The Role of Accurate Color Reproduction in Printing Your Art Book

In the world of art book printing, every stroke, shade, and hue holds significance.

For artists and photographers, and really anyone looking to produce a high end art book, ensuring that the colors envisioned are accurately reproduced in the final printed product is paramount. Let’s delve into the art and science behind achieving accurate color reproduction in printing an art book.

Understanding the Color Journey

The color journey begins at the artist’s canvas and at the photographer’s eye. Translating this vision into print requires precision and expertise. This begins with a solid understanding of color profiles like RGB and CMYK. (RGB is used for digital screens, while CMYK is the standard for printing.) Converting colors accurately between these two color protocols is crucial. High-quality scanning and photography are fundamental for art books containing reproductions of physical artwork, capturing the nuances of color, texture, and shading.

The Role of Press Calibration

Calibration is an exacting process that adjusts ink levels, color density, and other variables to match a standardized reference. Many factors affect how a press is calibrated. Paper selection for example significantly impacts color reproduction. As such, we work hand-in-hand with our clients to choose the right paper, both in terms of weight, brightness, and opacity, but also in how the presses are calibrated to work with that paper.


The proofing stage is a critical step, where you will review physical proofs to ensure colors align with your expectations. Open communication establishes clear expectations, providing color references, and sharing insights into your artistic intent.

Technological advances play a pivotal role in this process. Digital color management tools aid in achieving consistency across print runs by monitoring and adjusting color output in real-time. The Pantone Matching System (PMS) is another tool for precise color matching, especially for brand-specific colors.

Collaborating Together

In printing a high end art book, accurate color reproduction is a collaborative endeavor that merges your artistic vision with our technological finesse. The result is more than just a book – it’s the potential for producing a true masterpiece, one that authentically captures your vision.

In the world of art book printing, every color tells a story. The journey from artist to print is an arduous and complex one, requiring technical expertise, open communication, and a shared commitment to excellence. It’s our responsibility to ensure that the colors envisioned in the artist’s mind become a vibrant reality on the printed page.

Those Marvelous Marbled End Papers

End papers (also called end sheets or end leafs) are the leaves at the front and back of a hard cover book. They are pasted to the inside of the cover boards and the first leaf of the interior to secure the binding.

At ArtBook Printing we believe printed endpapers to be the finishing touch of a coffee table book. We include printed end papers in the base price for the printing of your book. You can select any color that compliments the book. Read more

Is China the Best Place to Print Art Books? You’ll be Surprised to Learn Why

We answer that question with a resounding yes, and here’s why:

Many people suspect that we print and bind books in China because of cheap labor. While it is true that labor rates are generally lower than in the US, this is not the main reason. In fact, master pressmen earn wages competitive to their US counterparts. Paper and equipment costs in Asia are similar to those in the US. Of course, international container freight adds a lot to the overall cost of printing an art book offshore.

Why then is China the best art book printing location? Here are the main reasons.


As printing evolved in the 20th Century, US printers invested in large presses capable of producing long runs. Large magazines and catalogs, newspaper inserts and massive direct mail campaigns are still the staple of commercial printers in the US.

To be an art book printer requires massive investment in highly specialized equipment. It is truly a specialty. To print a coffee table book, US publishers traditionally worked with printers in Italy and Spain. However today, the best quality art book printing is done in China, Singapore and South Korea.

Latest Technology Reduces Cost

We require a press that can print perfect registration and delivers consistent color on every sheet. New technology offers many improvements in these areas. In the US, the average offset printing press is 15 years old. We print art books on presses that are on average less than four years old. Because art book printing typically means short runs and high page count, the capability to change plates very quickly is of crucial importance. Only a few decades ago it would take two hours and 500 sheets of paper to change from one signature (typically 16 pages) to the next. Today, a modern Komori press is capable of changing plates in just a few minutes with 50 or fewer sheets wasted. Considering that a 96 page book in 9” x 12” requires twelve such plate changes (48 total plates), it is easy to see how such a press has a distinct advantage. In addition, while the older presses require no less than three operators (five workers in union shops), the presses now being installed in Asia can be run by one press operator and one assistant.

