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Feb 28, 2009

Preparing a document for printer: CMYK PDF

In the Preparing a document for printer series I will cover the most asked questions regarding Scribus generated pdf files and printers. However these are only generic instructions and one should always discuss about the job in question with the printer.

The most important thing to understand is that everything you see on screen is defined in rgb color space and most often printer works in a different color space called cmyk. This means there must be a conversion done from rgb to cmyk to get things look ok when printed.

For a succesful conversion one needs to find out the cmyk icc profile to use. This can only be done after the print house has been chosen because not all printers are set up to use the same icc profile. You will find the cmyk profile (aka target/printer profile) from your printer's documentation or by asking them.

Next thing to do is to make the icc profile appear in Scribus. You can use the standard location of color profiles on your platform or can set up your own custom directory in Scribus' preferences. Copy the icc profile in one of these locations and restart Scribus.

Open your document to be sent to the printer and go to File→Document Setup→Color management. It's important to know that in Scribus Document Setup is for currently open document and Preferences only affect all future documents.

In Color Management page enable CM and set up profiles. If you use Gimp for your images it will be safe to choose srgb for images. Adobe Photoshop embeds a profile into the image and Scribus will use the embedded profile over the one set in Document Setup/Preferences. As the printer profile select the cmyk icc profile provided by your printer. Once done with the CM settings click ok to close the window.

Last thing to do is to export your work to a pdf. Open up the pdf export window from File→Export→Save As PDF... To make a cmyk pdf you will need to select Printer target on the color page. Do not check any of those check boxes on the color page. Other important things to do at the export phase is to embed all fonts and choose the right pdf version. For most cases pdf version 1.3 is the one to use.

Last thing to do to make sure colors will come out ok is to include a color proof in the contract done with the printer. This means that printer will send you a proof to be approved before starting the actual print job.

If the work is going to be printed with a home printer rgb pdf will most likely provide the best quality. For rgb pdf it will be enough to select Screen/Web as your target in the pdf export window.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the help!

lohang said...

Thanks! I was wondering how to do it. Found your blog via a google search!

Absolute said...


after I export my cmyk pdf, my printer said that the pdf is in rgb and they have to convert it to cmyk again, during this process of conversion, the colors changed a lot as compared to my original exported cmyk pdf. What have I done wrong?

Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

thanks for tutorial. Finally I made it working. I had exactly the same problem as Absolute and after few attempts I have my pdf in CMYK.

Absolute - what you have to do is to choose PDF version 1.4 or 1.5
For me (Linux, OpenSuse) 1.3 and X-3 do not work. They export only to RGB.

good luck
Boguslaw Kluz, Cyprus

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Anonymous said...

Thank you very much!

Jarek said...

Thank you. I am a beginning DTP operator and your tutorial is very helpful.

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