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Color Management for Screen Printing

(August 2013) posted on Wed Sep 18, 2013

Removing variables in evaluating and controlling color is critical to quality on press.


By Thomas Trimingham

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Color management can be a challenge for screen printers, because the media that we print is constantly changing. A printer may have different shirt colors, different fabrics, strange garments, and a huge variety of art sources that are provided to color match.

Before the actual inks on the press can be matched to the art sources from a customer, a few steps can be taken to ensure that colors can be properly dealt with and that time won’t be wasted by making assumptions prior to the actual method of ink-to-screen matching.

It is always a good practice to first review a color to see how different the actual creation of color is depending upon the way light is displayed. Once the methods of color creation are understood from each visual display of a specific color, then the best and fastest method of color reproduction can be determined. Follow the path of the color as it is displayed in each of the three areas: from the first preview in a manual or digital sample, after it is duplicated or edited and then sent back out as an art proof, and finally as a production proof and on-press ink sample.

Color review
A quick look at the properties of color and how they work with the different displays common in a screen-printing shop will help to illustrate the challenges that can crop up in the day-to-day color-managing process. First, the most common components of color itself are hue, saturation, and value.

Hue This quality in color is the specific wavelength of light that is reflected and, therefore, creates the color. If a color shows as Royal Blue, then what that means is that all of the other colors in the wavelength of light are absorbed into the surface and only the blue is reflected (Figure 1).


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