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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

Profiled media: A media profile is a set of instructions and data points derived from analyzing the media. These instructions tell the RIP software what adjustments to make to the provided file to ensure accurate color on this particular media. Because this is very complex (and easy to get wrong), it’s probably where outside help will be the most vital. You will need a spectrophotometer to read in the color outputs you create, and it can be frustrating if it’s not something you’re familiar with. As I said earlier, a good consultant in this area should have no issue coming in to your shop, building a few profiles as you watch, then showing you how to do it yourself, while watching you make your first successful media profile. Another route to go is to send the appropriate person or team to get this training off site. If you are going to embark on getting your color-management system right once and for all, I highly recommend looking into getting your shop G7-compliant.

Monitor calibration: This is not vital, but it’s a good idea to calibrate your monitor(s) at least once a year. The same equipment you buy to read your color outputs when building media profiles usually also has the ability to calibrate. You basically hang the device so it rests flat on your screen and watch varying colors flash as it calibrates your monitor. Depending on the size of your shop, it usually only takes an hour or two to calibrate every monitor you have.

Linearize: Linearization is the step that allows you to tell your RIP software how well your media profiles are performing. It’s a way to identify any changes in color output since the last time you linearized and to make small adjustments to specific media. There are many reasons you should re-linearize, and this will move the color back to accurate levels. The process is similar to building a media profile, but requires fewer steps. In most cases, it only entails outputting and reading a few color outputs to get back on track. Our shop now does this as often as daily on some media, though most are done weekly.

• Maintenance: While printer manufacturers usually do a great job of telling us each and every step to properly maintain a machine, most shops typically do a horrible job of taking those steps and implementing a system to ensure they are all completed correctly and with the right frequency. Then we wonder why something broke, something clogged, and why the color just does not look right. I see shops do a better job of maintaining their company lawnmower than their printers! Grab those manuals, speak to your techs, and get this system in place. Here at bluemedia, we maintain clipboards with notes outlining the steps and dates completed, plus the initials of who performed the task. This is also very valuable information for a tech when he’s on-site trying to diagnose an issue; if he can see accurate data on what’s being maintained and how often, it will generally help in finding the issue faster. Get your printer clean, keep it clean, and really scour the manual for every detail on the recommended steps.

Winning the daily battle
Color will always be a daily battle, but if you follow the advice here, you will have a much easier time getting the color accurate, keeping it there, and knowing where to look and what to do if it drifts away from accurate. Color management is perfect example of “do it right or fight it often.” Expect and demand brilliant and accurate color—your clients do.