ICC Color Management -- Saving Time And Money
Today's printer lives in a world of shrinking turnaround times, enormous pressure to cut costs and virtually no margin for errors. It's a world in which plate remakes can eat up the entire profit of a job, and clients just don't want to wait until the fifth try before the color is right.
Going digital has brought the printing industry many opportunities for new efficiencies and speed. But those opportunities came packaged with challenges, particularly when a print job had to be handled by a series of different devices from different manufacturers, each of which interpreted and displayed color in its own way.
"With so many devices involved, the complexity of jobs quadrupled, and there was a lot of finger-pointing," says Graff. "We knew we needed a standard control method."
From the graphic designer's workstation to the scanner, from the preliminary proofs to contract proofs and finally to press output, color needed to be consistent and predictable. But this was much more easily said than done.
The industry's most visible response to the challenge was the International Color Consortium. ICC was created in 1993 by eight industry vendors and has since grown to more than 60 members, including consultants and academic experts, as well as vendor personnel. The goal was to create a mechanism to allow color images to be moved from device to device—among capture, viewing, proofing and printing systems—with consistent, dependable results.
The tangible result of the group's work is the ICC Profile Specification, which is now in version 4.1. But, as Rodriguez puts it, the real task goes beyond specific device profiles. "It has to do with putting standards in place for the efficient implementation of color management," he explains.
The device profile relates the native color space of each device in a workflow to a standardized, independent color space. This enables the data to be imported into the native color space of any other device, regardless of platform or vendor, while maintaining the desired color. The users still have to control all of the devices in the process and communicate the relevant profiles to those undertaking other parts of the workflow to obtain the color required. Many standards being developed by the industry use profiles conforming to the ICC specification as part of that wider specification.