Help Clients Produce Accurate Color!15 Sep, 2008 By: Eric Olesh of ColorMadePlain.com imageSource
Help Clients Produce Accurate Color!
When your customers place an image on a direct mail piece, brochure or
magazine they want it to look like the original. Do they realize that firsthand
that many color reproduction problems stem from not technology, but education,
or a lack of education about color and printing technologies? Knowing both ends
of the “color spectrum” so to speak, will go along way in helping to sell,
maintain, and incur customer satisfaction.
Let’s look at the workings more closely at the actual process. Producing the
final printed reflective artwork to look the same as the photographic original
is nearly impossible to many customers, including graphic art professionals. It
is difficult to achieve an ideal print with analog photographic technologies,
and it unless they have the correct digital device from their dealer who took
into account their specific needs, it becomes even more difficult. But it
doesn’t have to be.
In order to create images that are visually pleasing, we first have to
understand the reproduction process from photography through printing.
Photography is the beginning of the input process. Printing is the output
system. Photographers shoot their images with either a film or digital system.
There are many different kinds of films and chromes in the market to choose
Although the technology to manufacture film and chromes are similar, they
consist of different film bases and dye solutions. Different photographers have
different shooting skills, such as over and under expose, pushing and pulling
the exposure factor, and lighting temperature. Moreover, different processing
labs process these films and chromes with different chemicals and temperatures.
With all of the different factors, it is understandable there are many color
reproduction issues that make it difficult to anticipate the final appearance of
the printed product. The printer might have some ideas of how the final print
will look like according to their experience, but there are no guarantees.
In addition, it is important to understand the technical limitations of the
printing process, in order to be able to produce images that faithfully
represent the original.
One very important concept is known as tonal range. Tonal range, to printers,
means the amount of tones found between the highlight to middle tone of an
image. The longer the highlight to middle tone range, the lighter the image will
appear; this is also referred to as high contrast. On the other hand, a short
highlight to middle tone range produces a low contrast or dark image. The tonal
range of silver based photography technology has a wider tonal range than the
printing process. Highlight and shadow detail will be lost when preparing an
image for print.
But your customers don’t need to despair; the technology to help the industry
produce excellent color has been available for several years, and is getting
better all the time.
And there is color management. ICC stands for International Color Consortium.
The purpose of implementing this consortium is to produce a vendor neutral
platform to accurately produce color from one imaging device to the next imaging
So, the color from the photograph, the scanner, the proof and the printed
piece should all reasonably match, not just in theory, but yes, actually produce
a faithful representation that will meet your clients’ color expectations. Many
photographic professionals perform color work themselves without thoroughly
understanding the limitations of the printing process. An important aspect to
understand of color is called technical color.
Each imaging device in the reproduction system has color limitations. A
scanner has a large color gamut, but a printing press has a much smaller color
gamut. The proofer has a larger color gamut than the press. Therefore, the press
can only reproduce a limited amount of colors. So there are two problems. The
press has a limited tonal range as well as small color gamut. This makes it
difficult for a press to match the tone and color of an original photograph
Despite these technical limitations, the hard copy proof should match what is
printed on press. A printer that utilizes an ICC color management system should
be able to produce a faithful proof-to-press match. Next, a proofer profile is
employed in order to have the proofer color gamut match the press. The proofer
has a much larger color gamut than the press. The proofer profile ensures that
any un-necessary colors are clipped from the proofer to produce a good
It’s important to understand these disciplines, but also the vocation of
other areas. By increasing one’s education into other areas of graphic arts,
you’re better positioned to work with others to answer questions and to ensure
that your customers’ work is reproduced effectively as expected from the devices
you’ve sold them. By being more knowledgeable you can better manage color issues
and avoid preventable errors!