Better not use the Adobe Creative Suite 3 ICC profiles?

Posted by Marco on Mar 19, 2009 in ICC

After you install the Creative Suite 3, you can activate the app called ‘Bridge’ and select colorprofiles. Adobe made this quite easy actually. All us Europeans have to do is select ‘Europe prepress 2’ settings. After that all the CS3 apps like Photoshop, InDesign and the others will use ‘Adobe_RGB (1998)” for RGB and ‘Coated FOGRA27 (ISO 12647-2:2004)’ for CMYK. And that’s a bloody shame really…

Because the ECI (European Color Initiative), which main reason for existence is ‘to promote and spread neutral, cross-platform color management systems’, released new profiles for Europe last February 2008. The ‘Isocoated_v2_eci.icc’ profile is an optimization of the older Isocoated.icc profile. A common profile many prepress departments use.

So now we’ve got two standards. What to do? I got to ask an expert this very question when I received an invitation from my friends at a big printing house that were changing their entire printing workflow to fit inline with the international ISO 12647-2 standard. A big part of ISO is educating your staff and by inviting me I also got to follow the ISO prepress classes. 

“The goal is to create constant printing quality that both the printer or the client can verify”

The classes (via the G.O.C. in the Netherlands) have been created especially for printers and the goal is to create constant printing quality that both the printer or the client can verify. The ISO process starts with calibrating your monitor and ends with the calibrating of your printing press and measuring the ink on paper. Of course everybody in the production-chain is required to follow the classes. ISO is just as much about communication as it is about measuring. Only when the (ISO certified) ink on the (ISO certified) paper is measured and doesn’t deviate from the ISO standards, can a printer call himself truly ISO qualified. Part 2 of the class focussed on the prepress part of the process and was hosted by Mr. Hans Huijsing(1) from the G.O.C. knowledge institute. I asked Hans about the two standards.  

Marco: This is a strange situation: We’ve got two CMYK-standards here. One from Adobe and the other from the ECI. Why didn’t Adobe just use the new international ECI ‘Isocoated_v2.icc’ profile for the CS3 ‘European prepress settings’? I thought Adobe was all about standards these days? Just think about the PDF/X-4 standard.

Hans: Well, I can’t tell you why they didn’t just use the standards ISO cmyk profile. Perhaps there’s a legal side to distributing ECI profiles, or maybe it’s a ‘marketing’ thing. 

Marco: I can understand Adobe’s point of view. But it’s confusing. What CMYK profile do I need? Adobe’s CMYK or ECI’s CMYK? And what about the older ISOcoated CMYK profile? I suppose we don’t need that any more, right?

Hans: Before I explain all that, I think it would help if I explain what exactly the differences and similarities of the profiles are. Both Adobe’s and ECI’s ISOcoated CMYK profile are based upon the same data-set. This set is called FOGRA27. The heart of the dataset was generated by measuring the printed results of the ECI 2002 test shapes. They measured every possible variable with special spectral devices. We’re talking al lot of test shapes! You can order these printed sheets (printed on the most common ISO certified paper) along with the data set for youreselve if you wish to. They’re bundeled in the  ‘Altona TestSuite(2) that was made specifically to help printers reach the ISO standard.
ECI’s ‘ISOcoated’ and Adobe’s CMYK profile ‘Coated FOGRA27 (ISO 12647-2:2004) is based upon the FOGRA27 standard. This FOGRA-data is even more exact than the current ISO-standard and describes almost all the aspects and details of the printing process.
ECI has had – after much testing – measured all these printed testscards with thousands of colors and created the general profile for coated paper, called ISOcoated.icc. Adobe did the very same thing, but with one big difference: They chose to use another way to build up the colors called ‘Short Key Black’ where the cyan, magenta and yellow are tuned down and the black is tuned up. Both ECI and Adobe use the AltonaTest Suite, en print according to FOGRA27 specifications (wich automatically include the ISO 12647-2 standard).
In 2007 ECI lanched the new ICC-profile ‘Isocoated_v2_eci’. Version 2 solves a big problem: Although everything was tested and re-tested modern printers were not able to reproduce all the colors. After measuring the printed results it turned out that especilly the Cyan color was below the ISO standard. This was a problem that ought not be! But in real life situations the Cyan-problem kept repating itselve. ISOCoated version 2 finally solves the problem with the Cyan. And, on top of that ISO also used the new and even more detailed FOGRA39 dataset. The big difference between FOGRA27 and FOGRA39 is the way the three basic colos are pinted and a different setup for the greys. And for printers it’s important to know the CMYK colors of the FOGRA39 dataset are much easier to print

Marco: Well allright. Although all three profiles can be used we can really recommend separating your RGB artwork to the new ISOcoated_v2_eci. That is, if you want to work according to international ISO standards.

