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The Money of Color

(September 2010) posted on Mon Aug 30, 2010

Getting the best color for your money.

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By Jared Smith

Environment issue: Here in Arizona, we actually have to add humidity to our print environment to ensure consistency in the way the ink and media behave. Typically, this is done to make sure the printheads are not drying up too fast. But making sure the media is not too dry is a major factor as well. A dry environment can cause static, which can cause all sorts of issues in the print process. I suspect the opposite problem also must be true in incredibly humid environments.

Data issue: If you have all the physical conditions correct but the actual digital print information being sent to the printer is not correct, it will be impossible to achieve the correct color. There are many areas to get under control here, from spot color libraries in the RIP and the color space in which your design team is working, to the type of file being sent to the RIP (RGB vs. CMYK, or TIFF vs. EPS vs. PDF). Compatibility and consistency in color space and software are extremely important factors here.

Ink issue: This is typically the least common issue because most companies use a reputable ink manufacturer. Still, inks can contain issues too, such as a lot with a bad mixture, or inks that have expired.

Electronic issue: Another seldom considered area that needs to be correct is the electronics involved, such as controller boards and even the actual computers used to RIP and print. It is possible that part of this electronics system can fail in such a way where you can still print, just not very well. Brand new printheads controlled by a partially failed board can give you output results that, while interesting, are not accurate.

Finding solutions
So now that we’re familiar with the most common reasons color can go wrong, let’s discuss how to avoid and/or solve those areas of concern.

I cannot stress how important and financially vital it is to have a great color-management system in place. Unless you have that expert already in-house, I highly recommend that you do your research and hire an outside expert to come into your facility and do two things: First get your color right; and, second, train you and your staff how to keep it there.