Ice Queen ... plus 30 or so on the hue slider

michael_sheridan_smith_untitled.jpg Reminded by the incorrectly-colored dumpster, wrongdistance points out how a little tweaking makes for a big difference on the newsstand.



  1. I actually suspect this is an issue with the press, before you paginators and pre-press people get all angry at me.

  2. I’d say it’s intentional. If it was the press you’d see similar color issues with the other blue parts of the page.

    I know, myself, as a designer & photographer, that i’m totally guilty of ramping up &/or altering color to make a page have more impact. Is that wrong?

  3. It’s probably a little of both, but it is quite surprising how much printers can vary with their color. Add to the fact that these are on newspaper, which aren’t known for their amazing quality.

  4. Being familiar with newsprint printing, I can say with total confidence that this was intentional. The skin tones are the biggest clue.

  5. Working with a very nit picky graphic designer, I suspect this was intentional. Graphic designers know their printer’s capabilities, especially those working on the cover image at major newspapers. My guess is someone slide the color slider, either at the request of the editor or their own personal choice. I’m only left wondering, which is the original? Skin tones make me suspect the blue is the original.

  6. I’m guessing blue as well because of the hair. I wouldn’t be surprised if an ice skater was a little pale (even then yikes), but compound that with the hair and I’m not buying the purple.

  7. Intentional? Sure, in the sense of “Someone set the color balance that way.” On the other hand, I would assume that *neither* color balance is actually “correct” in the sense of what you would have seen if you were there, and I’d point out that under different lighting that would shift yet again.

    The camera _always_ lies. It’s just a matter of whether the lie is appropriate. I honestly don’t see anything wrong here, or even surprising.

  8. Worked in color management for a few years and did pre-press work.

    My initial gut reaction was too heavy a pressing on the magenta pass (assuming blue was initially correct), but that would have affected the oft-mentioned skintone too. The skin is paler in purple version.

    Could be intentional design choice, it could also be a modified 4-color process. Quick lesson, 4 color prints are cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Cyan and Magenta being brilliant blue and pink (think highlighter marker and you’re swimming in the right pool).

    Now, there’s nothing FORCING a printer to use those colors. Let’s say you’re boingboing magazine and you extensively use a specific, must-be-this-color-red red. Rather than trying to match it all the time, you set up a modified process. Cyan, Yellow, Black and Pantone 185 red. What that means is all of your photos would then have to be adjusted to compensate for the fact that you’re not using a hot pink, but instead a brilliant red (you’d need to remove yellow for certain, maybe a little cyan). 4-color process, but modified. Modified 4-color process. Makes sense.

    The daily news might use a blue instead of cyan and the post may use a dark blue instead of cyan not properly adjusted for.

    Now, assuming the purple outfit is right…

    I wouldn’t be shocked if the blue framing the photo on the post is their ‘cyan’, so they choked the magenta out of her dress and left the skin tone alone. Not uncommon to remove colors from certain parts of a picture but not others. For example, a photo of food you’re attempting to make look appetizing, you totally remove magenta from anything green the photo and add a little to the cyan. So your lettuce is totally made of Cyan, Yellow and Black. A real nice green. You wouldn’t do that to your tomato. You need your magenta. You’d cut out the cyan, add it to the red. You want to avoid equal parts of Cyan, Yellow and Magenta as much as possible since they actually cancel out and make grey.

    Side tracked.

    In either case, you HAVE to cut back colors for each and every press. There’s nothing you can do about it. On an extreme end, I worked with corrugated presses where you sent out 10% Yellow, 10% Magenta red and got back 3% Yellow and 15% Magenta hot pink! Calibrate for the press and it leaves us looking funky orange, comes back with the proper red.

    While it most certainly may be intentionally altered, it’s just as likely it is a technology compensation or adjustment than a purely aesthetic one.

  9. If you guys think you can get consistently accurate color from a newspaper press on newsprint while working on newspaper deadlines, you are welcome to give it a shot :)

  10. The linked page seems to say these are not actual newspapers: “Untitled work by Matt Sheridan Smith”

    Am I misunderstanding?

  11. Am I missing something? Yes, I see two papers with the same image, but with different color settings. So?

  12. It should also be noted that the color balance may be very different for different parts of the run. The earliest papers may be in poor balance, and they ship those out to the least valuable customers.

  13. Its simple, one newspaper editor thought her outfit was too blue, the other thought it was too purple. Anon @ #9 has the right link to the original photo.

  14. This particular shade of purple or dark blue is problematic for CMYK reproduction. I’ve even seen examples on sports magazine covers where the Detroit Lions blue uniforms reproduced as ‘purple’. Essentially, it’s very difficult to simulate some CMYK ink colors on RGB monitor displays. Since different ink manufacturers formulate their inks slightly differently, it can lead to unexpected hue shifts on the fringes of the color gamut. Especially if you recently changed ink suppliers as part of a cost-cutting measure.

    Getting these colors to reproduce so they are perceived by the viewer as correct often requires intervention after the conversion from RGB to CMYK. The problem often cannot be seen reliably on even high quality, calibrated monitors. So, the hue and saturation correction required has to be done as much based on experience or ‘feel’ than anything else.

    After viewing the link to the original photo (generously provided by Anon #9), IMHO, the examples that look ‘too purple’ had little or no intervention done. The examples that look ‘too blue’ were possibly over-corrected (although they do have a more pleasing skin tone). It’s also very possible that despite using standard color separation setups, the different publishers use different ink suppliers, or one of them recently changed ink suppliers.

    Or, the editors in question disagreed on what color her uniform is supposed to be. ;)

    Pre-press can be HARD.

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