COLOR CONTROL — Managing the Variables

“A great deal of the benefit people want from color management actually derives from Statistical Process Control (SPC), device calibration, and device and process characterization. It’s not a question of appearance matching, but process control,” Carli continues. “Rather than hiring a color management consultant, printers should think first about looking into standards like ISO 9000, SPC and Total Quality Management. If you understand those disciplines and apply them to color, you will have a better-managed process and achieve greater consistency in proofing and printing. These are not specifically color management disciplines.”

Carli lays a good part of the blame for the earlier failure of color management at the feet of the International Color Consortium (ICC).

“It overspent on technical development and underspent on marketing research,” he says. “The industry as a whole didn’t have a concrete plan for color management. Vendors didn’t make clear what was real today versus what they hoped would be real in five to 10 years. Expectations for interoperability (between device types and media), in particular, were set too high,” the researcher concludes.

So what is practical today? Let’s consider a couple of real-world examples of color management in action.

Veitch Printing, in Lancaster, PA, got into color management almost five years ago, reports Doug Hookway, prepress manager. “We started in the pressroom and worked forward,” he says. “We did call it color management, but what we were trying to do initially was fingerprint the press.”

Being a full-service (including prepress) commercial printing shop with one location worked to the company’s advantage in trying to bring its processes under control. Management hired a consultant to help get the effort started and then brought together representatives from its plate and ink manufacturers, as well as other industry people, Hookway notes.

“We tried different ink sets, chemicals, blankets, etc., until we got to what we thought was optimum printing on the press,” the prepress manager recalls. “We didn’t want to set a standard for printing that would take the pressroom hours to achieve.”

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