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Tools and Tips for Color Management

(August 2007) posted on Wed Aug 15, 2007

Having trouble managing color in your workflow? This article presents an overview of color management and introduces the solutions and techniques you can use to optimize your output.

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By Stephen Beals

Color management is very important in the screen-printing marketplace. The key is getting each color right based on the substrate in use, whether the job involves spot colors or separated colors. Predicting exactly how specific inks will print—given the transparency of the ink, the color and physical characteristics of the material being printed on, and the chemistry of the pigments being used—is a big part of the challenge. Color management has become more and more a scientific process in recent years, but it still is not a simple one. The essential problem is that screen printers work with such diverse materials, inks, and processes that it’s difficult to do the testing and evaluation necessary to manage all of the variables involved. But help is definitely available.


The Pantone guide

The Pantone Solid Color Guide is one tool that every screen shop should have. It contains more than 1100 Pantone Solid colors. The guide is printed on white paper, but it still serves screen-printing operations as a starting point for achieving the correct color. At the very least, it’s a reference that indicates the color the customer expects to get in the finished product. However, the guide won’t tell you how to get there when fabric bleed, ink transparency, and other factors are working against you.

In many cases, the screen-printing process is so different from printing on white paper that other means, such as white overprints, changing the color print order, and so on, are the only effec- tive answers. To help with the special needs of screen printers, Pantone also makes special swatch books for printing on plastics and textiles.


Tricks for visualizing color

You have plenty of options for visualizing how a color will actually look on a finished product. Software, such as Adobe Photoshop, can allow print providers to simulate a colored background and can even allow the user to simulate transparency. The process can be hit or miss until you determine which transparency setting will approximate the actual look of the inksets you are using, but it can get you reasonably close. Best of all, once you are satisfied that you can create a file that will consistently simulate the final printed piece, you can use those settings to create inkjet proofs or soft proofs so your customer can approve the job before a single screen is created.


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