Advice for short run book with color graphics

I need some design advice. The project is a book, I am working in Adobe CC (InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop). The print run is 500-1000 copies, so it seems destined for a digital printer of some kind. Coated paper.

It contains a lot of color graphics and photographs. Much of the art is subtly colored, and the Illustrator files I’ve been given contain a lot of grays that are intended to be neutral. Some of them are large flat shapes that are intended to be completely uniform.

I understand the basics of color management and the use of ICC Profiles. But, in the real-world, is it realistic to expect that just because those things were done correctly, the grays are going to stay neutral and not shift to a weak chromatic color? And can I expect a large flat area of a light gray or other weak color to be uniform in appearance, not slightly mottled like you might expect from a color copier?

It is still very early in the process so nothing is baked in yet.

Also, if any of you have any opinions about which digital printing technology might be best for my circumstances or even the name of a printing company in North America, I’m all ears.

Neutral grays composed of the four process colors are difficult to print because the ink density of all four colors has to be perfectly balanced. If any one of those inks print a little dark or a little light, the neutral gray becomes a warm gray or a cool gray or a greenish gray — at worst, all three on the same page. I’ve always found it better to intentionally make solid grays warm or cool so there are no surprises on the press. A neutral gray often comes across as a dead, lifeless gray, so warming it up or cooling it down seems better anyway.

Greys are a perennial problem for our digital printers, unless it’s a black and white job. Even with everything calibrated, colour drifts occur depending on a number of factors (including humidity - if it’s raining we know not to attempt certain jobs).

Stick with tints of black if you need a grey. Mottling should not be a problem with a modern machine.

I would suggest you order some test prints to flag up potential problems. With digital they can be one-offs and quite inexpensive to do.

Depends how many pages the book is. If it’s over a certain page count even for 500 or 1000 copies it would be printed litho as it would be more cost-effective.

You should be able to ask for a price for both - plus also request a printed sample of some of the pages, especially where colour is concerned.

Good luck!

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