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Keys to Color Management

(May 2008) posted on Mon May 12, 2008

Twelve critical factors in implementing a successful color strategy.

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By Stephen Beals

Eight: Suppliers and Consultants

All of the sources interviewed for this article suggest asking a lot of questions of your suppliers and consultants. When considering a consultant, it’s important to find someone who knows the specific field you are in. The variables between producing prints for vehicle wraps, for instance, are significantly different than the environment for point-of-purchase displays.

Knowing the substrates, inks, weathering considerations, viewing conditions, and other factors can be critical when it comes to recommending instruments, software, and lighting for your shop’s color control.

Nine: Qualify your Consumables

Many print shops are cost driven, which is understandable. But low cost sometimes means inconsistency, and inconsistency in output will drive up your costs in many other ways. Evaluating the consumables in your shop can be an important part of color management as well as cost containment.

"In really tightly controlled environments, they are going to check each lot. Is it the same batch or not? Batches, even from the best suppliers, can vary significantly," says Summers. He reports that a number of his clients were having issues with the same model of printer; it turned out that even though this was a large manufacturer, a bad batch of ink had made it to market and all of their clients with that particular printer had the same problem. The manufacturer quickly replaced all of the bad batch.

Although it’s not always possible, a lot of time and effort can be saved by limiting the number of substrates you’re printing on, points out Hunter. He reminds us that, like inks, different batches of the same substrate can vary in color and ink reception.

Ten: The World has Gotten Smaller

Standards have helped shrink the variables that plague color-management implementation, but even though ICC is a standard, it is a "loose" standard. "There are ICC profiles and there are device-link profiles. Our customers use both and we support both," says Summers, but they are not the same.

What tools you use in implementing color management does make a difference, and generally speaking the more you pay, the better the tool. What it really means is that the math in generating profiles and tables has been more refined. In terms of measurement devices, it means better optics and more sensitive measurement readings.

Eleven: Special RIP Considerations