There's an old saying, "Knowing what to do and how to do it are two different things."
Color management runs the gamut (no pun intended) from understanding color theory and working with applications and profiles to calibrating equipment—all in the effort to get consistent results. A successful strategy is to implement good processes and streamline your workflow to automate color management settings.
Easier said than done, right?
There are three things you need to do to keep your printing profitable:
- Know where your files come from (or convert them as needed)
- Use proper profiles for your printing needs (or pro file as needed)
- Calibrate your devices
These tactics ensure client satisfaction, repeat business, and a more profitable printing operation. The trick is not to get overwhelmed with information and focus on the tips that will help you in your printing environment.
Go to the Source
When you meet someone new for the first time, you usually ask "What's your name?" "Where do you come from?" or "What do you do for a living?" Knowing this information allows us gauge the person and helps build a successful relationship. On that same note, when you first open a customer file, wouldn't you want to know its background, too? Start at the source and find out "Where did the file come from?"
Ask your customer what program created the file or if there are any embedded profiles. These source profiles reference the color space of the device (graphic application, camera, scanner, etc.) that created the file. It is also called the reference or input profile.
Sometimes when you're dealing with a customer file, the color management specifications are unknown. It's easier to control these settings if you have an in-house designer creating your graphics or pre-press operator who has the time to check the file before wasting consumables. Most of the graphic applications allow you to control these color settings as your working space (see the Graphic Applications > Color Settings or Save As Settings).
Involving the customer early is the best preventative measure to help set color expectations and workflow processes. There is no "best" source profile; the best one to use is usually a regional preference or one that meets a specific proofing objective. Either way, be consistent and you'll close the gap on knowing what color management setting to use.
Print Using the Right Profile
Color management is all about controlling the variables. Regardless of the RIP you use, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the color management settings. These include setting up your input/output profiles and rendering intents. Some workflow options include using the defaults, changing the setting to meet your needs, and using embedded profiles. You can also make specific changes on a per-job basis manually or create custom Quick Sets to automatically apply the same color management settings for all incoming jobs.
Start by making sure you're using the best possible media/mode for the job. For example, if you're using ONYX software, when you select the media/mode in your Quick Set, you automatically enable the default ICC output profile for your media. The ICC created especially for this printer/ink/media/mode set-up is used every time you print with this Quick Set. You'll want to make sure you match the product names/numbers exactly for best results.
In your Quick Set you can also change the input profiles to match your graphic application. Fortunately, ONYX software version 7 uses the same North American General Purpose default profiles as the Adobe Creative Suite. You can make color management changes if your file originates from another region because color perception is different around the world. You can also enable the embedded profiles option if the files come from different devices.