Become the Expert – Press Printing: Color & Paper

It is entirely normal to see tonal differences when switching from photographic to press AND when switching from one press paper to another. This blog post explains the color reproduction capabilities within press printing (versus photographic), and we have provided an example image that shows the apparent tonal differences in our press papers. If you have any questions please feel free to submit them in the comment section!

Image Reproduction & Color Gamut


Image credit: Adobe Technical Guides, click for further reading.

When it comes to press printing the actual process of image transfer is somewhat technical, but the outcome of reproducing your images onto a press papers is simple. Press printing is, essentially, a series of extremely tiny dots of ink on paper (image left).

Whether you work and save your images in sRGB or Adobe RGB, all of our press products (books, albums, flat cards, folded cards, etc.) are printed in CMYK.

CMYK: C = Cyan, M = Magenta, Y = Yellow, and K = Key (black)

The conversion from sRGB or Adobe RGB to CMYK happens within our printers automatically so there is no need to change your file preparation process. However, if you’re concerned with how certain colors will print you can soft-proof in CMYK in to check for color shifting.

Very Important To Note

  • If you choose to soft-proof in CMYK, please do not save your images in CMYK
  • Soft proofing can only be helpful if you’re working on a calibrated monitor

Image Credit: Adobe Technical Guides, click for further reading.

Image (right) shows that RGB (commonly used in photographic printing) has a wider gamut of colors versus CMYK (press printing). This means that there are more available colors in photographic printing than there are with press printing. sRGB and Adobe RGB both have wider color gamuts versus CMYK, which is why it is normal to see slight color shifts when comparing a photographic print to a press printed card.

Press Papers: Tone

It is more than likely you have already noticed that ProDPI press papers range in texture, but you might be surprised to learn that each paper also ranges in tone. That’s right! Each one of ProDPI’s press papers is either cool, neutral, or warm.


  1. Cool papers will compliment cooler colors such as blues. These papers will also keep your whites ultra white.
  2. Neutral papers are right in the middle. Your images won’t show much tonal change as a result of the paper.
  3. Warm papers will compliment your yellows & reds and you may see warmer tones in the whites.

Important note: please use your own ProDPI swatches (the back non-printed side) when comparing press papers. This image is only an example.


When it comes to photographic versus press its pretty easy: the printing processes are very different and so are the papers used for printing. For further reading on the difference between press and photographic check out this article!

There is no need to soft proof every single order. The only reason that you might want to soft proof is if you have a VERY specific color that press printing might not able to reproduce 100%. If you encounter a color shift when soft proofing you can try increasing or decreasing the saturation, or try slightly modifying the color to get a closer match to the original.

When it comes to paper type, of course you will want to order the press paper that your client likes the best. Depending on which one they choose you may need to make some minor adjustments to get the best color results. For example, if you generally add a good amount of yellow to your images to warm things up and then order a warm paper, that’s doubling up on the warm tones which could result in everything being overly red or yellow. By taking color reproduction capabilities and paper tone into consideration, you can better prepare your files for printing and avoid undesired color surprises.