

These percentages may help me to be able to 'balance' the colours used so I don't produce something that will force the volunteer into running out of any one coloured ink. For example, a bad 'balance' might be: CMYK - 40%/20%/10%/30%, while a good 'balance' would be: CMYK - 10%/10%/10%/70%. I can sort of do this by eye but it would be better if I could get something that will do it 'without prejudice'.

Does anyone know of such a tool that would help? (I know it's probably a bit of a weird question but I thought I'd ask it anyway.)

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One thing to consider here is that different printers might use ink in different ratios for the same document.  For example I have a color laser printer that seems to use some of the color ink when printing a purely black document: I think their color management must have determined that the black ink isn't really black and added a bit of color ink to compensate for whatever the black ink isn't absorbing of the light.

Different printers with different ink formulations, after color management is applied to the document, will use the ink in slightly different ratios, so for a tool like the one you are suggesting to be accurate it may need to account for the color management profile of the printer that the document will be printed on.

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Thanks @MickRose I don't use Illustrator but you've given me a jumping off point for more searching.

Thanks @fde101 That's a very valid point that I didn't take much into consideration. I'm not really after anything that's very accurate - anything within 10% or so would be fine for me (whatever I mean by 10%) - but it's worth noting all the same. My PDFs - and the images in them - use RGB colours so the document will have to go through one or more conversions before ink starts to be sprayed on the page so there's going to be an inevitable 'wobble' in accuracy anyway.

I've already tried a few things in GIMP to see if I can get anything basic working but, as I'm not a colour management/printing expert, I'm not having much joy. I thought I might be able to import the PDF, convert the imported images to a CMYK colour profile, and then separate the colours so I can get some kind of visual representation but I don't really know what I'm doing so it's not working. It's not a big deal though, so back to doing it by eye.

P.S. Does anyone know the correct term for "making the background of a coloured image greyscale"?

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Hi Garry,

I once wrote a batch file for someone using GhostScript that reported ink density using CMYK values and percent of ink coverage of a page. It wrote the values into a text file on a page-by-page basis. I had an Excel spreadsheet that read that text file and did other calculations.

I compared the values I got with professional tools and while off a bit, it was reasonably accurate (pretty accurate on ink coverage, less so on the cmyk values).

Unfortunately, a Windows update this year decided it was a "suspicious" file and deleted the batch file. And yep, I didn't have a back-up. Point is, if you are really wanting to do this, you can do a whole lot of Googling to find the commands needed. But it would be free...

As noted, though, it really wouldn't be overly helpful in the long run. For one, the PDFs really need to be in cmyk and for desktop/consumer (and pro-sumer) printers, they really use RGB values. Which means there is a double conversion that happens when the PDF is printed, once back to RGB in the print driver and back to cmyk inside the printer. Seems dumb, but that's how they work. Plus, the true values change for any given desktop printer. The same PDF printed to different devices will use less/more ink than another.

In general it is/can be less expensive in the long run to have a "quick" print establishment print any multi-page document once the multiples rise. And with them, it doesn't matter what the density is.

Mike


My computer is a nothing-special Toshiba laptop with unremarkable specs running Windows 10 64-bit.

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Thanks @MikeW Sorry to hear about your "malicious" software being ripped from your system.

I think I'll just use my current 'visual check' method rather than going down the handmade software route for this. It's only one small publication every few months so I can live with having to do a bit of extra manual work every now and again. Just would have been nice if I could shave a bit of time off.

I had a quick look at the pricing for getting it printed properly but it looks a bit expensive. One example - from HelloPrint - is: Stapled booklet; A4; 16 pages; Gloss coated 135gsm; 100 off; digital printing = £90-ish. That's about 90p per copy which is a little steep for something as basic as I make.

If it was being properly printed then I could make it more jazzy - within limits - but it would still only contain the same information which is usually read once and then forgotten. It's for a small charity group so those kind of prices would eat into the funds that are better used for other things: carers' breaks; respite care; etc.

It's a lovely idea but I don't think it's a practical one. However, I'm going to ask the relevant people and see what they think. If it's something they decide they want then it's not for me to say they can't have it.

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23 hours ago, fde101 said:

One thing to consider here is that different printers might use ink in different ratios for the same document.  For example I have a color laser printer that seems to use some of the color ink when printing a purely black document: I think their color management must have determined that the black ink isn't really black and added a bit of color ink to compensate for whatever the black ink isn't absorbing of the light.

Different printers with different ink formulations, after color management is applied to the document, will use the ink in slightly different ratios, so for a tool like the one you are suggesting to be accurate it may need to account for the color management profile of the printer that the document will be printed on.

