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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

Reviewing physical samples or artwork When art is brought in on a paper reference or on a previously printed shirt, it should be viewed in natural daylight or a daylight light source that is brightly lit without any large areas of color pollution. Color pollution will happen, for instance, when a room is painted a specific hue. All light in the room will be adjusted to that hue prior to viewing a sample. If your shop is painted a funky color, then it is a good idea to create a light box for viewing art samples. This is a simple box with semi-transparent walls that is lit with diffused daylight light sources so color can be viewed, compared to Pantone swatches, and recorded for art reproduction.

Viewing digital samples of artwork The most popular method of art review is obviously using a digital file on the computer. Unfortunately, every computer monitor, video card, and room environment will change the colors on the screen to a degree, so it can be a challenge to accurately view colors. Never assume that you see the same colors as the client does on their screens, phones, or tablets. The best you can do is to handle the viewing area that the monitor is in using the same process as a physical sample to start. Make sure the monitor is in a properly lit area that has a natural daylight light source. Observe the area to make sure it’s free of strong color reflection from surrounding walls or posters, etc.

The next step is to look at the computer monitor itself. Advances in monitor technology have come a long way, but there is a strong tendency for modern, flatscreen monitors to be too bright and their contrast set too high. Here, the deepest shadows and subtle changes in the dark areas will turn completely black and disappear. The light grays and pastel colors will tend to appear like white on a high-contrast setting, so it is important to test your monitor with some color references and make sure the lights and darks are accurate.


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