Tips on color management and how to 'get it right' for your customer.
By Jared Smith
Now, many of you have had customers that supply a color proof (sometimes referred to as a “match print”) of some type with their file from time to time. Typically a scaled-down output on high-gloss photo paper, this “actual output” was printed to show the client what their file should look like before they provide you with the files. It’s important, though, to stress that outputs like this should come from either a service bureau or a highly calibrated in-house proofing printer. These color proofs should always contain a control wedge designed to give you the ability to verify that the print was indeed accurate by scanning it in and reading the results.
Being like Switzerland
The next key concept we need to address is “neutral printing.” One way I like to explain neutral printing involves spotlights with colored gel lenses. We’ve all been to a play or concert and seen the lighting in the ceiling that has the colored films placed in front of the lights. Typically red, green, or blue, these modified lights cast this color onto the performance for effect. But while a stage with a blue-themed lighting is very cool for a guitar solo, a blue cast is definitely not what we’re seeking in the print world.
Neutral printing means there is no cast of unwanted color. Alas, since there is no such thing as a perfect match or a perfect printing process, all workflows inherently pick up and cast some kind of “extra” color along the way. This extra color needs to be identified and removed. Once that happens, your device will be printing neutrally – free of any color cast.
In the world of color management, you’ll hear a lot of folks talk about the color gray. That’s because gray is one of the easiest colors to detect a color cast in – and it’s also the most difficult color to print using process printing (whether we’re talking 4-, 6-, or 8-color). Gray is easily affected by too much or not enough of any color, whereas blue or red is not so easily affected. For example, add an extra few drops of cyan in a bucket of light-gray ink and you now have a blue-ish gray bucket of ink; put those same extra drops of cyan in a dark blue bucket of ink and you can barely notice the difference.