Wide format digital printers want to improve profitability and process reliability, and to keep customers and business owners happy. Colour managed and automated digital workflows can help achieve all three and more. (Sponsored Content)
Colour management ensures predictable and consistent output quality, enhances the value of prints, helps business owners to meet customer expectations, and reduces waste throughout the workflow.
Ten Tips to Improve Colour Management in Wide Format Printing
Tip 1: Understand Digital Colour Conversion
RGB images captured with digital devices are the norm, but images undergo many transformations before they reach the press. So understand how digital images are transformed from one colour space to another, and how to control colour in prepress and on press.
Tip: 2 Get to Grips with Colour Management's Principles
Digital colour management is based on work on device profiles originating with EFI and Kodak and formalised by the International Color Consortium (ICC). The ICC has created a common profile format and transformation framework, so that devices and computer operating systems can transform colour data consistently. The objective is to simplify colour management in digital environments.
Tip 3: Implement Characterisation, Conversion and Calibration
The ICC's architecture consists of device profiles, a Colour Management Module (CMM) to link profiles, a common reference colour space called the Profile Connection Space, applications which interact with the CMM to do the required colour transforms, and an operating system such as Mac OS or Windows to pull everything together. Within this framework, devices are profiled, colour data is converted, and devices are calibrated to ensure that their performance is consistent and predictable.
Tip 4: Understand Colour Architectures
Colour management depends on profiles which define the behaviour and characteristics of input and output devices. Profiles define how input and output devices capture or reproduce colour and instruct colour management systems how to convert colour values. Profiles are the basis of your colour management architecture.
Tip 5: Process control
The ICC technologies provide users with the tools for controlling digital colour according to the business's needs. For instance, an eight colour wide format press such as the VUTEk GS3250 can be colour managed to expand the range of premium jobs a company can produce, such as fine art and exhibition graphics which require exceptional colour quality.
Tip 6: Consumables
The substrate is the single most important influence on colour appearance. Make sure that you have quality control procedures in place for checking that consumables behave consistently and are up to scratch. Measure them often and regularly update device and substrate profiles. Ink quality control is very tricky in the digital world because inks are often device specific. Test new batches to ensure quality consistency and stick with the inks your device manufacturer provides. Anything less could be a shortcut to colour chaos.
Tip 7: Environment
Colour management depends on control in all areas of the print factory. Storage is easily forgotten and yet damp and temperature extremes can cause substrates to swell and cockle, and inks to disaggregate. Temperature and humidity influence the performance of consumables on press, so make sure they are controlled.
Tip 8: Data Formats
Data formats are often overlooked but in an automated, colour managed workflow they make a real difference to productivity. Work with customers so that they deliver at least PDF-X/1a or preferably PDF-X/4 files for complete CMYK and spot colour data exchange. See ISO 15930 for further information on PDF/X.
Tip 9: Quality Control
Put in place a quality management system that includes prepress and printing departments. Base your quality management system on the requirements of ISO 9001, which follows the principles of Plan, Do, Check (measure) and Act to understand and correct the problem.
Tip 10: Communication
Business owners, staff, management and customers must all be kept informed of your colour management policies, their implementation and benefits. Make sure all parties understand the economics of colour management and why adapting new procedures is worthwhile.
Colour managed workflows make sure that jobs are right first time and that colour appearance matches across devices. This is key for jobs produced under tight deadlines on multiple devices. In high turnaround markets automation is the name of the game. Understanding how to manage colour digitally is an obvious and proven means to improve control and profitability.
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