Hans: Correct. Version 2 uses the new FOGA39 dataset and using it will please your printer. It will enable the printer to reach the ISO colors better.

Marco: Of course it will only be a matter of time before Adobe also uses the new FOGRA39 dataset and supplies us wih a new Adobe pofile, probably with a ‘short black’, I suppose. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to, Hans.
Download the complete set of new ICC profiles here. (Scroll down to “The download archive ECI Offset 2008”) 
(1) Hans Huijsing works for the G.O.C. One of the largest Educational Institutes in the Netherlands. Hans helps printers and Pre Press companies set up a complete ISO 12647-2 workflow. Apart from that Hans is the author of the book ‘From Photo to Print’. This book discusses non-CMYK workflows.

(2) The ‘Altona TestSuite’ holds digital files that were created to be printed and measured afterwards. The measured data of your own printwork can be compared to the ISO data that are well documented and available in the set. The Tes Suite helps a printer to optimise his own prit pocess and reach the ISO standards.

Hits: 22178 Comments: 18


  1. Grafisch forum | March 20, 2009 | 19:45 CET

    Hi Marco,

    Very interesting information and I didn’t know this. This article makes it much easier for me to explain to others why to use ISOcoated_v2_eci.

  2. Sue Bray | March 30, 2009 | 10:29 CET

    Hi Marco,
    Great information here, and in laymans terms so easy to understnad. I’m not 100% sure, but believe the new version profiles just missed the cut-off for being included in the new release of Adobe CS4 software. Hopefully we will see them included in an update. Maybe someone from Adobe can clarify? grin
    Keep up the excellent work.
    Best Rgeards, Sue Bray
    Jump! Design, Adelaide South Australia

  3. Marco | March 30, 2009 | 11:09 CET

    I’ve had a designer from Germany report to me about the latest *German* CS4 update actually provided newer profiles based up on the new FOGRA39 data. I don’t know any of the details… So, Dennis if you happen to read this: Where are you big guy?

  4. Dennis | March 30, 2009 | 13:57 CET

    I’ll just do a C&P from wiki: The eight founding members of the ICC were Adobe, Agfa, Apple, Kodak, Microsoft, Silicon Graphics, Sun Microsystems, and Taligent.
    Since then several of the founding members have left, including Microsoft and Sun, and many other firms have become ICC members, including, as of January 2008, Canon, Fujitsu, Hewlett–Packard, and Lexmark.

    These are the corporate companies behind the color standards with the ICC tag.

    In Europe we have an aditional color standard made and controlled by the ECI (European Color Initiative). In 1996 it was setup up by the major companies in Germany for their reference and understanding. You know how Germans are.. we don’t accept and copy, we start from scratch and make it outselves new. I am also working in Germany as a Dutch person myself and I had to adjust also. For the better.

    So here in Germany we use an altered color system. Called FOGRA 27 and since the end of 2008 Germany has made the jump to an even more perfected color setup the new FOGRA 39. In plain terms: FOGRA 27 = ISOcoated_eci and FOGRA 39 = ISOcoatedv2_eci. This system is managed by FOGRA (in English GraphicsTechnologyResearchAssosiation) itself ( (English version included)). It’s a community where all printing agencies in Germany come together and set a standard.

    So in now in Germany we only use FOGRA 39 (ISOcoatedv2_eci). But not all companies know about the change.. there are those ofcourse that don’t read up on new technologies, colorsystems. And that is ofcourse a shame.

    So how does this work with CS3(2008 version) and CS4?
    Well I have a CS3(2007 version) and it still has the FOGRA 27(ISOcoated_eci). The company I worked for has a CS3(2008 version). In german language and there is indeed FOGRA 39 (ISOcoatedv2_eci) preflights in Acrobat and Bridge to set with the other software. This is good, but I can’t check if the English versions have this standard included or not. Other should check that for me.

