File Preparation

Color Management

We strive to provide the perfect color print every time. To help our customers get the most accurate color possible, we've created a short downloadable guide illustrating how to prepare files for printing in Adobe Photoshop to ensure accurate color reproductions.

Today’s best printers have not been able to keep up with current technology that allows cameras to capture millions of visible colors or computer monitors abilities to display those same colors. Going from a computer monitor (RGB) to a printer (CMYK) causes a shrinking in the visible color spectrum. This reduction in the color spectrum is often unnoticeable but could cause some color shift if your image includes extremely vibrant or saturated colors.

Keep in mind EVERY computer monitor is unique and will display color differently. Setting your ICC Profile to Adobe RGB (1998) will minimize discrepancies in color but will never give you 100% accuracy 100% of the time.

To learn more about our color management process or to see detailed written instructions for color management and proper file preparation in regards to color management, please see our detailed color management section below.

Detailed Color Management click to expand
Preparing files for print

In Adobe Photoshop:

  • Ensure Your file has embedded Adobe RGB (1998) ICC Profile
    • With the image open in Photoshop select Edit, CONVERT to Profile (do NOT select assign to profile, this will likely cause a shift in color)
    • Set the Destination Space Profile to: Adobe RGB (1998), click Ok.
      • It is likely your Source Space will be sRGB IEC6 1966-2.1, so you should see little to no color shift. However if you are coming from another Source Space such as ProPhoto RGB which is larger than AdobeRGB 1998, you may experience some color shift due to gamut compression.
Understanding Proper Color Management

Accurate color is only possible with a properly calibrated color workflow, and a basic understanding of proper color management principles.

Color management is a system of different imaging devices (such as your camera or scanner, a computer and it's monitor, or a printer) and the process of properly changing the way colors are interpreted on the different devices to ensure the colors appear the same to the human eye.

Each device in the color management workflow has it's own limitations of how much color (how many different colors) it can produce/capture (cameras and scanners "capture" colors while printers and monitors "produce/display" colors). Some devices will be able to capture or produce more colors than other devices. The amount of color a device can capture or produce is called the device's gamut.

We use an ICC profile to help convert colors from device to device. An ICC profile is a big table of color values that represent all the colors a specific device can produce and measurable unique values (L*, a*, b*) that allow us to properly change colors from one device's color gamut to another device's color gamut. Common analogies for ICC profiles are maps and coordinates on the map. Different maps may use different units of measure, but if the maps are of the same geographical area, the same locations exist on both maps.

Unfortunately camera capture technology has drastically outpaced printer technology. As a result, even though we have the most advanced printers available today, our printers still can't produce nearly as many colors as most cameras/scanners can capture. Going back to our map analogy, this would be like having two maps, but one map shows the whole world, while the second map only shows North America. In situations like this, we use a mathematical principle called "Rendering Intent" to substitute color values that are as close to the color values of the larger gamut, but exist in the smaller gamut device. This is known as gamut compression and this will result in some small color shifts in prints from time to time.

In order to ensure we know the colors in your files, we request that a color profile be saved inside the file when preparing the file for printing. This is like a key on a map, it lets us know what the color values are and how to convert the colors to work on our printers. The profile that is embedded in your file is known as a source profile.

We use Adobe RGB 1998 as our source profile for printing, and calibrate our printers with a G7 process to ensure a neutral print density. Our in house G7 Expert, Matthew Sambrook; the only certified G7 Expert in Washington, performs this calibration.

Now you have a basic understanding of proper color management. For more information on color management, please contact our customer service department!

File Preparation

Accurate file prep is vital to ensure you receive your artwork exactly the way you want it. Sending us your image with the correct ICC profile embedded will ensure accurate color, however it is only the first of several steps toward sending us the perfect file. Image size is the next step in the process. Using Adobe Photoshop there are two different ways to size your image. One adjusts your image automatically and uniformly by changing the canvas size; the other allows you to have more control over how your image is sized by using the cropping tool. Click below for downloadable guides illustrating the file prep processes.

Color Management
Ensure Proper Image Size & Resolution
Uniformly Change the Canvas Size of Your Image
Manually Crop Your Image
Save Your File

Quick Tips!

  • 100 MB is the largest file we are able to upload through the website. If you feel you need to upload a larger file please contact customer service for other options.
  • File names cannot exceed 40 characters in length.

Still have questions? E-mail us: info@nwfineartprinting.com or give us a call 1.877.947.1539 We’d be happy to answer all of your questions.

Detailed File Prep Instructions click to expand
File Preparation
*If you have not completed Color Management, please begin there.
In Photoshop
  • Ensure File is proper size and resolution
    • With the image open in Photoshop select Image, Image Size
    • Set your Image Width & Height to the size you want + .25” for bleed. Your image will not likely be an exact fit, just be sure the smallest dimension includes .25” of bleed.
    • Check to see if Resolution displays 100 or greater (240 is best)
    • If you have a decimal in Resolution simply delete the numbers following the decimal. This will increase the size of your image slightly, but we will take care of that in the next step. (The printer may become confused if you have a decimal in the resolution.)
  • You now have 2 options on how to crop you image:
    1. Change the canvas size uniformly
      • Select Image, Canvas Size
      • Set your Width and Height to your desired dimensions +.25”
      • Ensure Relative is NOT checked
      • Click OK
      • A warning box may or may not appear telling you canvas size may cause some clipping, click proceed.
      • If the clipped image looks good you’re ready to move on and save your image. If you want to control how your image is clipped more precisely undo canvas sizing and try option 2.
    2. Crop the image manually
      • Select the Crop Tool
      • Set to Ratio
      • Enter your desired Height and Width dimensions +.25”
      • A crop box appears around your image, you may move the image so that the portion outside the box is what will be clipped.
      • When you’re happy with your selection press Enter
      • Your image is now the proper size.
  • Save file as JPEG quality 10 or higher
    • With the image open in Photoshop select File, Save As
      • Choose your File destination and Name
      • Select Format: JPEG
      • Ensure Embed Color Profile: Adobe RGB (1998) is Checked
      • Click Save
      • In the next pop-up window select Quality 10 Maximum and click Ok

Your image is now ready to be uploaded on our website!