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Implementing Color Management in Tough Times

(March 2009) posted on Mon Mar 16, 2009

Tips to ensure color quality even when there's not much money to spare.

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By Stephen Beals

Chromix’s Maxwell is a different subscription service based on a central Web-enabled color repository that allows users to upload and download profiles, color measurements, and other color data files-at any time and from any place. Maxwell also offers device trending, color profiling, profile sharing, and measurement services. The service is really more designed to maintain your CM system than to initiate a CM solution, although Chromix sells products and services for that too. Maxwell's Tracks allow users to monitor devices, pass/fail prints and proofs, and set up a print-performance program for vendors. DisplayWatch automatically tracks calibrated monitors and warns when they no longer meet tolerances or calibration is neglected. Widgets for OSX, Vista, and Apple's iPhone make access easy, and Notifiers alert color managers when something's not right. Maxwell even tracks environment variables such as temperature, humidity, and light booth output.

In essence, Maxwell allows the CM system to be continually monitored and kept up-to-date, a common failing of many CM implementations. It allows customers and print providers direct feedback and control of the CM system and tracks operators to be sure every part of the system is kept calibrated on a regular basis.

Color servers
Some vendors are even developing hybrid CM solutions to provide both on-site and off-site capabilities. Or they are providing server-based models whereby companies with multiple sites can have one location where all of the numbers are crunched and profiles written, and other locations can access the servers and input their data remotely.

Profiles are kept on the server and downloaded from any remote location as needed. In some cases, customers are allowed access to profiles so they can upload their files with the proper profiles already loaded. They can also track the calibration of all of their monitors and output devices. This allows both the customer and the printer to verify they are using correct profiles and all of the input and output devices have been regularly calibrated. Harlequin’s Plus Server RIP 8 and ColorGate’s ProductionServer4 are examples of this approach.

The 'wrong' solution
Clearly the number of alternatives for handling CM has increased significantly in the past few years, and the approach to CM has changed dramatically. The different approaches are particularly well suited to specific printing environments, so what’s best for one company may very well not be what’s best for another. Examining your own needs and workflow and the level of technical expertise available from your employees is the first step to determining which of these solutions fits your own needs.

One thing is certain: Color management is easier and more cost effective today than it has ever been. With all of the different approaches available, the only "wrong" solution is not implementing color management.

Based in Seneca Falls, New York, Stephen Beals is a prepress veteran and our regular Digital Workflow columnist.