Colors of Our World
A primer on the foundations of color communication.
By Terri McConnell
In the ideal world the brand manager for a new line of lunch-box juices envisions his Citrus Cooler eight-pack carton: a brilliant, sun-ripened orange on a soft, butter-yellow field with the Florida Fun logo emblazoned in warm, metallic gold.
The designer, working from the manager's creative brief, mocks up the package using his favorite DTP programs, and e-mails the concept to the manager as a PDF file. The manager views the PDF on his PC monitor, and sends a note back: "Perfect! Let's see a prototype on Tuesday."
The designer forwards the PDF to a trade shop that renders the graphics on coated board stock. On Tuesday, the manager examines the prototype at arm's length, sets it on a shelf once or twice, and says, "Print it."
Less than a week later, the manager signs off a prepress proof. Just days after that, hundreds of thousands of Florida Fun cartons, with gold logos and brilliant sun-ripened oranges nestled on soft, butter-yellow fields, are shipping to grocery stores.
What's so far-fetched about that? All that's required is clear, concise, consistent communication of color. And that's the foundation for a host of industry initiatives and equipment enhancements focused on the issue of color management.
Speaking a common language
Just a pipe dream less than a decade ago, color management can today be accomplished in many different ways, depending on which one of an infinite number of printing workflows is being used. Says Dr. Richard Adams, a digital imaging and color reproduction specialist at the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF), "When the concept of color management was first commercialized, the technology was over-promised and over-sold. But today it exists; it's a practical reality. The problem now is getting people to understand it."
According to Adams, a pivotal point in color management's viability and wide-spread adoption was the release of Adobe Photoshop 5.0, which fully supports ICC profiling. The ICC, or International Color Consortium, was established in 1993 by eight graphic arts industry vendors led by Apple Computer. The ICC's purpose was to create and promote a standard for an open, cross-platform, vendor-neutral color management system architecture and components.