With colour accuracy and consistency a key issue, Paul Sherfield of the Missing Horse Consultancy looks at how a colour-managed workflow can help you save money, assure quality and retain clients.
As workflow specialist and consultant Paul Sherfield points out, colour management is a ‘right first time’ system when used correctly.
Sherfield, who started up the Missing Horse Consultancy in 2000 to maximise companies’ possible savings and increase the efficiency of graphic arts digital workflows, is well known for his knowledge of such systems and on the business reasoning behind using them, having installed some of the most successful in the UK. Here he takes you through some key points to successful implementation.
Active in a number of industry groups including the BPIF Technical Standards Committee, ISO TC 130 printing standards committees and is chair of the BPIF steering group for ISO 12647 UK certification. He will be speaking on colour management and workflow at Fespa Digital later this month.
Remember that it is really only by ensuring that digital files have ‘data integrity’ and are completely fit-for-purpose that the result will be any kind of ‘print predictability’. Colour management, digital image issues, having the correct page workflow systems, the right file format, and ISO 12647 standard printing conditions can all help save time and money and are all areas that need to be integrated within a process control system at the printing stage.
Do you need better colour consistency?
Do your wide-format devices provide day- to-day, week-to-week consistent colour output? If you produce 12 exhibition panels on Thursday and on the following Wednesday the client needs to amend two of them, can you print those two and be confident they will match the other ten? Or do you print all 12 just to be certain all match? If it’s the last option you need to improve your colour management methods and process control.
A RIP is not a workflow
The wide-format Rips from the usual vendors are not always a complete workflow system. While most cover the production requirements of the wide-format market, tiling, cutter guides etc. many are limited in other important areas such as pre-flighting, integration with MIS systems and colour management which a full workflow requires to be efficient. So when choosing or upgrading a wide-format Rip system check on its abilities in these other areas and if the one chosen, or in use, has gaps, ask how easy it is to integrate it with other third party software that can cover these areas and needs.
Time for revision
Do you have device profiles covering all your wide-format printers, inks and substrates? Or do you use a smaller number of profiles each covering a range of differing type of printers and substrates? Or just use a few downloaded from the printer or substrate manufacturer’s website? Well, this area is, of course, market driven but if you are using the last option and reprinting work because of poor colour reproduction or losing work to competitors for the same reasons, it is time to revise your colour workflows, profiling, and systems.
Keeping up appearances
Common colour appearance is a term often used in the colour management world, and covers a multitude of issues. Put simply it’s the need for an image, logo, brand colour or page to visually match when produced using multiple output devices and substrates and corporates, brands and retailers are increasingly demanding that promotions across differing production methods, media and substrates match their brand colours. Often this will mandate the use of ISO 12647 standard printing conditions and their associated profiles, which are not aimed at wide-format printing. So can your colour management and workflow meet this requirement? Bear in mind this is a requirement understood by most offset litho printers, many who are moving into to the wide-format area, bringing their colour management workflow tools and systems into this area.
What about simulation profiles?
You know theimportance of device profiles, so it is possible to run a wide-format device to its maximum gamut on a chosen substrate? This will result in a differing visual appearance between devices and substrates if not controlled in some way and the use of a simulation profile can solve this issue. This is an ICC profile; normally a CMYK profile which describes the output gamut required if the gamut of the device and substrate is not suitable for the production. This simulation profile can be selected and applied within most wide-format workflows colour management menus. The most usual will be a Fogra 39 based profile, which describes an offset litho press printing on coated papers. This is often used as a common colour gamut for mixed media promotions. The colour management tools within the wide-format workflow will then use the device profile as the starting point to convert the printed output to the chosen simulation profile. This then should result in a very close visual match across differing printers and media. The caveat is the device profile. If this is not accurate, the simulation profile will not work as expected, so the colour will not match across devices and media.
As good as device profiles and simulation profiles are, output devices will change over time, printheads will be replaced, media specifications will alter and ink batches may vary. So a method of validating products is needed. This validation can be the same as used when validating a proof produced on an inkjet printer. A Fogra Media Wedge v3 is printed, and read against the figures of the chosen output, the simulation profile or the device profile is using the full gamut. The pass/fail report will show if the device is printing correctly or if the device profile needs attention. There are a number of other software’s such as MellowColour PrintSpec and Bodoni PressSign that can also be used to check this area using similar colour bars. Using validation gives both you and your client the confidence that your product is accurate to the chosen printing profile and condition and will meet expectations.
Make it policy
Think about a formal colour management policy documenting all areas of colour management in your organisation; profiles used, the differing colour managed workflows needed, how it works within desktop software such as Abode CS/CC, the correct settings to use to produce print ready, colour managed PDFs, define the proofing systems, approval methods and queues used, calibration and re-profiling schedules for your devices and substrates. Also as part of this policy training and staff competence in this important area should be addressed.
Start a Wide Area Workflow
Many areas of your colour management policy can be used to help your clients produce print ready files. You should publish your Adobe CS/CC color settings files and PDF job options to enable your clients to supply problem-free files. I call this a ‘Wide Area Workflow’ as it includes your client in your overall policy and colour management system. Offering training for clients in this area is another very positive approach and will ‘embed’ clients into you as a supplier.