Colour Me Rainbow

medium_laurel2015.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

Well how bored are we all with colour management? Marginally bored? Slightly bored? Very bored? Bordering suicidally bored? We are all somewhere on the spectrum, as it were, to some extent ranging from say pale yellow to pale purple. But boring as it may be colour management is about money management. It’s also about environmental management, so this is why we simply have to keep banging on about it.

Take inks for example, plain offset inks, the inks that so many digital press ink and toner providers want to emulate. Some would say that colour management starts with the ink. Certainly managing its behaviour and the results on press is what colour management is all about. If you don’t fancy prepress colour management, unlocking your inner colour management superhero could begin with the ink on press. If so, there are at some basic process management stages to consider.

This may all seem deadly dull for digital press users. But since offset presses still produce most of the world’s commercial and newspaper print, these stages merit an airing. Begin with presetting control, taking into account the ink and paper combination and the likely press speed. Not only will these controls improve ink performance, they can also cut waste by as much as 50% depending on the press and substrate.

Step two is to measure the spectral values of the printed ink, ideally as the press is running. Don’t be tempted to use a simple camera capturing red, green and blue data to calculate XYZ or LAB values. Far better to use a spectrophotometer, so that you can capture data in the whole visible spectrum. In combination with density values, this data will help you to improve your press control.

Next look at how you can cut costs with improved colour management on press. You are likely to improve product quality which reduces waste and uncomfortable conversations with agitated customers. There are likely to be longer periods between press cleaning and your overall process will be more stable. You will use less ink on press, especially if you follow these steps in conjunction with prepress colour management. And there ought to be some benefit because you are working with a process that operators understand.

These controls give you a foundation for optimising processes, based on evaluating how each of them contributes to ongoing improvements. You want to be able to fully exploit what works well and improve what’s necessary but error prone. Data collected during each print run is vital to improving output quality and costings for the next run. Evaluating data from every press run will help you to cut costs and reduce waste over time. And this has to be a good thing all round.

– Laurel Brunner

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