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Controlling Color

(January 2011) posted on Wed Jan 12, 2011

New developments in color-management tools, technologies, and standards.

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By Stephen Beals

If you think there’s nothing new in the area of color management, think again. Researchers and vendors continue to be hard at work developing new products, standards, and technologies to get color under control. In some respects, the idea of attaining perfect color control is an unattainable goal: Color, after all, will always be somewhat subjective, as we know every human eye sees color a bit differently. Nevertheless, new measurement tools, calibration hardware, profiling software, and some agreements on color standards have come a long way to giving print providers control over their color output.

Print shops utilizing wide-format technologies have long been constrained by other print media’s lower gamut capabilities. But the industry has seen a rapid increase in Web and cross-media production in addition to the lengthening of print’s color gamut. Increased color capabilities resulting from new inks (including ink models beyond the traditional CMYK gamuts) and ultra-bright papers for offset devices, plus the increased capabilities of some digital-imaging devices, have brought new demands on the industry. In many cases, the limitations of the old SWOP color gamut no longer apply. Customers are looking for more “pop,” more saturation, and more contrast in their wide-format output and are inclined to look at what they see on flat panel screens as the color standard to shoot for. The internationalization of print is also a factor in the requirement for a broader and more universal approach to color management.

Are you up to date on the new options that are available to you when it comes to color management? The list that follows includes some of the advances that have been made in the past 12 months or so (keep an eye on this magazine’s “R&D” section for newly introduced color-management technologies throughout the year). For the sake of convenience, I’ve grouped tools and technologies into three distinct categories: software, standards and training, and hardware and targets.