No Color Profile? Run for the Hills!

It was one of those rare moments that left me speechless. The design was done, the copy approved, and we were all ready for the files to be uploaded to the printer’s Website. Naturally, we wanted to make sure our generous use of full-color images would print as luscious as can be.

“Seriously,” I repeated, “will you be providing a custom color profile? Or shall we work to GRACoL…?”

“Just convert the files to CMYK,” responded Jane Doe (we feel it best to protect the printer’s identity), the CSR assigned to our project.

I was not comfortable with this, but as I always tell other designers to communicate with their printers, we finally broke down and did as we were told. We held our breath and kept our fingers crossed that the final product would look as fabulous as we’d planned for it to be.

Years ago, the common advice was to send your files to the printer in RGB and have them convert to CMYK, but this very seldom happens today. So to this point our printer did the right thing.

“If your printer does not specify an industry standard reference print condition profile, or provide you with a custom ICC color profile of their calibrated printing system, run for the hills,” warns Dennis Dautrich, a good friend and printer technical representative at Sappi Fine Paper.

Whether it’s uncoated, coated, gloss or matte, every sheet reacts differently on-press. That’s the reason why our industry has developed sets of guidelines and recommendations to help print buyers, designers, and specifiers work more effectively with their print suppliers. GRACoL 2006 or 2013 or…(By the way, IDEAlliance recently made new GRACoL 2013 and Updated GRACoL 2013 data sets available.)

On top of this, some mills offer their own paper-specific ICC profiles. With the help of RIT, Sappi, a few years ago, went out of their way to create ICC profiles for all of their sheets. So if you decide to print on McCoy Gloss, just ask for the specific ICC profile and voilà, your printed colors have the best chance ever to be as luscious as can be.

Sabine Lenz is the founder of, the first online paper database and community specifically designed for paper specifiers.

Growing up in Germany, Sabine started her design career in Frankfurt, before moving to Australia and then the United States. She has worked on design projects ranging from corporate identities to major road shows and product launches. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, her list of clients included Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Deutsche Bank, IBM and KPMG.

Seeing designers struggle worldwide to stay current with new papers and paper trends inspired Sabine to create PaperSpecs, an independent and comprehensive Web-based paper database and weekly e-newsletter. She is also a speaker on paper issues and the paper industry. Some refer to her lovingly as the "paper queen" who combines her passion for this wonderful substrate called paper with a hands-on approach to sharing her knowledge. 

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