Ten Ways to Improve Color Management

Managing color in your in-plant can go more smoothly with a little preparation.

THE PRIMARY goal of color management is to reproduce consistent, predictable and repeatable color across a range of devices, such as scanners, digital cameras, monitors, printers, offset presses and corresponding media. The idea is simple in theory but much more complex in practice. In your quest for perfect color management, consider these 10 tips:

1) Prepare your files to commonly used standards.

These include SWOP (Specifications Web Offset Publications), GRACOL (General Requirements for Applications in Commercial Offset Lithography), and PDF/X, a subset of PDF designed specifically for reliable prepress data interchange.

2) Establish and enforce standard operating procedures (SOPs).

The IPA, the association of graphic solutions providers (www.ipa.org), says only 33 percent of creative, design and publishing companies have SOPs for color management. SOPs are necessary safeguards to ensure consistent color. If your company doesn’t have color-management SOPs, take the time to create them, and be sure that everyone adheres to them. Bypassing established procedures to get a rush job out the door only causes more severe problems on the press.

3) Standardize preferences in all of your software applications.

A key point to address in your company’s SOPs is to standardize the software application preferences across all computers involved in your workflow. According to IPA, the majority of creative professionals do not customize their software’s default color settings. This can be problematic as different versions of software applications have different defaults; for instance, Adobe CS1 used sRGB, and Adobe CS2 uses AdobeRGB.

These differences can lead to significant changes in color values. Make sure everyone is using the same settings, including any customers that submit files. Your company’s SOPs should clearly define if and when users should preserve, convert or discard ICC profiles.

4) Ensure accurate ICC profiles.

A complete, color-managed workflow requires accurate ICC profiles for all input and output devices, such as scanners, cameras, displays and proofers. It is also important to regularly profile your display or output device, ink and paper.

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