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Taking Control with Color Management

(May 2006) posted on Tue May 23, 2006

This article examines the benefits of color management and uses an actual job to demonstrate how color can be controlled.

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By Rick Auterson

Part of a graphics-printing business's growth typically involves the company's expansion into areas such as product development and implementation. At the same time, the business becomes more of a partner to its clients than just a provider of screen-printed signage and displays. Cultivating this type of relationship with customers often requires the screen printer to make an investment in at least one wide-format inkjet printer to further accommodate clients' imaging needs. The purchase of digital printers presents the screen shop with additional opportunities to profit and explore new markets. However, doing so also brings new responsibilities into the picture—perhaps the most significant of which is the ability to consistently manage and match colors.

Most of our jobs at Pratt Corp. in Indianapolis, IN are part of a larger design, from permanent way-finding signage to monthly promotions. But regardless of the graphic or its purpose, everything has to match. Part of Pratt's evolution involved the addition of digital presses and proofers. Our desire to keep quality at the forefront led us to build a color-management workflow that allows us to maintain consistency and repeatability on a variety of digital and screen presses. A color-managed workflow is essential, regardless of whether a job involves half a dozen automatic screen presses and wide-format inkjet printers or one clamshell press and a digital proofer. The fact is matching screen and digital printing is possible only with a color-managed workflow in place. This discussion will explain the principles and procedures behind color management and will demonstrate how they are applied in an actual print job.

The main elements of color management

The term "color management" gets tossed around pretty loosely. Let's be clear about the vocabulary. Color management is using profiles to make one device simulate another. The input profile determines what colors are made from the builds in the proof. The output profile determines the builds that will make those colors on the intended device. Other important terms from the color-management vocabulary include the following:


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