OneTouchPoint Mountain States on Color Matching Its Digital, Offset Output
As the silos have broken down across the printing industry and firms no longer see themselves as exclusively lithographic or digital printing operations, the need to mix runs with materials that are produced both through offset and digital means continues to increase. That entails color matching to various degrees, from “pleasing” to “exact,” and any stops in-between.
Turn the clock back 10 or 12 years ago, and the idea of color digital output being within the same ZIP code as traditional ink-on-paper was not widely embraced. The printing quality was admirable, but no one would dare compare it to offset. Fast forward to 2016: While a trained eye can certainly still see the distinction between the two, the differences are no longer so obvious.
Today, color matching is an interesting proposition, as a growing number of shops employ offset, toner-based digital and production inkjet digital workflows. Certain jobs that call for a combination of methods can be challenging when brand colors are involved and/or very specific colors need to be “hit.” With moody substrates providing another variable to the equation, caveats abound.
In the first of a three-part series, Chris Greene, president of OneTouchPoint Mountain States in Denver, discusses how his commercial printing firm handles the color-matching process.
“To me, the biggest challenge has to do with managing customer expectations,” notes Chris Greene, president of OneTouchPoint Mountain States in Denver. “Buyers are less and less experienced, plus they don’t have a background in offset and digital, or know the different output devices within those disciplines and what they mean. Customers have to understand what is feasible, which is something our sales reps need to be aware of.”
Greene points out that certain jobs will call for an initial shorter digital print run, such as the unveiling of marketing collateral for a customer’s board meeting. The pieces must match the regular offset run, which may be done weeks after the fact. For a general commercial shop like OneTouchPoint Mountain States, this is a frequent occurrence.
“Technology wise, we’re at a point now where it’s easy to [color]match,” he adds. “We have a Xerox iGen 150 digital press, and you have to be pretty savvy to pick out which piece is offset and which piece ran on the iGen. It’s become a selling point for us.”
Digital output devices have certainly stepped up their games, according to Greene. His shop has both the iGen and HP Indigo machines. On the former, he notes, the shop can nail matching close to 90 percent of spot colors through trial and error. Still, the company can also run a fifth color PMS match on the Indigo.
Greene recalls a promo poster the printer did soon after installing its iGen. One side of the poster was done on the iGen using a matte, dry ink, and the reverse side was printed, with the same image, on a KBA sheetfed offset UV press. It was tough to tell which side was printed on which machine, he says.
What can get a printer into trouble, though, is not providing adequate consultation for a customer who opts for a substrate that is not conducive to digital printing, like uncoated sheets. That goes back to customer management, according to Greene.
“There are still a handful of sheets that don’t produce as well digitally as they do on offset,” he says. “Sometimes, you have a client who is very critical in terms of quality, smoothness and consistency, so it’s a piece that has to be perfect. There’s still enough variance in digital output that they’re not all going to be perfect — you get a streak here, a spot there. If it needs to be museum quality and there have to be 500 identical pieces, you shouldn’t be running them on a digital press.” PI