Color Density and Saturation

YRGBK 3 – Color density and saturation

Getting the right amount of color density and saturation in a separation is one of the most important and challenging issues when reproducing an image in print. YRGBK 3 provides several options for adjusting the output of colors, and getting them working together makes all the difference.

Before running a separation it is important to set Photoshops dot gain preview to match your intended output. See the YRGBK quick start guide for more information.

There are actually four adjustments that can be made that will affect the color levels in a print when running YRGBK 3. Each adjustment plays a specific role, though the effects appear to overlap. In this tutorial I will discuss each setting and how it is used to calibrate an image for a particular print setup.

Color Density and Saturation Sliders

In the Settings tab there are two sliders which adjust the colors: Density and Saturation. in addition there is a checkbox labeled Auto.

color density and saturation sliders in YRGBK3• The Auto checkbox, which I will cover in a later tutorial, actually overrides all the color adjustments , so for now just leaving it unchecked is what we need.

• The Density Slider provides a global setting for all color density. This setting provides a Levels adjustment that is applied to all the color channels equally, and is used to increase the the values of the darkest pixels in the channel.

• The Saturation slider is also a global adjustment for all colors and is used to adjust the mid-tone values of each color channel. This can be used to adjust for dot gain or to compensate for changes made to the color density.

The two sliders can be used together to increase the amount of color printed in the most colorful areas of an image, while maintaining the proper amount of color in the mid-tones. Start by increasing the Density until the brightest colors are fully saturated, then reduce the saturation to bring the mid values back in line. This is helpful when printing graphics with bold, solid colors or when printing on textiles.

 For Screen printing it is helpful to set your channels darkest values to as close to 100% as the ink color will allow. This is especially true when reproducing art with solid areas of color. Using the Density and saturation sliders in this way allows adjustments to be made quickly and to be customized for each image.

Color Levels and Balance

In the Color tab there are sliders for adjusting each color individually, as well as a slider labeled Balance. These provide nearly the same function as the Density and Saturation sliders in the settings dialog but are better suited to calibrating the script overall rather then for a particular image.

Color levels and Balance sliders in Yrgbk 3• The Color Levels sliders adjust the density of each color channel individually. This can be helpful if a separation setting is generating too much or too little of a particular color. Adjustments made in the settings tab are added to the changes made in the color levels.

• The Balance slider adjusts the mid range values of the levels adjustment, similar to the saturation slider in the settings tab. This is helpful  with images which require greater control over middle color values and can be used to adjust for dot gain or for increased color levels settings.

In practice I will use the settings tabs Density and Saturation sliders for adjusting separations on the fly, while making adjustments to the color levels and Balance if I am creating a new color setting profile. Occasionally an image will need more or less of a particular color, often the Yellow, so I will use the Color levels to improve the separation.


These four sliders provide a lot of control over the output of a color separation but can have a profound effect over the results. The default settings have been carefully calibrated over a large range of images and are a good place to start. Making small, measured changes is the best approach. A change of 10% to 20% is often more then enough to produce the desired results. Remembering how the settings interact is also helpful when making adjustments to the color channels. In the video below I demonstrate the color adjustments made to create the poster separation settings used on the homepage video.

I hope you find this tutorial useful and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.