Fortunately, she added, for every advance on the production side of the ledger, an equal number of gains have been achieved on the prepress side.
In approaching color management, print providers should start with several basics, including spot color matching, monitor-to-print match, proof-to-print match, and the ability to match color across multiple printers, Elliott said.
“They want to be calibrating monitors, linearizing their proofing machines and printers, and should be creating what are called color profiles. You can just calibrate your display so the color on your monitor is good, then get into relatively low cost packages that combine spectrophotometers and profiling software.”
Those packages permit users to define color profiles for their proofing machines and printers that allow them to better control and predict the output from their printers, Elliott said. And the cost is increasingly affordable.
There are, for instance, colorimeters with prices starting at $99, and spectrophotometer packages that begin at $499 and go as high as $1,600. As their needs grow, providers can automate these systems, adding components that allow for greater automation of their prepress functions, Elliott reported.
The software chosen should be easy to use in building and creating media profiles, including the ICC, Derhak said. It should also offer flexibility and control to enable settings to be modified for more advanced users, he added.
“The only way to achieve highly accurate color management is to have a unique profile for each printing condition, which includes calibrations and ICC profiles for individual ink and media combinations,” Derhak said.
Peter Supry, president of ErgoSoft US, the Nashua, NH-based North American marketing arm of its Swiss-based parent of the same name, which supplies the RIP software to support vertical printing and also created its own ICC profile creation software, also sees profile creation becoming simpler.
“Ten years ago, it was a very difficult process to make profiles for digital printing,” he added. “The software was very embryonic at the time, and was considered by many to be black magic or voodoo. In today’s world the process of building these profiles is quite simple. Basically, to create a profile for hardware requires a spectrophotometer, which in 1999 was between $2,000 and $8,000. Today, a spectro will start at just around $499.”
The biggest change in color management has been an increasing awareness of the need to manage color, and an awareness of the ability to do so, Summers said. “What has really changed is people used to go into PhotoShop, edit the heck out of the files to get the color correct, and that’s not the way to do it. People have said, ‘We know there’s an issue, we know there are tools, and there are different ways to go at the process correctly.’”
The Key is Understanding
Like the others, Supry feels that color management is increasingly essential in today’s marketplace. “Color consistency and accuracy are things everyone wants to have,” he said. “They need to have the colors accurate to what the original color is. And they need the consistency so three months down the line, they’re getting the same color they did on day one. But there are a whole host of variables that can interfere, including the temperature and the pressure of the heat press, the relative humidity in the room, and where the paper was stored.”
It would be great if obtaining the right hardware and software was the only thing necessary to get a firm grip on color management. But that’s not the case, Supry noted. He believes the terms “ICC profiles” and “color management” have become buzzwords too many in the industry do not fully understand.
“Many people feel, ‘I just built a profile for my printer and my medium, and everything will work smoothly,’” he said. “But these ICC profiles are nothing more than tools, and if you don’t know how to use them, it ain’t going to work. If I buy an $8,000 digital camera and begin complaining to my photographer clients that my shots look like heck, they’re going to remind me that just because I bought an $8,000 camera, that doesn’t make me a photographer.”