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International Color Standards, Part 1: Setting the Stage for Increased Profits

(October 2007) posted on Wed Oct 03, 2007

International color-reproduction standards allow printers to compete globally, increase productivity, and make more money. This article digs into the foundations of standards and highlights the value of conforming to them.

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By Mike Ruff

You can’t standardize anything until you can accurately measure it. International standards paved the way to move color-related production from an art form to a production process. That move was important. For example, what if a painter in car manufacturing thought of himself as an artist? More than likely, a candy apple red Mustang would have many different shades of color. He might paint the car and say, “How do you like them apples?” That sounds ridiculous, but in our newest field of graphics growth, digital printing, there’s an entire culture that thinks every output project is a piece of artwork. I believe and I predict that this way of thinking will lead to more than half of the digital-imaging companies to go out of business. Thinking of print production as an art form is a major misstep. We are not artists. We are manufacturers.


Benefits of conformance to international standards

Color is measurable, and it needs to be standardized to allow print manufacturers to become profitable. Profit is a major benefit of conformance, but it’s not the only one. Consider the global benefits. Print production is going global as fast as our clients are going global. Standards established by internationally recognized bodies, such as ISO, give us benchmarks that are applicable worldwide and can be agreed upon, regardless of borders. Even Adobe Photoshop, the most popular color-image-development software in the world, uses defaults that can be traced back to ISO (Figure 6). We have two choices. We can set our output to conform to global standards, or we can make multiple color corrections on every file. As printing becomes more and more an international business, it will become harder to not be calibrated to international standards.

The most attractive benefit of predictability driven by conformance to in-ternational standards is obviously financial. Conformance to standards produces predictability of output. The common misunderstanding in regard to conformance to international standards is that their purpose is to improve quality. Sure, this is a side effect. But it is very difficult to cash the check of better quality in a production environment, because better quality is subjective.


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