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Why Color Is a Management Issue

Time:2021-08-26 Views:19

Why Color Is a Management Issue

 Color management is a term that has been used for years in the printing and manufacturing industries, but the actual process is usually delegated to an “expert” in the prepress or color matching department.

While managing color is part of the process, the impact of color relates directly to the profitability of a printing or manufacturing process. Interestingly, most print shop managers and owners leave the color to their experts, expecting good results and not really being aware of how the entire process affects the bottom line.

 How and why does color management affect profitability and why should upper management be concerned and involved? A few reasons:

 Labor savings

Material waste

Make-ready times

Reduced ink usage

Faster Turnarounds

Consistency on repeat orders

Color Management Historic Misconceptions

Prior to the advent of CtP and digital proofing (which drove the CtP revolution, but that discussion is for another time), color and color management were controlled by the scanner operators and the proofing department, which created MatchPrints or Press Match proofs. This had 18% dot gain built in, which helped compensate for the dot gain from film to plate to press. Press operators used densitometers to measure color bars and analog ink keys. Between the scanner operators capturing the color to film and the skill of the press operators, color was high quality, but not always repeatable over time. Interestingly, we accepted those values, regardless of whether that dot gain was accurate or not. 

Enter high-quality and controllable digital proofing along with affordable color measurement tools, and the world of color management is changed. The first CtP devices were used alongside the old film devices; color was matched to the old film-based proofs, but the plates were much more linear and dot gain was dramatically reduced with the elimination of film. Printers continued to chase color, trying to match the press to the proofer and vice versa in a never-ending circular battle to control color. 

In 2006, Idealliance introduced the G7 Method of creating grey balance (Neutral Print Density Curves), to help achieve more predictable color results. The concept was to create specifications that the proof and the press would independently target, and ultimately the two would inherently match each other, once meeting these targets (this is a simplification of the concept, but for our discussion it will suffice). Overall, this methodology gave printers another set of process controls, but there were still other obstacles to overcome (again, for a later discussion).


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