Color Management: The 100 Percent Solution

Recently, I was asked to write a responding opinion for a Canadian magazine that published two different points of view on one subject: a pressman’s opinion that designers should not be on press checks vs. a designer who maintained that press checks are necessary to ensure a high-quality outcome. The designer, who also happened to be the publisher of the Canadian magazine, had recently heard me speak at the Printing Industries Association’s Color Management Conference where I discussed the communication disconnect between the engineering/scientific members of the Color Management community (read left brain) and the content creators/production manager and buyer members (right brain).

Henceforth, my opinion… Over the past decades I’ve watched art evolve into science in many areas of the printing process. Advanced input and output specifications, as well as guidelines and standards, have refined the workflow process to ensure a predictable end-product implemented through an optimized workflow. If a printer has a truly closed loop system, or if they have a G7 certified proofing process, linearized proof and plates, ISO inks, and have implemented the profiles the paper mill provided, then I believe a press person can deliver a result that will satisfy the customer 95% of the time. By using all of the advanced technology available in the reproduction process, a printer should be able to ensure a predictable end product and create confidence with their buyers—therefore negating the need to be on press. But then, color is subjective. Even if we can adhere to all of the covenants of ‘printing to the numbers’ and implementing all of the science available to us, we must still take into account two factors: First, the actual ink on paper process has chemistry. This is science—the pH of both the ink and paper surface and how they interact, as well as temperature, pH and water balance on press will impact the final color appearance and must be visually (or manually) compensated for. That final 5% of printed satisfaction is subjective. And the final decision on a subjective matter falls to the buyer (designer/print buyer/production manager, et. al.) Their ‘eye’ should have the final say reflecting the taste of their brand or corporation. This does not address the measurable colors that are expected to be reproducible in corporate identity, brands or products which are finite and fall in the objective color reproduction field (L*a*b*). Second, images in line with each other on a press sheet affect one another. So, the resulting color juxtapositions need to be addressed. A proof cannot show how images will react against each other on press or what color compensation will be required to get them all in balance—further support for the need to have the subjective eye of the client representative on press. But—and, here’s my caveat—that representative has a responsibility to be well-trained and armed with an understanding of the entire print workflow process. He or she should be involved in approving the proof, and have a clear understanding of his or her role at press time. So…should there be a representative from the client side at the press check? Despite advances in technology, I believe the answer is still a resounding yes! Why settle for 95% satisfaction, when we can aspire to 100%? Does that make sense? For more information on color and color management, check out Sappi etc. for a few key resources: Color Management: The Warren Standard—How to Read a Press Sheet: The Standard—Managing Color:

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