REINING IN ACCURACY FOR COLOR MANAGEMENT
Effective color management may require thinking outside the lines.
by Terri McConnell, Prepress Editor
One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. Remember that Seuss classic? Numbers, colors, and shapes are our first adjectives; the first ways in which we are taught to differentiate the objects of our world.
A perusal of the World Book reveals color to be a remarkable physical phenomenon. Light is made up of multiple colors. When a light wave is refracted, or bent, it separates into distinct color wavelengths. Light-sensing cells in the human eye are each tuned to react to different wavelengths between 400 to 700 nanometers. That range allows us to perceive a realm of somewhere near 7 million different colors.
Psychological research indicates that as our brains decode color messages from our eyes, our endocrine and pituitary glands are stimulated, thereby eliciting emotional responses. While the science of color perception is far from exact, it is widely accepted that we are subject to unconscious biases and preferences based on colors. It is also known that the effects are cultural or demographic. For example, white denotes purity in many western cultures, but it is the color of mourning in the East. My grandmother might shy away from a bright blue beverage, but my preteen son will gulp it down without a thought.
Marketers are well aware of the psychological importance of color in product design and package decoration. It's used to attract the shopper, differentiate line extensions, convey an ideal, or even to key the product to a social issue. No wonder then that accurately rendering color remains the last and largest frontier of our industry.
Control: A "must," not a "maybe"
With the advent of digital processes, the ability to reconcile the smaller gamut of any output device with the miraculous number of colors our eyes can see hinges on the science and set of technologies known as color management (CM). It's not an easy issue, primarily because it spans the printing process from the artist's desktop monitor to the pressroom floor. But our growing body of knowledge and the availability of practical CM tools is helping CM gain acceptance.