Color Management Part 1
Using knowledge of how humans see color, along with data from instruments such as densitometers and spectrophotometers, color can be mapped just like DNA.
THE CONCEPT OF color management is fascinating, and more than a little controversial. To those of you that took exception to the suggestion in last month's story (Proofing By the Numbers, August 2003) that color management was easy enough for a college student, I humbly concede. There is a wider body of knowledge, and more tools available for controlling color than ever before. Even so, that does not make the theory of color any easier to understand. Color management can be very challenging.
It's also an opportunity to seriously raise the bar on the science of printing as well as a conceivable competitive edge for companies that do get their color under control. Who are those companies? According to a TWGA report released in May, 63 percent of graphic arts firms in their survey said they used color management technology of some kind. That shouldn't be surprising, considering the applicable scope of electronic color control.
In its biggest sense, a color-managed workflow is one in which every color input and output device employed in the print production chain has been a) calibrated to its optimal performance under a given set of repeatable conditions; and b) has been profiled, and is capable of employing industry-standard ICC color profiling data. That means we have a color map for each monitor—if it is used for any approvals or color decisions, scanners, proofers, and presses.
In a smaller sense, we're probably only controlling color between two points in the production chain—for example, between a digital halftone contract proof and a narrow-web flexo printing press. In any case, the science is fundamentally the same, and based principally on the properties of light. If we break it down to this point, it begins to get much clearer. So that's where we'll begin this two-part mini refresher course on color.