Colour Printing - made simpler...

Colour Printing - made simpler

Before (Condes 7) Now(Condes 8)
 colours-before.gif colours-after.gif

Colours on colour printouts is a widely discussed topic, and it is commonly agreed that it is hard to achieve the correct map colours.
Now there is help from Condes 8.

There are numerous ways that the colours can turn out with "undesired effects" when printing a map. The contours become reddish; the solid yellow becomes too faint; or it is difficult to distigush green and blue; etc.

Furthermore, colours differ from printer to printer - even for the same map - and may also vary on the same printer, depending on the level of ink in the cartridge, or the calibration of the printer.

How can we overcome this problem?

No easy way ? ...

Many experiments have been made. The most common approach to compensate for the colour variation is to experimentally modify the colour settings in the map file to best fit with the printer at hand. The method is trial and error, and it can be cumbersome and complex. The unwanted side effect is that you end up with a map file with non-standard colour settings, possibly modified several times to match different printers. This is not an ideal situation.

Ideally, we would like to get the correct colours on the printed map, and still leave the map file colours intact as standard settings. There might be help to find, since orienteers, who are printing orienteering maps, are not the only people, who have to deal with these colour issues.

The problem

[Skip to the next section for the solution].

Without going into any details (and without being scientifically concise), the basic problem is that colours have to be converted, not once, but twice.

The original colours in the map file are defined in the CMYK (Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-blacK) colour space, which is the natural colour space for a printer. However, Microsoft Windows handles colours in the RGB (Red-Green-Blue) colour space, which is the natural colour space for a computer monitor.

In order to handle the colours in Microsoft Windows, the program (Condes) first converts the colours from the CMYK colour space to the RGB colour space. This conversion is a bit tricky since there is not always a 1:1 relationship between colours in the two colour spaces.

This is where the problem lies. Condes 7, like other orienteering software, used a simple translation algorithm between CMYK and RGB colours.

When printing, the Windows printer driver converts the colours back to the CMYK colour space, since most printers use CMYK coloured ink/toner. This conversion is not a reversible process, so we may end up with a different CMYK value than the original colour in the map file.

The solution ...

Condes 8 uses a more "intelligent" conversion between CMYK and RGB colours, based on "colour management technology" (this is not the formally correct name).  This new feature has resulted in significantly improved colours on the screen, as shown above.

Condes 8 applies this colour technology even for printing. Some results are shown below.

Please note: This works only when the colours in the map file are kept as standard colours. If you have modified the colours in the map file to match the printer, then the new Condes conversion will produce wrong colours.  In this case, turn off the "colour management" when printing.


PRINTER (HP Color LaserJet)
Before (Condes 7) Now (Condes 8)
print-colors-before.jpg print-colors-after.jpg


PostScript printers

The above is true, unless you are using a PostScript printer.  If you do have a PostScript printer, you are in luck, because Condes has a built-in PostScript driver, which allows Condes to use the colours in the map file directly in the PostScript output to the pritner.  This means that colours do not have to be converted, and the original colours in the map file are also used by the printer.  The disadvantage with PostScript is that no overprint effect can be made without using specialised software.

However, PostScript capability is nowadays most often found only on professional printers. 


The colour management technology was introduced in Condes 8.0.7.  For rendering on the screen, using this feature is standard.  For printing, this feature was not enable as standard.  You could enable it via a setting in the File / "Standard Settings for This PC" menu.

The feedback from users was very favourable. So from version 8.1.6, the setting is "on" by default, also for printing.  You can still disable this feature - if you happen to have a map file whose colours have been modified.

Since the results may be different on different printers, there may still be room for improvement.  If you have any experience with this, I would very much like to hear your feedback.  See the contact information on the contact page.

A bit more technical background

The "intelligent" Condes colour conversion is based on "colour management" technology.

A lot of research in colour rendering has been done, the details of which are out of scope of this description.  However, a result of this research is the concept of describing each printer (and monitor etc) by a so-called "color profile", and describing the mathematical formulas necessary to transform colours from one colour profile to another and from one colour space to another.

Some time in the future this may well be the technology of choice for dealing with colour rendering.  Windows and other operating systems already have built-in technology to translate colours between colour spaces.  And some printers come with color profiles, but the majority of printers do not, and the technology is not well integrated.

So, there is not a fully finalised solution as yet.  Still, it is possible to utilise parts of this technology to achieve significantly improved colour rendering for orienteering maps.  Even if the results are not 100% perfect, the improvement is worthwhile.