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Color Management--Degrees of Separation

August 2000
Homespun color-managed workflows can save production time and consumables costs. The trick is finding the right set of technologies and practices that work best to meet the needs of your production schedule—and your clients.


BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO


Controlling the intricacies of color management and ICC profiling in any print production workflow is the equivalent of trying to control the weather and the tides—then reach a standard agreement on the color hues and tonal properties of both. Each printing operation has its own approach to managing color—its own method of predicting the tides, calculating varying weather patterns and pinpointing the color gamuts of each.

Color management is science and experience; emerging technology and prediction. No one commercial printing organization will have the exact color benchmark, same approach to ICC profiling, opinion of Hexachrome, calibration routine, not to mention the technologies that make all of the above possible and the same levels of in-house color expertise.

Color management is like a fingerprint for any commercial printing operation—from one printer to the next, no two will have the exact same color-managed workflow, with the same approach to managing and communicating accurate color from device to device. "Perhaps it is understandable that so many live with inconsistent color output devices—getting a handle on consistency for every color output device in a given workflow is a seemingly daunting task," suggests Bruce L. Myers, corporate accounts manager at X-Rite. Myers also teaches color reproduction at New York University's Center for Graphic Communications Management and Technology.

"It is said that color consistency is no easy feat, due to the wide array of devices utilized. Color output devices on the desktop can take the form of monitors, small thermal-wax, ink-jet and dye-sublimation printers," Myers states. "Large-format printers are utilized as one-off and short-run printing output devices, and in some cases as proofers for other devices."

The subjective nature of color evaluation compounds the perceived problems—often driving critics to throw up their hands and give up on the hope of ever receiving the consistency that is desired.

For example, many commercial printers are fans of the International Color Consortium (ICC) and recognize ICC profiles as the only viable building blocks for delivering consistent color from device to device in today's printing environment. ICC profiles, they contend, allow them to calibrate monitors, scanners and a gamut of output devices to ensure correct color throughout a print job.
 

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