From Pre-press to Bindery, All Under One Roof

Our partners have sophisticated pre-press departments that make accurate proofs and book prototypes. The ability to print and bind under one roof also offers significant advantages in the area of quality control. The Asian plants we represent are exclusively specialized in printing and binding the highest quality art books – it’s all they do. The cost advantage and superior quality make it a clear choice if you are looking to produce a coffee table book fit for a museum store.

The World is Smaller

It’s true that printing a full color coffee table book or exhibition catalog in Asia is not without challenges. Language, time, currency and cultural barriers stand between the US publisher and the promise of top quality book printing. And international shipping means understanding import/export logistics, ocean containers and US Customs. Clearly, this is a leg of your art book printing journey you do not want to travel alone. We have worked with our Asian partners for many years with excellent results. As part of our US representation of their plants, we have agreed on complete but rather complex purchase orders and financial arrangements that address the interests of all parties.

Production of High Quality Books Take Less Time

It comes as a pleasant surprise that the actual production of hard cover art books in China actually takes less time than in the US. It is one of other advantages found in working with an Asian book printing company that is 100% dedicated to the production of ultra high-end coffee table books. When every part of the book is made under one roof, production can flow very rapidly from proofs to press to hard cover case making.

Time management 

Good planning means allowing plenty of time for careful proofing, production and shipment of your precious cargo. But, if needed, we can produce a complex art book printing project quickly and efficiently, even though our customer and our printing plant are up to 8000 miles and twelve time zones apart. We can arrange for shipping of books via FedEx, but this is expensive. However, in the greater scheme of things, it is entirely feasible to send a small quantity of books via airfreight for a special event such as an exhibition opening.

Click here for a no-obligation quotation and samples.

Making your Art Book Look More “Expensive”

“Expensive-looking” art book production is a desired quality. It means your customers are willing to pay a premium for your book. There are several high-end features that cost significantly less than the value they add to your book project. Here is a partial list of ideas that we recommend to create high quality book printing:

Hard cover

A hard cover binding is the most obvious example of a moderate increase in investment with a large return.

Page dimensions

It is not always true that a larger page size adds proportional value to a book. We produce small books (7”x 9” and smaller) that are truly exquisite. However, if your art demands a large-scale presentation, it is good to explore larger sizes. Ask us to address different sizes in your proposal. You may be surprised to learn that a larger page size does not always translate into a larger budget!

Printed endsheets

Plain white end sheets, while common, are uninspiring. In contrast, a colored end sheet says “timeless elegance”. We can match any Pantone color to compliment the book design. Most often we print a solid color wash, but you can print any pattern or halftone. Simulating marbled endpaper can be very effective in both traditional and modern layout.

Ribbon marker

Allow your collectors to enjoy the art in your book over several sittings to avoid sensory overload! Ribbon markers, which are available in many colors, are probably the most overlooked option in art books but for the low investment of $.15 – $.18 they are a wonderful addition.

Transparent fly sheet

A transparent flysheet screams “deluxe”.  Usually placed between the end sheet and page one of the interior, a flysheet can be blank or printed in one, two or four colors. If carefully designed, a flysheet can elevate the design to a whole new level.

French flaps and french folds

French folds (for a hardcover jacket) and French flaps (for a soft cover) add a distinct touch of quality and care to a cover or jacket at a very reasonable cost.

Please visit our portfolio to see examples of these options. If you have ideas not listed here, please contact us!

A Delicate Balance

Producing art books is our business and our passion. For our typical client, art is their passion, but it is also their business.

“A delicate balance” is probably what best describes our approach to a new project. On one hand, our clients demand that their book reflects the unique beauty of their art. Just as it is near impossible to put a rational price tag on art, a great art book entails infinitely more than ink and paper. On the other hand, as connoisseurs of the art of bookmaking, our priority must be to find the absolute highest value for each dollar invested. Before we present a budget, each enhancement is carefully discussed, quoted and cataloged to make an educated, tight budget for a wise investment.

An art book publisher who is strictly shopping for the cheapest price is generally not a good match for ArtBook Printing. Yet, our clients have to be secure in knowing we have found the very best price for each ingredient in their book.

