Spotlight on Color Management
Color management is emerging as an increasingly important technology for savvy clients. Many, however, are still learning what it is and why it's important.
What Is Color Management?
Color management begins with the standards set by the International Color Consortium (ICC) and spans across the entire design and print workflow. The ICC's color profiles are used, from file creation to final printing, to control color accurately.
It doesn't stop there, however, but also includes standardizing color workspaces, calibrating monitors and printers, standardizing RIP settings and print operator workflows. Attention to detail is paramount.
The result, according to Steve Turnbull, Senior Manager of Color Management Services at Riot Creative Imaging in Costa Mesa, California, is printed color that matches as closely as technically possible the colors intended in the original file.
Why Is Color Management Important?
National clients demand the assurance that their corporate identities — such things as logos, product advertising, and product wrapping — be consistent in look and color, no matter where the actual printing is done.
For example, the particular red used by Coca-Cola is as familiar to everyone as is the taste of the fizzy product itself. Coke's universally recognized red, in a sense, is the corporate identity.
Most global brands require their printers worldwide to conform to rigid color management standards, which in the case of Coke is an offset lithography standard called G7. Regular proof that print output is that exact red, no matter where the material is printed, is required.
Awareness of the importance of accurate color reproduction across multiple locations is now changing the very process of digital printing. "In the world of digital printing," says Turnbull, "we don't have someone who mixes inks to an exact specification. We depend on the hidden technologies of our applications, our RIPs, and our printers to produce accurate color. Clients are now requesting that we use color management to produce and verify color output at different locations and that color output remains the same over time."
Education Is Key
The one thing Turnbull would love to see in the world of color management is a program of education for clients and operators. "Everyone needs to become well versed in basic color management techniques," he says. "It's got to be stressed that color management is an all-or-nothing process. There are hundreds of variables that affect color, and inattention to any aspect of the process will degrade color accuracy. We've got to be ready to identify and correct these problems as they arise, and education is the only answer."