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Color Match to What?

By Steve Bonoff posted 01-02-2019 09:13

By Cory Sawatzki,

Recently, I was visiting a large print facility. While touring the production floor and speaking with the operations manager about his
newer technology investments, it quickly became apparent that the differences in capabilities between his different print methods were
overwhelming him. With the variability of substrates, file formats, front ends and finishing, it is completely understandable. However, there is a
way to control print production expectations and align your quality control goals related to color.

In all of this, one problem he mentioned more than once was printing capabilities across different print technologies. He was concerned about
the varying differences in quality and color between his offset, digital cut sheet, inkjet wide format and his flexo presses. The best approach to
addressing this concern is to really think about what color to aim at in today’s hybrid printing environments in the first place.

You can own “certification” or “validation” software, and that is great. You should. However, if you don’t understand what passing is or what it
means, it is as bad as your child coming home with a “Z” on their report card – the result is meaningless. For any “calibrated” print or proof to
actually mean something, we must understand what the calibration is aimed at — and even a step further: why we are doing it. Do you truly
care if you pass the standard? Or do you just want to be close, and make sure you are consistent day in and day out?

In the printing industry, there are ISO standards for different types of print. Some of the more popular aims are GRACoL, SWOP, SNAP, and
Fogra. These are color aim points that have been developed to try and set an example for how a printer should print in different environments,
on different substrates, and with different levels of print technology. They serve as a great tool, but they can also pose a dilemma for printers.
Let’s say that you have completed a G7 alignment on your offset press. Great, congratulations! Now, you are aimed at a GRACoL 2013 color
space and passing with flying colors. The next step is to make sure that your digital cut sheet device matches your offset. When it turns
out that production device doesn’t have the color gamut or the quality of paper necessary to pass this standard, is it time to give up? I’d say
absolutely not. There are a couple plans of action that will work.

Your first route is to aim at a smaller gamut standard that is built to look very similar, but in a smaller color space. GRACoL 2013 is otherwise
known as CRPC6. The rest of the CRPC aim points go from 7 down to 1. 7 being the largest Gamut, down to 1 which is the smallest. This
makes it easy to identify a standard that your printer/substrate combination will hit so that you can pick an attainable standard.

The other, and sometimes more reasonable option, would be to get as close to any standard you determine to be reasonable for your shop and
make that your internal standard. This way if you are using a paper that may not be to the standards of GRACoL 2013, or an inkset that does
not hit FOGRA, you are not dead in the water. Simply read the validation strip and make sure that all else is good. Then use those
readings as your new standard. This will also allow you to have a bit tighter tolerance as the standard you are using came from your own press
and print conditions.

Color match means exactly that. Match as close as you can to a standard that is important to your business. But also make sure that you
stay consistent day in and day out. Repeatability is sometimes more important than a standard. For more information about our Color
Management Services or Solutions, please contact us at:

Established in 1985, CGS Publishing Technologies International GmbH, Hainburg, Germany, is a world leader in color proofing, productivity and
production systems for the professional graphic arts market. Headquartered near Frankfurt, CGS also has operations in the Americas, as well as
sales and support partners throughout the world. More information can be found on the CGS Web site:
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