From the graphic designers to the managing director, everyone at ArtBook Printing thoroughly understands print manufacturing. We are masters at sourcing premium quality at the lowest price and we always contract direct with manufacturers who have proven to meet our standards.

As the talent of a fine artist blossoms and their skills mature, the demand on their tools naturally increase. Only specific brands of quality brushes, paints and canvasses are allowed in their studio. At ArtBook Printing, it is no different. We have identified certain papers and processes that meet the needs of the most judicious clients, both from a quality and cost perspective. We create value by combining these quality materials with manufacturing efficiencies to give us a distinct cost advantage.

Significant purchasing power, skillful selection of available resources and a truly artistic approach greatly benefit our clients, but there is no room for shortcuts or compromise when it comes to the art of producing an art book.

Our “Ten Commandments” of Art Book Design

Designing an art book is like hanging an exhibition. Nothing is left to chance.

In modern graphic design, as in modern art, rules are made to be broken. Creativity cannot be stymied by archaic ‘dos and donts’. But the rules (like the tools and media) must be mastered before they can be challenged creatively and effectively. For example, Michelangelo had a better understanding of human anatomy than most medical doctors do!

Design of an art book is entirely different from publication or advertising graphic design. The principles summarized below did not come from a college textbook. They were distilled from actual comments from our clients whose vision we helped make reality.

  1. The design never competes for attention with the featured art. It must only compliment it.
  2. For the art to speak, we force the text to step backwards. Using grey text instead of black generally helps create an elegant environment for the images.
  3. We avoid exuberant fonts. Page numbers, headers and footers must be unobtrusive or absent. Type does not run over images.
  4. We want every page spread to be a new experience, building on the previous spread and inviting the reader to discover treasures waiting on the following spread.
  5. We respect white space. It is a critical design element.
  6. We generally do not place more than one art image per page and sometimes just one image per spread. We often see too many works featured in a book.
  7. We do not bleed art images across the fold or off the edge of the page, unless such image is used as a section intro or a detail close-up.
  8. We do not crop images unless specifically requested by the client.
  9. We do not date images if the art is by a living, active artist.
  10. We make sure our design is error-free and truly print-ready.

Once these rules are diligently applied, it is time for creativity to be unleashed!

What Is the Best Size for an Art Book?

ArtBook Printing finds great economy by limiting the options for the various “ingredients” of a book. For example, we offer five high quality interior paper choices and three hard cover board calipers. We do not offer a standard size for a coffee table book. We can make any size!

“Size” is expressed first by the dimensions of the text pages, not the dimensions of the cover. For example, a 6” x 9” book has a page size of 6” wide by 9” tall. If the book has a hard cover, the physical size of the book will be larger due to the cover overhang.
Orientation can be portrait, landscape or square. The decision to make a book portrait or landscape is usually determined by the orientation of the art that is featured.
In printer lingo, the horizontal dimension is always listed first, followed by the vertical dimension, as you would hold the book to read the text. A 10” x 8” indicates a landscape format and 8” x 10” a portrait format. If economy is an issue, it is best to use a standard size, such as 8.5” x 11”, 9” x 12”, 11” x 11” or 12” x 12”.

In Asia, paper is custom cut for each book, giving us a larger range of options. A half-inch larger or smaller is easy to do. However, most printing presses for full color book printing allow for maximum size of 28” x 40”, with a “live” area of 26” x 39”. This is why the preferred page count in a book is either a multiple of 8 (for landscape and portrait) and a multiple of 12 (for a square book).

A book is a three-dimensional object. Thickness, the third dimension, is a very important consideration. Naturally, the number of pages is the most important determining factor, but the caliper of the paper makes a large impact. 157gsm (100#) paper is our standard, but stepping up to 180 gsm or 200 gsm can give a book with lower page count a boost in perceived value at a relatively small extra investment.

We are happy to explore several sizes and formats to determine the best size for your book during the quote process. Then, when your preference is locked in, we provide you with a complete paper dummy to those specs so you can touch and feel the exact book before you commit to production.