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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

A quick way to check your monitor for value and contrast settings is to get a color reference (many art Websites and programs will provide these references), turn down the brightness until the monitor is very dark, and then slowly increase the brightness and watch the value graduations carefully to make sure you reach the point where the monitor is visually accurate but not too bright. The next step is to do the same with the contrast and adjust it by tuning it to the best level (Figure 4). Several companies also offer monitor-calibration units that will adjust a monitor to match a color working space. This is a typical step for offset printing but not as common a practice for screen printers due to the lack of standardization in the screen printing-inks.

Once the monitor is properly adjusted, you can then address the software that will be used to view the images and then recreate or separate the artwork. Adobe software provides some elements that can be used to help a screen printer to work in the right color space and aid in viewing proofs and final, recreated logos in Photoshop or Illustrator.

Color consistency from the monitor to customer proofs
The color that you see on a monitor is different from the color that is reflected on a piece of paper. The way a monitor creates color is by combining wavelengths of light from the RGB spectrum (similar to the way our eyes recreate light). On paper we try to emulate that reflection by merging ink colors from the CMYK spectrum of inks. Even a properly calibrated monitor will not perfectly match a print out because the way the colors are created is different.

There are detailed systems in use to calibrate monitors for offset printing and proofing. Screen printing typically involves less consistent print surfaces, so an offset calibration will not carry over to screen inks. Additionally, the separations that work properly for printing on an offset press will not work well for a screen-printed surface. Ink formulas, dot gain, and other variables are too dissimilar.


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