However, despite this amazing technology, we often don’t make full use of what’s available.
Why colour management?
Colour is the most important aspect of digital imaging. Having the best and fastest imaging devices does not guarantee faithful production. Each device, ink and media combination renders colour differently. To capitalise fully on a digital imaging investment requires a reliable method of calibration and colour control throughout the entire process. Manufacturers rarely utilise the colour management architecture of the operating system to the full. Training and education on how to use the correct tools is the best approach to resolving colour miscommunication.
Colour management is about bridging the reality gap between specialised print production and digital file origination. Good colour management is about printing the correct colours without trial and error and without unexpected surprises. It means printing on various machines with various materials and getting the same colour.
In the past, colour management hasn’t been a priority for large-format print producers and sign makers. These processes have worked independently of other forms of print. However, as technology has evolved, everything is becoming integrated (eg litho, screen and digital printing). Additionally, customers have become more educated and expect uniformity between the different print platforms.
Most people think colour management is complicated but really it’s quite simple, thanks to off-the-shelf software such as Adobe Photoshop and Corel Draw. And with standard Mac and PC operating systems, all RIP functions today have a colour management module built in.
As new systems, software and hardware are released, more colour management features are being integrated to enhance utilisation and make life easier (eg HP Designjet printers with built-in spectrophotometer), but it’s still quite challenging for those who don’t understand the basics.
Colour management is nothing more than a means to better understanding the tools used to reproduce colour consistently and accurately. It allows printers to manage colour by quantifying the colour reproduction qualities of their devices, everything from the monitor to the press. Printers can produce amazing matches to customer-supplied artwork and visually proof how the job will look before sending it to the press. And the same job can be reprinted months later with colour as accurate as the first time around.
Most companies invest in new technologies because they believe it will speed production. Printers, computer workstations and other devices that promise to get the work out of the door more quickly are easy investments to justify because they are tangible.
But rarely do managers look beyond the devices themselves to the intangible items that determine how efficiently jobs really move through production. If managers had reports that showed how long it took to fix up jobs in progress and how frequently reprints are required, they would gain a much better sense of the daily waste of both materials and labour that can’t be remedied simply by purchasing a new press.
The products and knowledge that can best help printing companies better manage colour are often overlooked, which is ironic because colour is arguably one of the most important elements of any print job.
The design may be the vehicle that conveys the message but the colour dramatically influences the viewer and is often a source of customer dissatisfaction. Problems often occur when colour is not communicated between the print service provider and the customer, but it goes much deeper than that. Printing companies often lack the knowledge and tools to reproduce colour consistently.
[Ed’s Note: Ed’s note: In a forthcoming issue of PPM, Navin Jeewanlall will discuss different approaches, software and hardware to help printers better understand and manage colour in their day-to-day workflows.]