Once upon a time, color management consisted of a skilled eye and a talent for consistency. With today’s digital technology, high volume runs and repeat orders, color management has evolved into being a high tech work of art. However, color management is no longer a job solely for the prepress people or the back of the house; it is the responsibility for all to ensure that color is and remains constant throughout each run, regardless of substrate or volume. Process control has become more important than ever to ensure high quality and color accuracy. Our experts weigh in on the importance of color management.
The Evolution of Color Management
“In general, the increasing use of standardization has helped to make color management more practical,” says David Harris, Esko product manager for RIPs and color. “Of course, color management has been around for years, but the main stumbling block was that operators needed information, couldn’t find it, and gave up. Now, with scientific color management, consistent color is more practical.”
“The biggest change we’ve seen among our users is in the understanding that color management alone is not adequate to ensure consistent results,” says Christopher Brown, engineering manager of the advanced engineering group at Mutoh America. “Color management, to be effective, must be coupled with real-time process control. Without a process control solution in place to monitor variability in ink, media, environment, operator, and printer, even the best color management practices can be ineffective. A color profile you make today, regardless of the software and instrument you use to create it, may be worthless if there is any variation in your ink, media, environment, or equipment over time, or in how your personnel operate the equipment. Process control is how you better ensure consistency across multiple machines, in multiple shops, operated by multiple people. Even a single shop with a single operator and a single machine, needs a good process control solution to ensure consistent quality over time.”
Wolfgang Passler, international sales and marketing manager at Barbieri Electronic, agrees. “Color management in the past was just for experts and gurus. It was always offline using stand-alone software, and ICC profiles had to be applied to the single images (i.e. in Photoshop),” says Passler. “Today it is a must to achieve color true outputs. It takes part of the whole printing workflow. Most RIP software already has the color engine build-in and drive the measuring devices directly. They drive the operator through the whole process, which makes it easy to apply color management.”
Frederic Soulier, chief technical officer at Caldera, says, “Color management is now real/true quality factor, after inkjet drop size, resolution, system accuracy, or screening algorithms. Today, this is clearly the main quality criteria involved in the whole print workflow: prepress, RIP software, and even the printer itself have to take care of color management.”
Increasing Efficiency Through Innovation
If the entire workflow is a vital part of creating consistent color management, the innovations in hardware and software play an increasingly important part in achieving the desired levels of management.
“One of the more recent software innovations has been access to standard information via software. For example, Pantone Live is an innovation that makes color management access easier by offering digital color information available from the Cloud,” states Harris.
“In the past you needed a Pantone book to refer to the colors you needed. Now, all the designer has to do is to download the ink profiles from a Web browser. These include the spot colors that address specific needs from the brand owner. More important, the spot color profiles are actual full spectrum readings for each color as it was printed. And, these colors are organized by substrate and print process. If the designer can select the material and process, it is easy to see how it will print.”