CMYK vs RGB for IngramSpark and grayscale images

Explorer ,
Jun 29, 2022 Jun 29, 2022

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Has anyone here had experience printing a book with grayscale images on Premium paper at IngramSpark? If so, did you get better results following their recommendations to submit CMYK or by submitting RGB images?

 

I'm producing a book with all grayscale images. On KDP, although KDP says to give them CMYK output, the images have much less of a color cast if I keep them in RGB, and the covers also turn out better with RGB. In both cases, in my multiple test books, PDF/X-1a files yielded inferior results to PDF/X-3 files, presumably because of mismatches between the profile I specified for the CMYK conversion and the one KDP actually uses, which they don't divulge.

 

IngramSpark warns me that if I use the RGB images for the interior and cover files, their conversion will likely cause a color shift. But my understanding is that IngramSpark and KDP use similar printers and, when KDP's printers are overloaded, they'll have some of the printing done at IngramSpark/LightningSource. And Ingram, like KDP, provides no instructions I could find about what profile to use for CMYK.

 

My inclination is to go with RGB first, but I'd be grateful for hearing what has worked best for others who have gone down this path.

 

Thanks -

David

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How to , Import and export , Print , Publish online

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Adobe Community Professional , Jun 30, 2022 Jun 30, 2022

Hi @DavidOfMA , they recommend PDF/X-1a, but don’t tell you what the CMYK press profile should be, so if you use the InDesign default US Web Coated SWOP it wouldn’t be surprising to get a color cast because surely your POD job is not being printed on a web press.

 

It would make sense that providing RGB images with embedded source profiles (PDF/X-4 or X-3 with No Color Conversion) would work better, because the conversion to CMYK would have to happen at output hopefully to the correct press prof

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jun 29, 2022 Jun 29, 2022

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It says on their documentation that grayscale images should be in grayscale

 

EugeneTyson_0-1656571972053.png

https://www.ingramspark.com/hubfs/downloads/file-creation-guide.pdf

 

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Explorer ,
Jun 30, 2022 Jun 30, 2022

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Thanks, I've also read that. However, when I tried grayscale images with the similar KDP printers, the images were all far too light, and PDF/X-1a CMYK images, which is what they recommended, had a strong greenish cast. It took several proofs to determine that of the possible permutations of grayscale, RGB, and CMYK, the best result was from RGB.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jun 30, 2022 Jun 30, 2022

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I don't understand how a grayscale image ends up looking green.

What other KDP printers are  you referring to? What were their guidelines?

 

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Explorer ,
Jun 30, 2022 Jun 30, 2022

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They look green (or sometimes magenta) because I'm submitting them as either RGB or CMYK and printing using Premium Color. When I submitted grayscale, there was no color cast, but because these used only black ink, the apparent dynamic range was very compressed. I get better apparent dynamic range when I submit CMYK, because the press is using all four inks, but a color cast, because I don't know the printer profile they're using. Their guidelines are to use CMYK, but for both covers and interiors, results are much better with RGB, which turned out to be true with grayscale images, too.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jun 30, 2022 Jun 30, 2022

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When I have color images in a book, I export to PDF for print using the sGray profile. It's given me consistent results for both KDP and Ingram.

 

Note that "grayscale" can have some different meanings, including things like a full-color image 'flattened' to black-only. I have had those gain a color cast in various printing processes. Export to GRAY scale. 🙂

 

|| Word & InDesign to Kindle (& EPUB): a Professional Guide (Amazon)

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Explorer ,
Jun 30, 2022 Jun 30, 2022

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Thanks. My first attempt at KDP was with grayscale images. They didn't have a color cast,since they apparently printed only with black ink, but the higher-key images were washed out and the more contrasty images had blocked up shadows and light grays that went to white, even when I printed with their Premium Color. 

 

So, to get the advantages of using all four inks, at the risk of color cast, I tried CMYK and RGB with both PDF/X-1a and PDF/X-3. On KDP's Premium Color, I got the best results from RGB images, contrary to KDP's recommendations. I don't know if Ingram's printers will work the same as KDP's, though.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jun 30, 2022 Jun 30, 2022

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One of the problems is that "[PoD Service Name Here]'s printers" might be different for every print run, across time, across different print/shipping depots and even on different equipment lines within each depot. Looking for consistency between lots is... wishful thinking.

