Color Management and Proofing, from Monitor to Press
The Secret to Accurate, Eye-Pleasing Color
Do you know the old joke about the guy who asked a taxi driver how to get to Carnegie Hall? The driver replied, “Practice.” Creating beautiful printed pieces also takes a fair amount of practice. We continually work on color management and color proofing to create the best results for you. This article will help explain what we do to help you achieve the color quality you expect.
Our main goal sounds simple: Make the printed piece look like what you saw on your computer monitor. But right away, we have a problem. The light you see on the monitor is made by combining red, green and blue light and shining the result into your eyes. However, the color you see when you look at a printed piece is created by reflecting white light through translucent cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks that subtract color (from the white light).
Our next problem is gamut: Your computer monitor can produce up to 16.7 million different colors. Our eyes can discern as many as 10 million colors. But process color printing only produces thousands of colors on a page. We need to make your image look great with fewer colors than you have on your monitor.
The kind of light you view your images under will make a difference in color accuracy, as will the color and finish of your paper. And then there are effects made by the printing process itself, such as dot gain. Ink tends to spread as it is squished and absorbed onto paper. We can and do compensate for dot gain, but it is another variable that is in the way of accurate color.
Now that you understand the issues, let’s talk about what we do to ensure that you get the color you expect. We relentlessly follow our process, which contains three main tools to ensure accurate quality color reproduction.
In order to ensure that our monitors, proofing devices and printing presses are producing accurate color, we calibrate them. That is, we test them and then adjust them until they produce consistent results, day after day, year after year. If we don’t know how much dot gain a particular press produces, we can’t compensate for it. If we test it and calibrate it, we know exactly how much dot gain we need to remove to get quality color. The same is true of our computer monitors and our proofing devices.
Our second tool is color management software. Once we know from calibration what our monitors, proofing devices and printers produce when given a specific color to output, we can tell color management software to produce a consistent color from device to device. We use various programs, including Adobe Photoshop, to accomplish color management.
Our most important tool for accurate color reproduction is the proof. Through calibration and color management, we make our contract proofs as close to the press as possible. Contract proofs are your best tool for ensuring that what you see (in the proof) is what you will get in the finished piece. Be sure to inspect a contract proof of every page of every color piece you create.
So how do we get you to the Carnegie Hall of printing? We make it a practice to follow our color proofing and color management processes to ensure accurate quality color reproduction.