The color management process hinges on consistency and the interoperability of print job components.
By Jessica Millward, Associate Editor
Call it the ultimate communicator. Your typical color management system (CMS) is charged with translating the appearance of color from origination source to monitor to proof. And this is no rough translation. Nuance means everything in the realm of color—the difference between sun-ripened yellow and burnt orange. The ongoing evolution of printing from art to science has initiated the systemization of color management. The challenge for CMS originators now is to keep the lines of communication open between themselves, their customers, and even their competitors.
The process of modern color management, for every job, encompasses a variety of equipment, software, and at least one supplier-independent standard.
It all starts, however, with device calibration. Because monitors can change drastically over time, the use of colorimeters to determine if and where performance drift has occurred is vital to color consistency. The output device, too, must therefore undergo the calibration process. Using a colorimeter, densitometer, or spectrophotometer, and corollary software, the printer or press can be adjusted to match software-specified output.
The second aspect of color management, device characterization, involves formulating custom profiles for input and output devices. The International Color Consortium (ICC) regulated this process by creating an industry-wide specification for a color profile format.
Manufacturers and printers alike emphasize the need for total consistency, throughout every step of the printing process, in maintaining a successful color-managed workflow. Cathy Hofknecht, marketing manager at GretagMacbeth, believes, "There are several 'official' press standards; however, what is really important is to simply ensure you always run the press consistently. This starts with standardizing all variables that affect the press—films, plates, inks, paper, etc."
The ICC standard is built upon the idea of the PCS (Profile Connection Space) reference media. ICC profiles therefore contain data that transforms device colors to the PCS, and from the PCS to device space.