    One other problem that evolves is updating your software with the latest preflights. I would like to download em from, but can’T find any. Making em myself is not the solution for the rest of the people that need it too. I am not certified and don’t have a BIG company name to back me up. So one of the ECI or ICC companies must come with this solution or else you can develop all you can want, but if we can’t upgrade the new standards, what use is this? Exporting and Importing preflights, does not work from a newer version to an older. Markething tactics from Adobe or they never thought of it and did not implement it into the softwarre. Tested it 4 times and did not work.

    Right.. hope this helps and if not, I’ll add some more information.

    The website link to ECI:

  5. Marco | March 30, 2009 | 14:02 CET

    I didn’t know that! Thanks for the good details Dennis!

  6. Calgary Printing Company | April 22, 2009 | 14:39 CET

    I am not really sure if best practices have emerged around things like that, but I am sure that your great job is clearly identified. I was wondering if you offer any subscription to your RSS feeds as I would be very interested and can’t find any link to subscribe here
    Calgary Printing Company

  7. Marco | April 22, 2009 | 16:09 CET

    Hi C.P.C. There is an RSS-feed link in the footer. Perhaps I should not have put it all the way down there… Or did the link not work for you? Anyway, here it is and thanks for reading!

    If you prefer Atom’s here it is:

  8. Photography templates | April 26, 2009 | 15:00 CET

    This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing websites that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. It’s the old what goes around comes around routine. Did you acquired lots of links and I see lots of trackbacks?
    Photography templates

  9. Dennis | April 26, 2009 | 19:53 CET

    Well there is an small update on the ISOcoatedv2_eci (FOGRA39). There is a 300% version to give a small but perfect difference between the 2 offset printing technics.

    ISO Coated v2_300%_eci (FOGRA39L) = Sheet-fed offset printing
    ISO Coated v2_eci (FOGRA39) = Web-fed litho offset printing (rolls of paper)

    need to confirm this if it is this way around. I get confused the same way with left and right.

  10. Marco | April 28, 2009 | 08:50 CET

    @ Photography templates: Thank you. It’s not just about links and trackbacks. It’s also a very ‘selfish’ project. This site helps me learn a great deal about my daily job. I get to meet very knowledgeable people and find out how they work and what their passion is (and why). This works best if you spread that knowledge around again.

  11. Web Development London | November 18, 2009 | 10:11 CET

    Nice post,

    I particularly like the ISO information that you have shared,

    Thanks for writing, most people don’t bother.

  12. Acai Berries | November 23, 2009 | 22:11 CET

    Thanks for the heads up! I have been using them for a while now.

  13. MySpace profile | November 27, 2009 | 04:58 CET

    I’ve tried calibrating my monitor’s colors and choosing one color profile after another but still too much of a difference. So when I preview my CMYK files they look weird. The whites are brown. Should I reset my white point? How can I fix this? I’m working on an intel mac with a flat panel lcd monitor.
    MySpace profile

  14. Marco | November 28, 2009 | 08:14 CET

    Have you used a true calibrating device like the very affordable Spyder 2 Pro?  After you used it you can select cmyk-profiles in InDesign or Photoshop to see what the artwork will look like. More info on the Spyder here:

  15. Mey | September 20, 2010 | 09:28 CET

    Hi Marco, I stumbled upon this page when I was struggling to carry my embedded icc profiles intact from designer to RIP through the workflow. I found the information in this page quite enlightening and I felt one would enhance knowledge by participating in this forum (pardon my ignorance but I assume this is a forum). Thank you all for taking your time to share what you know. If I dont need to redscover the wheel, then I can spend that time productively in knowing something new and useful. Thank you guys for your time.

    I have a question on what I said - carrying the icc profile through the workflow. We find that it slips in between and is lost when it comes out of Indesign. Can I post the query in the same thread or should I open a new thread.

    Many thanks

  16. Marco | September 20, 2010 | 18:36 CET

    Normally I’d say you can just add it to this topic, but your question is rather specific. I’ll send you an email.

  17. online printing | November 15, 2010 | 10:54 CET

    Great information. Thanks for this good details. But How, I can subscribe your blog Feed…

  18. tæpper hay | April 23, 2012 | 12:30 CET

    Just like somebody else pointed out what a wonderful blog this is. Usually I dont make an effort with a comment nevertheless for your effort and hard work you have earned.

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