I think this thread is touching on an area I've been just introducing myself to in the last couple of months; one that on the surface doesn't appear to be related to Affinity apps, but I believe could be (and maybe should be).

It started with adjusting color on my monitors, only to discover an entire science focused on color correction starting at doc/image creation and running through final output, no matter what that output is.  It entails camera correction, white balance, monitor correction, printer syncing including specificity for inks, toners, different paper types, online viewing devices (work stations, tablets, smartphones and whatever device they can invent by a week from Friday).

Where it touches on Affinity is, I'm wondering if such correction/syncing/matching) couldn't somehow be better served if integrated into the early production apps, such as AP, APub, AG.  Just another one of those strange ideas that keep wondering between my ears.

Thanks.


RickyO
APh and ADe user
New User as of Mar, 2018
Windows10 platform

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Colour management is one of those things that absolutely has to be done fully and properly.
Any one thing that's done wrong - or omitted - will make the whole process useless, at best.
Personally I stay away from the whole colour management thing because I don't really need it but I agree that it would probably be good if the Affinity Apps helped the user through the process in some way. (Maybe something for future releases rather than the first production build of Publisher though.)

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You can set color profiles in several places throughout the Affinity apps, and there are even options to embed the color profiles in some of the exported image formats.

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5 hours ago, fde101 said:

You can set color profiles in several places throughout the Affinity apps, and there are even options to embed the color profiles in some of the exported image formats.

Do tell!

 

Where and how?

 

Thanks in advance.


RickyO
APh and ADe user
New User as of Mar, 2018
Windows10 platform

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  • Preferences -> Colour (all three apps)
  • File -> New (then File -> Document Setup) (Publisher, Designer)
  • Document -> Convert/Assign ICC Profile (Photo)
  • File -> Export -> More (all three apps)
  • "Soft Proof" adjustment layer (all three apps)

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@fde101 I knew there were places where you could set the colour profiles but the main point of what I was trying to say was that it would be good "if the Affinity Apps helped the user through the process in some way". In other words, rather than just giving me - in the case of Publisher - five places to set a colour profile in the Preferences/Colour setting, maybe it could help the user through the process of choosing what to select. Maybe there could be a set of panels taking the user through each option while explaining a little about what they should be - and shouldn't be - setting for each.

To me, the colour profile defaults (and others) are just a series of fairly random letters and numbers which mean nothing to me. I don't know what each one is for or under which circumstances I might need it. I have no idea if any is set right for what I need so I could well be using the wrong things without knowing it.

Experts have a choice of what they can use - and that's great - but amateurs like me look at these things and just get very confused. There are a bunch of options where I understand most of the individual words but I don't know what they mean in these specific configurations.

For example, there's an option for "Black Point Compensation". Doing a web search tells me that even digital printmakers are confused by it so what chance have I got of knowing if I should have it switched on or not?

By way of another example, using other software I sometimes get a message that says something like "sRGB <some gobbledegook> Indexed <more gobbledegook> profile has been applied". I have no idea what this means and have no idea what's been changed or what's going on. The software has done something but I have no idea what it has done. If there was a "Just handle the colour stuff and let me get on with what I need to do without confusing me" option, that would be nice.

The last time I tried to set any colour management stuff all of my on-screen colours went very wrong so I backed the heck out and never tried setting them again. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in that.

I think my preference would be that, if possible, colour management is 'switched off' by default. I don't know exactly what I mean by 'switched off' but I would probably be much more comfortable if the software would hide any colour management choices from me until I know what I'm doing.

Maybe the point of all this is: "Stay away from these scary things until you know what you're doing."

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For the most part the defaults will be fine for the majority of documents.  The most important profiles are the ones for the devices you are using - if you are getting pictures from a camera or scanner then the photo or scanned document will most likely have already accounted for that or will have an embedded profile of some kind that the software can use.  Your display should have a profile set in the operating system, but it won't be accurate unless you have a colorometer and have calibrated your exact display reasonably recently.  Your printer will also have a profile assigned to it (in the print dialog) and there are devices that can generate calibrated profiles for your exact printer in order to match it more precisely.

 

This series of videos might help: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fq-kNtwifFk   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKfg8GtT75k

 

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On 10/2/2018 at 9:56 AM, MickRose said:

I'm not aware of any free tool which will do this. If you have Illustrator CS6 there is a paid for Astute Graphics tool called Phantasm which will do this I think.

Thanks, Mick for the namecheck. It's our InkQuest plugin for Illustrator that allows you to preview total ink coverage, overprint white warnings, swap channels, etc.

More info at  https://astutegraphics.com/software/inkquest/

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