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Color Meets Its Match

August 2002
By Mark Smith

GRANDVILLE, MI—Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and, unfortunately, so too is the perception of color. Therefore, to be of practical use, any attempt to define or quantify colors objectively must be reconciled with the subjective way in which they are viewed. That's why effective color management is such a desirable, yet often frustrating, goal.

The full scope of the challenge was made apparent during a press briefing held recently by X-Rite Inc. at its headquarters in Grandville, MI. The event also brought home the point that the printing industry is not alone in facing this challenge.

Some industries actually have it worse, since they must deal with the added variable of the third dimension—depth. Auto manufacturers, for example, must contend with the issue of a vehicle's finish appearing different when viewed from an angle as opposed to head on.

Colorful Tools

The range of applications for color measurement devices—such as densitometers and spectrophotometers—may even hold a surprise or two for those used to focusing on print. A case in point is X-Rite's new ShadeVision system for the dental market.

Shaped similar to a handheld hair dryer, the device reads the color of a tooth and the surrounding area. Measurements taken in a dentist chair then can be passed to a dental lab to guide the coloring of bridgework, crowns, etc. to better blend in with a patient's mouth. With ShadeVision as its cornerstone, President Mike Ferrara says he expects X-Rite's bio-diagnostic's division to become a dominate market segment for the company within five years.

Building on this remote color workflow concept, there would seem to be a potential opportunity for cooperation between the various industry segments that measure the color characteristics of their products and the printers that reproduce these items in brochures, catalogs, ads, etc. There should be a way to capitalize on all the data being gathered.

For example, instead of trying to match the printed representation of a car to the transparency, why not use as a target the color data collected in the auto finishing quality control process?

Through its ColorMail product family, X-Rite has started providing the building blocks for what could be developed into a closed-loop color control system from manufacturing to marketing.

Initially, though, the company is focusing on enabling color data transfers (via e-mail) just among its own products.

Education would be a good starting point for any effort to explore the potential of such cooperation. The parties need to know what each is doing and why in terms of color measurement and control.

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