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Reap the Rewards of Correct Color

(June 2014) posted on Wed Jun 11, 2014

Tips on color management and how to 'get it right' for your customer.

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By Jared Smith

We use our same spectrophotometer to also calibrate all of the monitors in our shop, to get our entire workflow calibrated. It only takes about 10 minutes per monitor and the process is almost entirely automated. While you are making the rounds, this is also the time to make sure all design applications, such as Adobe Creative Suite products, are all using the same color space (we use GRACol). This will be key when doing your calibration work down the line.

Once you have calibrated monitors on workstations using the same color space, and you’re sending files to a frequently linearized and gray-balanced printer, it’s now time to consider the actual media you’re printing on.

Unless you’re always using the same media – which is doubtful – you need to finish setting up or profiling the numerous media you utilize. Using the built-in capabilities of your RIP, follow the process to set ink limits and build an ICC Profile for this media. These steps help tweak the output-color values based on the inconsistent nature of various media. Keep in mind that different media generally differ in saturation, sheen, behaviors, and even how white they are. The process of setting ink limits and building ICC profiles makes adjustments based on these attributes, so your device can output neutrally and accurately on every profiled media or substrate.

It’s vital to complete these steps for each media you intend to print on. I have seen companies get amazing color on a particular media after getting their workflow gray-balanced – only to stop early and not set ink limits and build ICC Profiles. This will cause problems almost immediately when you change media. Do yourself a favor and complete all the steps in the process and don’t celebrate early. As with any process, if you skip a step you’ll inevitably get unpredictable results.

Note: I also recommend doing a little homework to understand spot-color libraries as well. The spot-color-replacement tools in your RIP are another vital step to producing accurate color, and we’ll tackle this topic in an upcoming column.

Color for profit
Color-management is important – not only because your clients would like their output to look nice, but for a variety of other reasons as well. Reprints are costly and time consuming. Your customer will only stand for so many re-dos. Your P&L statement will also only stand for so many re-dos.

We are in the business of color for profit. I encourage you to get interested and get it right. If you have to, don’t hesitate to bring in an outside consulting firm to help. You can send someone from your company for G7 training and certification. There are a few ways to get it right and reap the rewards, but there are many ways to get it wrong and pay the price.