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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.

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By Thomas Trimingham

Saturation The saturation of a color is how much pigment of a color is presented in the base that supports the color (Figure 2). One way to think of this is if you have a gallon of clear water and ten blue golf balls floating in it, then that gallon would have a relatively low saturation of blue, and the color would look like a lighter blue. If that same gallon then were to have 40 blue golf balls in it for a higher pigment-to-base ratio, the saturation would also be considered high—and then the color would look more like an intense blue.

Value The value of a color relates to how much white or black is mixed into the color, effectively darkening or lightening the color (Figure 3). The difficult issue with value—or brightness, as it is sometimes called—is that it can dramatically affect the hue of a color while still not changing it. A bright green hue, for instance, may appear as a grass green, a mint green, or a forest green depending upon the value of the color and how much white or black is blended into it.

Another consideration that can be important is that the typical gamut range, or the amount of colors that are included in a specific color system, is larger on a monitor that creates colors using RGB color space than a color-gamut range in print that can be created by blending inks together. What this means is that careful reviews must be made in regards to artwork that was created on the computer with very deep, saturated tones, because they may be very difficult to replicate in the screen-printing process.

Reviewing the art inbox and color management
The first step in standardizing color management in the art department is to take an outside-in look at how artwork comes to the department and how it is reviewed. Artwork will commonly come into an art department in two ways: a physical sample/reference or as a digital file. The easiest way to manage both of these types artwork and the colors contained inside of them is to look at the environment that surrounds them. All color is created by reflected light, so the environment that surrounds the area for viewing colors is very important.


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