Eau Claire, Wisconsin-Based Documation 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 second of a three-part series, Martin Aalsma, president and COO, of Documation of Eau Claire, Wis., discusses how his commercial printing firm handles toner digital, inkjet and conventional offset printing, and how dealing with toner, inkjet and conventional ink is really a matter of hitting those numbers.
“Know your limits. Fingerprint, print color gamut/scales on each piece of your equipment, on each stock you use to print,” he advises.
A popular color matching issue arises when the client needs samples in advance of the full run, or requires short-run digital output after the primary offset run. In some cases, a recurring job will move over to digital when the job count slips under the level where it’s no longer feasible to run it offset.
When it comes to production inkjet printing, Aalsma points out that deep reds (Pantone 485 or 187) can be tough to match, along with oranges and deep blues. Documation does well with deep blues and greens. For its toner devices, orange can be a real bear to match.
As for hitting the customer-pleasing colors, Aalsma says that science replaces operator skill levels. “Printing by the numbers is the key,” he says. “You have to be able to measure color. It gets you to pleasing color faster.”
One of the more challenging matches Documation handled involved a directory that had, for years, been printed conventionally. “Understanding the variables and the gamut — based on a set of swatch scales we print for each type of stock — our team color matched and transitioned the directory to digital inkjet,” he notes. “This included a spot color.”
Of the company’s growing color management proficiency, Aalsma says, “I credit our great team that took initiative, with assistance from the ink genie.”
The onset of the high-speed production inkjet age has ushered in a whole new way of pricing for the printer and a new way of designing for customers, Aalsma adds. That opens the door for the printer to play the role of consultant and guide clients until they have a firmer grip on the technology’s capabilities and limitations.