Color Management – Helping Your Pressman Adapt

In recent decades, colour management has really become the hot topic in printing.  There are now many standards (such as SWOP, GraCOL, ISO, etc.) that all offer the possibility of creating predictable print results, with much happier customers in the end.  For some pressmen, though, learning to adapt to some of these new concepts can be a challenge.  How can they combine their years of knowledge and troubleshooting with a newer, technology driven environment?

  1. Make sure you train pressman well.  If a pressman is used to doing everything by eye and by ‘feel’, they will be uncomfortable with all the tools getting thrown at them.  Give them training and time to get familiar with densitometry, colorimetry, etc.  Perhaps invest in a good training course (many are available, such as GATF).  Part of good training in colour management might mean getting them to spend a little time with prepress learning how proofing and plate making are being affected by this colour management process.  Only in this way can they do proper quality checks.

  1. Have realistic expectations of the standard.  Just because a process standard for colour management has been implemented, doesn’t mean that you can randomly grab a printed copy and expect it to perfectly match your proof.  Problems such as ink trapping, paper/ink quality and machine problems will continue to affect colour.  In fact, in one study by FOGRA, it was noted that colorimetric fluctuations during a print run (using colour management) meant that only 68% of printed copies would match the ISO standard. Rely on your pressmen to identify and troubleshoot these problems; do not get in the habit of micromanagement.

  1. Numbers are just numbers.  At the end of the day, colour management is meant to help control designing, prepress, proofing and printing variables.  However, even these numbers can be deceptive.  For example, matching reds is difficult since the human eye is sensitive to these.  You can print a copy within the standard, and a proof within the standard, and yet, they don’t match sometimes.  Why?  They can be at opposite ends of what the standard allows, creating a noticeable variation.  The point is, a standard like ISO, SWOP and so on, is a tool – it is the person using it that needs to discern the best way to use it.

Colour management has created an industry where print providers can show consumers more and more accurately what they can expect to receive.  It has allowed prepress and press operators to work closer together to achieve higher quality (not to mention easier colour matching).  But at the end of the day, no tool, no machine, can ever replace the intelligence of a human.  Train and rely on your pressmen and you will have a quality-oriented, efficient print shop.

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