 

If there's no color in the interior, use a grayscale color profile. Using even a recommended color profile is (IME) no guarantee of desirable results for B+W output.

 

|| Word & InDesign to Kindle (& EPUB): a Professional Guide (Amazon)

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jun 30, 2022 Jun 30, 2022

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Hi @DavidOfMA , they recommend PDF/X-1a, but don’t tell you what the CMYK press profile should be, so if you use the InDesign default US Web Coated SWOP it wouldn’t be surprising to get a color cast because surely your POD job is not being printed on a web press.

 

It would make sense that providing RGB images with embedded source profiles (PDF/X-4 or X-3 with No Color Conversion) would work better, because the conversion to CMYK would have to happen at output hopefully to the correct press profile.

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Explorer ,
Jun 30, 2022 Jun 30, 2022

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Thanks. That's what I decided to try first, as it gave me the best results with KDP's Premium Color, which I needed to go to because the images printed on their black-and-white paper/ink combo were roughly the same as newspaper images and not adequate for a photo portfolio book.

 

I'll report back with the results.

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Explorer ,
Jul 19, 2022 Jul 19, 2022

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I can verify that indeed, as with KDP, sending RGB grayscale images to IngramSpark and using PDF/X-3 works well. The books I did finally came back, and the Premium Color version has no color cast.

 

They are a little disappointing, however. Both the standard black-and-white and the Premium Color have lighter pure blacks than their KDP equivalents, and the Premium Color paper finish is matte. On the other hand, there's no gloss differential, as there is with KDP Premium Color. Neither comes close to magazine-quality photos, much less a commercially printed photo book or high-end photo magazine like LensWork.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jul 19, 2022 Jul 19, 2022

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You weren't around in the early days of PoD, were you? 🙂 I had home copiers that did a better job.

 

POD quality approaches commercial press quality for most things, but with photos and color work, all you can do is optimize and accept what comes back.

 

Or go to a commercial press, have the plates professionally made, attend press checks and buy 5,000 copies at a time. But the repro quality is great! 😄

 

|| Word & InDesign to Kindle (& EPUB): a Professional Guide (Amazon)

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Explorer ,
Jul 19, 2022 Jul 19, 2022

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Actually, there is another option: don't use KDP or IngramSpark.

 

In 2014 I did a color/b&w photo book with BookBaby, and the output was consistent and much higher quality than either KDP or IngramSpark. I did another in 2018; even better. And I did a short run of the same book, at a larger size, at Blurb, and the result was almost indistinguishable from the samples I was getting from commercial presses in China and Iceland.

 

The Blurb cost was ridiculously high, but at BookBaby, the cost per book was only about 25% higher than Amazon's. However, they also charge $400 for distribution, so I decided to try KDP and IngramSpark to see if I could get comparable quality without that upfront cost. I can't. I probably spent close to $400 on proofs before I got to the point where I had a methodology that worked, but sample variation was a major problem. I won't use either again for this kind of book.

 

Eight years later, the technology should be better than what was available in 2014 through BookBaby, and I suspect it is, but Amazon isn't optimizing for the relatively small number of people who want better quality than what they deliver. For books with only text, line art and graphs, their quality is good enough.

 

Also, you don't need to order 5,000 copies to order from a commercial printer. The numbers I was getting from China, Iceland, and an outfit in Hawaii that actually sent me half a pound of Kona coffee with their sample books were either 500 or 1000 copy minimums, and I've heard they've gone down to minimum orders of 250, though I can't confirm. 

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jul 19, 2022 Jul 19, 2022

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Actually, there is another option: don't use KDP or IngramSpark.

 

Pretty difficult to avoid unless you plan to sell and distribute directly. Very few of the other printer/distributors have a fraction of KDP or Ingram's reach.

 

I've done it every way; Thomson-Shore printed my first three titles. Despite having the chops to do anything up to commercial print and full color, domestic or ROC, I tend to place my new titles with KDP and Ingram simply because I don't have time to mail out books, and no one wants to pay today's shipping/mail rates anyway. (Nor do I have time and patience to run an ecommerce front end any more, either.) Returns from KDP are bounteous when you consider all the costs of doing it yourself... and they do it with global reach.

 

It's not the best route for image-heavy or art books, but I've done several books with complex, full-color interiors and doubt a discount color press could do much better... and then my house would smell like ink for a year. 🙂

 

 

 

|| Word & InDesign to Kindle (& EPUB): a Professional Guide (Amazon)

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