Here's why RGB will finally win the day.
Of course, there are situations where getting the optimum output for any device is not the goal. Instead, the goal may be consistently matching output over a wide variety of devices. For example, for an advertising campaign, it might be critical for an assortment of materials to match in color. That is, what people see on the Web must match the web-offset printed brochures, which must then match the P-O-P signage produced on wide-format inkjets. In such cases, the device with the smallest color gamut is the limiting factor (in this case, the web press).
Another concern in working with an RGB workflow is the level of expertise in color management that’s required of both the designer and production process. There is still a knowledge gap when it comes to color expertise, and there are a lot of workflows with limited color-management capabilities. It is not a simple process to create color profiles for an output device. And there are choices that must be made. Many companies seek to match all of their devices to each other, sacrificing the output capabilities of each individual printer in favor of overall consistency.
In addition, there’s the challenge of getting designers on board. Many designers already prefer RGB-typically, they like the wider color gamut that’s available in RGB images. Yet many do not understand that the print provider must convert the images they see on their monitors at some point, and that final output on any printing device will not match the RGB image.
If print providers output to a wide variety of print devices and allow each to print at their maximum capabilities, it can be a real problem to try to show the designer what the final printed files will look like. It’s certainly possible to provide profiles to your designers for each device-but do you really want your clients to be picking which device their file is imaged on? In addition, there’s the issue of monitor calibration; it’s typically all but impossible for a print provider to know if its clients are calibrating their monitors on a regular basis.
So which will it be?
Yes, an RGB workflow makes sense on many levels: It offers the very best control of output, maintains flexibility in the use of images, and allows for repurposing without losing any data. But to answer the broader question as to whether an RGB imaging workflow is better, managers must deal with all of the potential problems that can come into play.
In my experience, advocates of CMYK are still a major force, but their argument will continue to carry less and less weight as color-management systems become increasingly prevalent and easier to use. When RGB does finally win the day, which it will, it will happen be because it simply works better.
Stephen Beals (firstname.lastname@example.org), in prepress production for more than 30 years, is the digital prepress manager with Finger Lakes Press in Auburn, NY.